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ANAHEIM DUCKS (18-15-5) at
EDMONTON OILERS (16-18-3)
Start Time: 7:08 p.m. MST
Television: Rogers Sportsnet West
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com. Game Notes | Edmonton/Anaheim Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics The Edmonton Oilers come out of the short Christmas break with a meeting against the team they need to beat if they want to make a push for a playoff spot.
Edmonton sits with 35 points and in a tie for 12th place in the Western Conference with Phoenix. However, just four points separates third from ninth in the West and if the Oilers can string a few wins together they can get themselves right back in the mix for playoff positioning.
Tonight's opponent, the Anaheim Ducks, sit in a tie for seventh place with the Calgary Flames. At 41 points, they're six points ahead of Edmonton. The Oilers have a game in hand and with a win tonight they would narrow the point total to four between themselves and the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
The Oilers made a push earlier this month, going 6-2-2 over a span of 10 games but are slipping a little having lost their last two in regulation heading into Christmas.
LAST GAME: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2
Anaheim has been the opposite. These teams were actually tied in the standings as recently as last week but the Ducks have rattled off three straight victories and are 3-0-1 since the return of defenceman and last year's playoff MVP Scott Niedermayer.
Edmonton defeated Anaheim 3-2 in a shootout on October 28 and then the two teams played a home-and-home series on November 30 and December 2. The Oilers won both of those games in convincing fashion – 5-1 at Rexall Place followed by a 4-0 win at Anaheim two nights later.
This is the final meeting of the season between these two teams.
Just The Facts...
Pre-Game Video... Pisani, Horcoff, Garon, Penner, Gagner & MacTavish share their thoughts on tonight's game vs. The Anaheim Ducks. 700K Pre-Game Audio... Pre-Game vs. Anaheim: Sam Gagner
Pre-Game vs. Anaheim: Mathieu Garon
Pre-Game vs. Anaheim: Shawn Horcoff
Pre-Game vs. Anaheim: Dustin Penner
Listen to all: Pisani, Gagner, Garon, Horcoff, Penner and MacTavish
Ethan Moreau injury update In Depth...
Notes and Quotes versus Anaheim - Prior to tonight's game between the Oilers and Ducks, we take a look at Edmonton's success this season against Anaheim, the return of Niedermayer, Gagner moving to the top line and the imminent return of The Captain. ...more More News The Other Side Ducks Christmas Favourites - AnaheimDucks.com asked several Ducks about their favorite staples of the holiday -- movies and gifts. ...more Ducks Blog - by Adam Brady, offers an entertaining inside look at the Stanley Cup champion Ducks. Visit this page often for news items, commentary, photos, links and much more. View the Ducks Blog Item of the Game For tonight only, all merchandise at the Oilers Store during the game is buy one, get one half price in-game. From the Fans
Click here to read tonight's gameday thread on the Oilers message board. Odds and Ends
Plays of the Week Winners: Dec 13 to 23 - Dustin Penner's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 23, Joni Pitkanen's breakaway marker at Detroit on Dec. 13 and Fernando Pisani's shootout winner vs. Vancouver on Dec. 15 are the three top plays from December 13 to 23. ...more Four new Oilers wallpapers added - Just in time for the holidays, four new Oilers player wallpapers have been added. Download Smid, Staios, Reasoner or Brodziak today! ...more Vote for Hemsky, Horcoff and Souray - There's less than a week left in voting for the 2008 NHL All-Star Game so there's still time for you to send your favourite Oilers to Atlanta. Be an All-Star fan and vote for Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray. ...more From the Wire
It may have taken three months, but the Anaheim Ducks are finally playing like a team capable of defending their Stanley Cup title.
The Ducks try to match a season-high four-game winning streak Thursday night when they continue a four-game road trip against the Edmonton Oilers.
Hindered by the early season absence of starting goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Ducks (18-15-5) won only four of their first 13 games. They won a season-best four in a row from Nov. 9-17 before going 5-7-2 in their next 14 contests.
A stronger commitment to defense has helped Anaheim record points in four straight (3-0-1), a stretch that has included three consecutive wins during which it has allowed three goals.
Two of those three victories have come against San Jose, which along with Dallas are the two teams the Ducks are chasing in the Pacific Division.
Giguere stopped 27 shots and Chris Pronger had a goal and an assist in Anaheim's 5-2 victory at San Jose on Saturday.
Todd Bertuzzi, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz also scored for the Ducks, who improved to 6-0-2 in their last eight meetings with the Sharks.
"It's always good when you play well against a division rival like this," Pronger said. "It was a big game for us to keep moving up the standings, and a step forward for us the way we've been playing the last few games, and getting back to playing the way we can."
The Ducks scored five goals after they were held to two or fewer in each of their previous five games.
"We're obviously not happy where we're at," said Bertuzzi, in his first season with Anaheim. "We've given a lot of points away, and it's a matter of playing the way we know how to play. I think we've figured out this is how we have to play in order to win, and this is how they played last year in order to win."
Getting star defenseman Scott Niedermayer back also has contributed to Anaheim's improved play. The Ducks are 3-0-1 since Niedermayer returned, and his presence has helped ease the burden on Pronger, who is tied for second on the team with 29 points.
The Oilers lost their third straight on Sunday, 3-2 at Chicago, but the loss of one of their top players could prove more costly.
Ales Hemsky left the game late in the second period because of a left knee injury after colliding with Chicago's Martin Lapointe. Hemsky - second on the team with 29 points - was to undergo an MRI but the team has not reported the results.
"It's was a dirty hit, there was no doubt about it," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "It should have been at least 5 minutes. Now we've got one of our best guys having X-rays because of a guy who plays 10 minutes a game."
Losing Hemsky would be a very big blow to Edmonton (16-18-3), which ranks 28th in the league with 2.32 goals a game, including only six over the past four contests.
The Oilers have won all three meetings this season against the Ducks, outscoring them 12-3. Mathieu Garon is 2-0-0 with one shutout and a 0.96 goals-against average versus Anaheim.