SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers face another nemesis

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The last time they met, the contest was over by the end of the first period.

The Edmonton Oilers -- like practically every other team in the league -- have struggled against the Detroit Red Wings this season.

Heading into tonight's contest (7:30 p.m.) at Rexall Place, the Red Wings have won all three previous encounters this year.

"They're the defending Stanley Cup champs and they have the same team from last year with the addition of Marian Hossa," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff.

"They're a highly skilled team, they're great defensively and are a patient, puck-possession team. There is no secret to the game they want to play. We always know if we're going to be successful against a team like Detroit, you have to get in on the forecheck, pound their defenceman, make it a long night for them, make it hard for them to move pucks."

The Red Wings head into tonight's game having played in Calgary against the Flames the night before.

Currently battling the San Jose Sharks for top spot in the Western Conference, the Wings have plenty on the line despite the fact they've already clinched a playoff spot.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are still not free and clear of clinching their own post-season invite.

The loss to the Minnesota Wild on the weekend kept them just three points up on the ninth-place teams in the conference. Regardless, having won two of the three games on their last road trip, the Oilers feel as though they're playing some of their best hockey of the season.

"We've had success against Detroit in the past, just not this year," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We need a good game against them. We're playing better now than we have virtually at any point in the year.

"We had been dominated by Chicago, but we played pretty well against them there and we're looking forward to the game. It's obviously a big challenge now, but I think we're more prepared to handle it, than we have at any other point in the season."

Coming in, the Red Wings have the best road record in the league, while the Oilers have struggled to be dominant at Rexall Place, with currently the 25th best home record.

"We know what it takes to be a success, whether it's at home or on the road, we have to play that same style," Horcoff said. "I feel like when we were out on the road we found out what that is, now we just have to transfer it to home ice."

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WHO TO WATCH

Robert Nilsson, EDM

Has six points in seven games since getting back into the lineup.

Pavel Datsyuk, DET

Leads Red Wings in scoring with 88 points, prior to last night's game.

COMING IN

EDMONTON (35-28-9) is coming in off a 3-0 loss on the road, to Minnesota Wild Sunday.

DETROIT (48-15-9) is coming in off a 5-3 loss against the Calgary Flames last night.

GAME NOTES

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Red Wings have won all three previous games, defeating the Oilers 8-3 in Detroit the last time the two teams met ... The Oilers have the eighth-best record on the road, but have not had the same success at home. Edmonton's 16-12-5 record is the 25th best in the league. The Red Wings, meanwhile, have the best road record in the league with 22 wins away from the Joe Louis Arena heading into last night's contest against the Calgary Flames ... Despite generating a number of chances, Ales Hemsky has not scored in the Oilers last seven games. Regardless, he's still tied with Sheldon Souray for the team lead in goals with 21 on the season.

HURT PARADE

EDMONTON: LW Liam Reddox (concussion), D Lubomir Visnovsky (shoulder).

DETROIT: D Andreas Lilja (concussion, knee), RW Tomas Holmstrom (knee).


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