Oilers' fear of 14

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Jones slides into New Jersey Devils goalie Johan Hedberg (L) during the third...

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Jones slides into New Jersey Devils goalie Johan Hedberg (L) during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Edmonton January 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:47 PM ET

EDMONTON - In the batty world of phobias, triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of 13.

Who knows what the fear of 14 is, but the Edmonton Oilers will certainly have it when they meet the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Rexall Place.

The slumping Oilers are clinging to 13th in the Western Conference standings, a scant three points up on a hard-charging Anaheim team that’s 3-0-1 in its last four.

The last thing Edmonton wants, when there is so much ground to make up on clubs ahead of them, is to be caught from behind.

“These are teams that are after points in a bad way,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “This one is big tonight.”

The Oilers, who don’t get many opportunities to play teams below them in the standings anymore, realize they need to take advantage when they do.

“These are the games you have to have,” said Sam Gagner. “If you want to move forward in the standings you have to make sure that the teams beneath you, or near you, that you’re winning those games.”

The Ducks played Thursday night in Calgary, marking the fifth time in the last eight home games that Edmonton’s opponent played the night before. Edmonton is 2-2 in those games so far.

“From my experience coming off a back-to-back, sometimes you don’t feel well and sometimes you feel great,” said Gagner. “It’s kind of a mixed bag. I don’t think you can read into it too much. No matter what a team did the night before we have to come out and play the same way.”

• Cam Barker took the morning skate with his teammates, as he moves another step closer to returning from an ankle injury that’s kept him out since early November.

“It was nice to be out with the guys,” said the 25-year-old defenceman. “It seems like a long time, a lot of games missed, but at this point things are going extremely smoothly.

“You don’t want to put a projection on (a return) because setbacks can happen...but in my mind hopefully after the All-Star break.”

LATE HITS.. Nikolai Khabibulin, celebrating his 39th birthday today, will start in goal for the Oilers... Josh Green, recalled from Oklahoma City, will also draw in.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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