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EDMONTON OILERS (21-22-4) at
WASHINGTON CAPITALS (19-21-5)
Start Time: 5:08 p.m. MST
Television: Rogers Sportsnet West
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com. Game Notes | Oilers/Capitals Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics After a successful homestand that saw the team take four out of five games and eight out of a possible ten points, the Edmonton Oilers now hope for similar success on the road starting tonight in Washington.
Tonight's game against the Washington Capitals kicks off a five-game road trip that takes the Oilers through the Southeast Division. The Oilers sit seven points back of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In their last game, the Oilers fell 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings with Dustin Penner scoring the lone Edmonton goal.
LAST GAME: Kings 3, Oilers 1
Washington has been playing much better of late after a rough start to the season saw them go 6-14-1 through their first 21 games. That stretch included a streak of five straight losses and a stretch where they only won three times in 18 games.
The Caps have now picked up points in seven of their last nine games including a convincing 4-2 win Tuesday night against the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators.
Currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, the Caps are five points out of first place in their division but six points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers. Just The Facts...
Pre-Game Audio... Pre-Game at Washington: Craig Mactavish The Other Side 1-16-08 Coaches Dialogue - Head Coach Bruce Boudreau speaks with the media after Tuesday's morning practice. ...more Capitals entertain Oilers - The Edmonton Oilers visit Verizon Center for the first time in just over four years on Thursday. Edmonton’s last trip to the District was Jan. 11, 2004 when Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig blanked the Oilers 1-0 ...more From the Fans
Click here to read tonight's gameday thread on the Oilers message board. Odds and Ends
Nominees for top plays - There were plenty of outstanding plays during the back end of the Oilers' recently concluded five-game homestand. Follow the link to vote for your favourites to get them in the running for the top play of 2007-08! ...more From the Wire
The Washington Capitals didn't need Michael Nylander to complete a season sweep of Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa, and they've done just fine without him at home against Edmonton for over a decade.
After an impressive win in their first game without Nylander, the Capitals look to extend a five-game home winning streak against the Oilers as the teams meet for the only time this season Thursday night.
A day after Nylander decided to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, Washington (19-21-5) beat Ottawa 4-2 on Tuesday night. Alex Ovechkin scored the tiebreaking goal on a third-period power play to seal the Capitals' fourth win this season against the Senators, whose 62 points are second-most in the NHL.
"It doesn't matter who we play. We have to win," Ovechkin said. "Two points is two points, whether it's against Ottawa or anyone. We want to go up (in the standings)."
Washington's win was even more impressive because it played without Nylander, who was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday to repair a torn left rotator cuff and will be sidelined for three to six months. The veteran center, who signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract with the Capitals as a free agent in July, had 11 goals and a team-high 26 assists in 40 games.
Nylander's 37 points were second only to Ovechkin, who has 34 goals and 21 assists. Capitals general manager George McPhee said Washington would not call up a player to take Nylander's roster spot. Instead, the Capitals will lean more heavily on center Boyd Gordon and winger Viktor Kozlov.
Washington could have used Nylander in last season's matchup with the Oilers, a 4-0 loss in Edmonton, but it has won five straight at home in this series since a 3-1 defeat on Jan. 26, 1997. This will be the teams' first meeting in Washington since Jan. 11, 2004, when the Capitals won 1-0.
Washington is playing the fourth game of a five-game stretch at home, where it is 8-4-1 since losing seven of its first nine. The Capitals are 4-2-0 overall in 2008, scoring four goals or more in four of those games.
Edmonton (21-22-4) had been playing strong defense, allowing a total of five goals during a four-game winning streak before losing 3-1 to Los Angeles at home on Tuesday night.
The Oilers failed to go over the .500 mark for the first time since their fourth game of the season.
"I'm not of the belief that it is something psychological, that it's some kind of burden we can't overcome," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "We can overcome it. It's not the way we wanted to go on the road, but we did a lot of things right on this homestand and we'll have to remember this lesson of why we lost the hockey game."
Dustin Penner had the lone goal in the finale of a five-game homestand for the Oilers. They will now begin a season-high five-game stretch on the road, where they are 9-10-3.
Penner, second on Edmonton with 13 goals, found the back of the net in last season's matchup with Washington in what was his first career game against the Capitals.