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Flyers and Oilers Duel as Trade Deadline Approaches

Feb 23, 2012, 7:23 PM EDT

The Flyers left Winnipeg riding high after a dramatic finish, heading straight for the sights, sounds, and of course lurid temptations of western Canada’s hedonistic mecca, Edmonton. Hopefully they all made curfew and rested up, because despite the Oilers assuming their customary position near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Flyers could really use a win, regardless of the opponent.

The boys in Orange & Black are very much in prove-it mode, and they could use a few in a row to reverse an overall downward trend and build on the win over the Jets. The Oilers, meanwhile, might consider a name change to the Turmoilers (thank you! be here all week!), as trade rumors encircle talented winger Ales Hemsky again. Hemsky is a friend of Jaromir Jagr, and when talking to the Edmonton News Journal about their plans to meet for dinner last night, the Flyers’ Czech star said he hoped Hemsky wasn’t traded before then.
As we approach game time (9:30 EST), Hemsky is still scheduled to play for the Oilers tonight. Their top rookie, however, will not.  

The Flyers brandish a dangerous complement of rookie firepower, with Matt Read currently leading NHL rookies in goals, Sean Couturier contributing valuable checking line minutes due to a numbers game ahead of him, and Brayden Schenn now healthy and showing the well-rounded game the team hoped for when trading for him.   

Edmonton used the top pick in last year’s draft to select Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but unfortunately for you Beastie Boys fans out there, we won’t see The Bryz vs. The Nuge tonight. Dan Tencer, a sports radio host in Edmonton, says RNH will miss his seventh straight game tonight, marking 20 of his last 22 spent on the shelf.

The Oilers are still a decent scoring team, about average at even strength, and very good on the power play (4th overall). Not the best news for a Flyers PK unit that was victimized on each of three Winnipeg man advantages on Tuesday. Maybe the added time with newcomers Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina will pick things up a bit for tonight’s matchup.

Edmonton is coming off a huge 6-1 win at Calgary, but they’d lost three in a row and five of six before that. This team can lose in bunches, too. They’ve had seven different losing streaks of three or more games, three of which were four or more in a row.

Nikolai Khabibulin is another Oiler with his name in some trade rumors, though he too is out tonight with a groin injury. Either Yann Danis or Devan Dubnyk will get the call tonight.

Ilya Bryzgalov wasn’t among the Flyers who stepped up to gut out a win in that shinny match against the Jets, and he’ll be expected to improve on that tonight, making sure goaltending isn’t a reason for a Flyers loss to a team they should certainly beat. His team can do more to help him out, particularly keeping the Oilers PP unit grounded, one way or another.

After seeing their effort on Tuesday, we’re pretty excited at tonight’s prospects. Will Wayne Simmonds continue to dominate in front of the net? Will the Jagr-Briere duo strike again? Can the PK bind up Edmonton’s power play?

Some fun questions heading into what will hopefully be another entertaining game in the western provinces.