SUN Hockey Pool

New dance partner

Edmonton Oilers' Head Coach Craig MacTavish (right) scratches his head as Raffi Torres looks on...

Edmonton Oilers' Head Coach Craig MacTavish (right) scratches his head as Raffi Torres looks on behind him during team practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., on Wednesday April 12, 2006. (SUN/Darryl Dyck)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

It's Detroit!

The first match-ups of the Stanley Cup playoffs were made last night.

And it's Edmonton-Detroit.

The Oilers will be forced to face the top team in the NHL in the playoffs.

The match was made when Colorado made it to overtime to gain a point in the standings in what turned out be a 4-3 Vancouver win, which gives the Oilers a new dance partner in the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

Just about the last thing Edmonton fans wanted was another Oilers-Dallas Stars playoff series anyway.

But now they'd take one.

Now they'd be delighted to see Dallas in the playoffs for the seventh time in their last seven Stanley seasons. That would mean the Oilers would be going to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since they beat Colorado in Game 7 in the first round in 1998 and advanced against the Stars.

Now playing Dallas again would mean a first round upset of gargantuan proportions over the Red Wings. If they didn't play Dallas in the second round, they may have to play Colorado.

Oilers playoff prospects have been in 3D for ages - Dallas, Denver or Detroit.

FAN APPEAL

When it comes to the fans, after six straight playoff seasons against Dallas, it's quite clear that they'd like to see another uniform on the ice.

"Everybody feels the same way about Dallas. Here we go again with Dallas. A lot of other people would prefer somebody else than Dallas,'' said coach Craig MacTavish Friday when he gathered the Oilers together the morning after making the playoffs with a 2-1 win over Anaheim while the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated in San Jose.

"I won't say that. Because that would be saying I'd prefer Detroit,'' MacTavish continued.

"Only an idiot would say something like that. So I'll leave it at that. You can draw your own conclusion.''

So call Dwayne Roloson and Mike Peca idiots.

Normally you ask players which team they'd prefer to play in the playoffs and they immediately give you the programmed response that it doesn't really matter.

But Friday when the Oilers gathered both Roloson and Peca said they'd prefer Detroit.

"For me personally, I'd rather play Detroit,'' said goaltender Roloson before the match was made.

"That's me personally. Playing with Minnesota, I almost always played against Detroit. I never really played against Dallas. Manny Fernandez is a former Dallas Star. Manny always started against Dallas.''

Peca said simply the Oilers have had more success against Detroit this year than Dallas.

While they took four consecutive penalties in the first period against the Red Wings Monday in Joe Louis Arena and lost a then-crucial game down the stretch 2-0 to the Red Wings, the Oilers put points in the standings from the other three games.

The first three all went to overtime. The Oilers won two.

Five points out of eight against a team which won the President's Trophy and finished first overall is at least something to take into the series which will likely open Saturday (1 p.m., NBC) in Detroit.

The Red Wings have 122 points in the standings. The Oilers made it in with 93.

The Oilers can tell themselves they'd have hit 100-or-more if they'd had the 2.42 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage goaltending Roloson has given them between the pipes down the stretch. And they can also tell themselves that Detroit's record is somewhat inflated by having eight games against Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis while the Oilers had eight against Calgary, Colorado, Vancouver and Minnesota.

NEVER LOST TO WINGS

Unlike Dallas, which lost the first playoff series on Todd Marchant's winner in the third overtime period in Game 7 in 1997 but won the next five series against Edmonton, the Oilers have never lost to Detroit in the playoffs.

Edmonton is 2-0 against the Red Wings in Stanley Cup play, winning both series four games to one and going on to win their third and fourth Stanley Cups in the finals which followed.


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