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|VAN||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
GAME: Edmonton Oilers (36-28-12-5) at Vancouver Canucks (42-24-10-5).
TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST.
The Edmonton Oilers are down to their last chance. But even a win over the Vancouver Canucks in their regular-season finale may not be enough to get them into the playoffs
Desperately in need of two points, and some help over the weekend, the Oilers will take the ice at General Motors place against a Vancouver team gunning for the Northwest Division title.
Locked in a three-way tie with St. Louis and Nashville for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Oilers suffered a demoralizing 1-0 to the Blues on Tuesday, but rebounded nicely in Dallas the next night.
Ryan Smyth scored the go-ahead goal on the power play in the second period as Edmonton cruised to a 3-1 triumph - its first win in Dallas in eight years.
"We've definitely had our fair share of losses here," Smyth said. "We knew we had to snap out of it at some point and there's no better time than right now. This puts us back in the playoff hunt again."
Unfortunately for the Oilers, both the Blues and Predators will play twice this weekend, giving them each a shot at four points while the best Edmonton can do is two. However, St. Louis is at Nashville on Saturday, giving Edmonton a chance to gain ground on one of the teams, or both if the game finishes in a tie.
The Blues, seeking their 25th straight appearance in the postseason, complete the season at Minnesota on Sunday. The Predators, looking to make the playoffs for the first time, finish up at Colorado on Sunday.
"Mentally, it's not getting any easier. There's a lot of anguish," Edmonton winger Ethan Moreau said. "You hope you get some help. Nashville has some tough games. St. Louis, too. They are going to have to win some games."
But the Oilers have to take care of their own business, according to coach Craig MacTavish.
"We're one win away, in our minds, from getting in," he said.
The Canucks kept pace with the Avalanche in the battle for first place in the Northwest on Friday, answering Colorado's 4-2 win at Columbus with a 4-1 victory at San Jose.
Vancouver and Colorado are tied for the division lead, but the Canucks can clinch the crown with a win over the Oilers. The Avs finish up Sunday against Nashville, but that game will be rendered virtually meaningless if the Canucks win Saturday because Vancouver holds the tiebreaker advantage over Colorado.
The Canucks appeared headed for a second-place division finish when star forward Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs for his sucker-punch of Colorado's Steve Moore last month. But after winning just one of its first seven games (1-3-2-1) without Bertuzzi, Vancouver has won five straight.
STANDINGS: Oilers - 89 points, 4th place, 10 PB, Northwest Division. Canucks - 99 points, 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Smyth, 23 goals, 36 assists and 59 points; Georges Laraque, 99 PIM. Canucks - Markus Naslund, 34 goals, 49 assists and 83 points; Brad May, 137 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 1): Oilers - Power play: 12.9 percent (43 for 334), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (283 for 348), 27th. Canucks - Power play: 14.8 percent (55 for 372), 23rd. Penalty killing: 86.0 percent (301 for 350), 4th.
SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-2.
LAST MEETING: March 12; Canucks, 4-3, OT. At Edmonton, Alberta, Geoff Sanderson scored in overtime and Martin Rucinsky added a goal and an assist as Vancouver's trade deadline acquisitions paid instant dividends. Petr Nedved had two second-period power-play goals for the Oilers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 14-16-8-2 on the road; Canucks - 20-13-7-0 at home.