Edmonton hosts red-hot Ducks
Tuesday night's game between the visiting Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers will be a crucial one since both teams are in a race for one of the last spots in the Western Conference playoff picture.
But while the Ducks (38-32-6, 82 points) are in ninth place after putting together an impressive record by winning six of their last seven games, the 10th-place Oilers (36-31-9, 81 points) have been struggling.
Losers of three straight before beating the Ducks 5-3 on Friday, the Oilers followed that performance by dropping a critical game to Minnesota two days later.
The loss allowed the Wild, who play Vancouver on Tuesday, to sit just one point behind Edmonton in a tight bottom half of the Western Conference.
"We played poorly and got what we deserved," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Too many guys are too content to be a non-factor rather than be a factor and step up and be assertive in a game that you desperately need. With six games left we are still looking for a team that will take charge of an opportunity."
One Oiler stepping up has been Dwayne Roloson, who has started the last 32 games and turned away 51 shots in the win against Anaheim. But the veteran goalie can't do it all — he was terrific the last time Edmonton hosted the Ducks, stopping 32 shots, but the Oilers dropped the game 3-2 in a shootout.
Ducks look for payback
The only blemish on a 7-4-1 March run by Anaheim was Friday's loss to the Oilers but the Ducks say they are intent on joining the hunt for the Stanley Cup in 2009.
With one point separating them from the St. Louis Blues and the Western Conference's eighth playoff spot, Anaheim will look for revenge over Friday's loss to the Oilers and put more space between the two clubs in the standings.
"Everybody in the room realized we dropped one on Friday that we felt like we should have had and we lost two valuable points," Ducks rookie Bobby Ryan said. "We had a day off to address it, and we knew coming into this one that we had to get off to a good start and come away with two before we go on the road for a couple of tough games."
After the loss at home to Edmonton, the Ducks rebounded with a 4-1 win over visiting Colorado thanks to two goals from Ryan, who says his team wants to keep their playoff hopes alive by doing it for themselves.
"We know every two points is incredibly valuable," Bobby Ryan said. "Look around; other teams are winning as well, so it's important for us to control our own fate and put another run together like we did last week."
Jonas Hiller is expected to get the start for Anaheim on Tuesday and hopes to follow up his 51-save performance against the Avalanche. The sophomore goalie is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 GAA since mid-March.