SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers startin' to take care of business

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Take care of business in your own backyard and the standings will take care of themselves.

That's never been a secret in the NHL where it concerns games against divisional rivals, and it's never been more true with this season's schedule that sees teams within a division play each other eight times.

With Monday's 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers face the Vancouver Canucks tonight with a 17-11-1 record against teams in the Western Conference and an 8-5-0 mark within the Northwest Division.

Do the math.

"If you talk the talk about winning the division, then you've got to win the divisional games," coach Craig MacTavish said.

The Oilers have beaten the Canucks three times, by 4-3, 5-3 and 5-4 scores, and have split four games with the Flames. They've slipped a bit with two wins in five games against Colorado, but they've beaten Minnesota the only time they've faced the Wild.

"The way it's structured now, these games are so much more important than in the past," Marty Reasoner said. "It's straightforward. If you do well against your own division, you make the playoffs."

When the Oilers missed the playoffs in 2003-04, they went 7-12-3-2 against teams in the Northwest Division, including a 2-4 record in the season series against Vancouver and a 1-4-1 mark straight up against the Flames.

At 19-11-4 overall going into tonight, the Oilers can hit the 20-win mark before Christmas for the first time since the 1988-89 season, when they improved to 20-13-4 with a 4-1 win over Calgary Dec. 23.

WINCHESTER SUMMONED

The Oilers called up winger Brad Winchester from Hamilton of the AHL before Monday's midnight roster freeze and he'll likely be in the lineup against the Canucks tonight. Expect Winchester, who had scored 11-5-16 with 53 penalty minutes in 17 games with the Bulldogs when the call came, to take Jani Rita's place on the fourth line.

UNPLUGGED

The Canucks power play is 1-for-14 over the last two games. The Oilers blanked them on six attempts and Los Angeles held Vancouver to one goal on eight chances in beating the Canucks 4-3 in a shootout Monday.

BY THE NUMBERS ... Having blown 2-0 and 4-2 leads against the Oilers, the Canucks coughed up 2-0 and 3-2 leads to Los Angeles ... Daniel Sedin has five goals in his last seven games ... Ethan Moreau had two assists Monday to run his points-scoring streak to a career-high seven games, a span in which he's scored 3-7-10 ... Shawn Horcoff has three goals in his last two games after going 18 games without one ... Fernando Pisani has scored 6-4-10 in his last seven games and is a team-leading plus-12 ... it took him 723 games, but defenceman Igor Ulanov had the first two-goal game of his career against the Flames Monday.


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