SUN Hockey Pool

No hard feelings

DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

It's circled on the calendar.

Chris Pronger makes his highly-anticipated return to Rexall Place Tuesday as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

And as fate would have it, the Oilers will welcome Pronger while on their best run of the season.

"There's no hatred or animosity from our perspective," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"Certainly with Chris we had a lot of respect for the way that he played. We're objective enough to know that we wouldn't have been in the position we were in last year without him."

Pronger spent one memorable year with the Oilers before requesting a trade for personal reasons in the off-season.

The Oilers obliged by dealing him to the Ducks for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, a first-round pick in next year's draft, a second-round pick in 2008 and a conditional pick.

Pronger was traded to the Oilers by the St. Louis Blues prior to last season. He was instrumental in the Oilers run to the Stanley Cup final.

AN EXTERNAL ISSUE

"We're thankful for the year he gave us and we wish him - for all intents and purposes - well for the rest of his career," MacTavish said. "Obviously not Tuesday night, we want to play well and play hard against him. But it's not an issue for us, it's an external issue for everybody else."

Heading into last night's play, Pronger was the second-leading point scorer for the Ducks with four goals and 20 assists in 24 games.

Last season with the Oilers he had 12 goals and 44 assists in 80 games.

The Oilers have already faced the Ducks once this season, losing 6-2 in Anaheim on Oct. 25.

Pronger had three assists in the contest.

"We're playing well, and so are they. It's going to be a real big test for us," said Oilers centre Jarret Stoll. "In Anaheim we felt we played a good first half of the game, but then they took ... over the game."

BEST IN THE WEST

The Ducks are currently the best team in the Western Conference and are in a battle with the Buffalo Sabres for the overall NHL lead.

The Oilers are going into the game on a five-game winning streak - their longest of the season.

"We feel we've improved since we played them last," Stoll said.

"And if we can get a win against them, it's totally going to lift us to a new level. We expect a hard-fought game and we expect to get two points on Tuesday."

Being on such a run heading into the contest, the Oilers have been forced to cool their heels before meeting up with Pronger and the Ducks.

The Oilers took the day off yesterday after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on Friday.

Today they'll practice and then host their annual Superskills event (1 p.m.) at Rexall Place.

"It's good to keep playing when you're winning," Stoll said. "You want to keep at it, keep going when things are going well ... you want to keep playing, keep trying to get points.

"(But) the time off is good. It's good to get some practice time in and do this fun Superskills thing for the fans. But I wouldn't mind going right back at it and go after a team like Anaheim."


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