Opening night was awfully fun for the Oilers and their fans, but tonight it is right back to work as the Oil hit the west coast for a date with the Canucks. It’ll be the first of four meetings between the sides this year and the first of two in Vancouver. These two won’t link up again until January 20th at Rogers Place.
The Oilers enter this game with Andrej Sekera still on the IR with a knee injury. The club will sit Yohann Auvitu and Kailer Yamamoto tonight as Iiro Pakarinen makes his season debut. The Oil were 4-0-1 against Vancouver last season, collecting nine of a possible ten points from their Pacific Division rival.
Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers, while Jacob Markstrom gets the nod for the Canucks.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: The Oilers need to use their speed to attack what is a weak and young Vancouver blueline. If the Oil can keep the Canucks on their toes, they should be able to generate plenty of shots and scoring chances on the Canucks. Considering Markstrom’s career numbers, that should be a good thing for Edmonton.
Vancouver: Channel the emotion of opening night and use it to generate a hot start. Bottom line is, Edmonton has Vancouver beat everywhere on paper. Vancouver’s best bet is taking the energy and emotion of the moment and channeling it into a frantic start. Jump on the Oil early and make them play from behind.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Jussi Jokinen was quiet on the scoresheet on Wednesday, but he really impressed me in his Oiler debut. I suspect Jokinen will have another strong effort tonight and I’ll be interested to see if he can make his way onto the scoresheet against the soft underbelly of the Canuck roster.
Vancouver: Jake Virtanen is a player that Canuck fans had high hopes for when he was a top-ten draft choice just a few years ago. To this point, Virtanen has been a big disappointment for the club but tonight he had a chance to get back on the good side of fans and the team. I’ll be interested to see what kind of urgency Virtanen has in this game.
As mentioned above, the Oilers will keep the same defensive pairings so Auvitu will once again sit in the press box as the seventh defender. Kailer Yamamoto didn’t look very good on Wednesday, but I’m still surprised the club took him out of the lineup tonight. Zack Kassian moves into the top-six while Iiro Pakarinen jumps in on the fourth line.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jussi Jokinen
Jujhar Khaira – Mark Letestu – Iiro Pakarinen
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
Darnell Nurse – Eric Gryba
The Canucks have made some interesting decisions ahead of tonight’s contest. The club will sit prized rookie Brock Boeser as the aforementioned Virtanen draws into the lineup. Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Alex Burmistrov are all expected to make their Canuck debuts tonight.
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Thomas Vanek
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Loui Eriksson
Sam Gagner – Alex Burmistrov – Jake Virtanen
Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter – Derek Dorsett
Alex Edler – Chris Tanev
Michael Del Zotto – Erik Gudbranson
Ben Hutton – Troy Stecher
Things To Watch:
Cam Talbot is closing in on a milestone. The Edmonton netminder got a shutout on Wednesday, the 19th of his career. One more will push him to 20 on his career, and solid mark for a young goaltender in just his third season as a starter in the NHL. He recorded the first opening night shutout for Edmonton since Nikolai Khabibulin in 2010.
What will Connor do for an encore tonight? McDavid scored a hat-trick on Wednesday night and is tied for the NHL lead in goals with three. Tonight, he’ll be searching to take the lead for himself and score another game winner against the Canucks, which he did twice last season.
Is a close game in our near future between these two clubs? The Oilers and Canucks have seen four of their last five meetings decided by one goal. Edmonton last lost to Vancouver on December 31st, 2016 in a shootout.
This is a tough one to predict because you simply never know how a team will look on opening night. There is a lot of emotion in the building and usually a lot of hope for the home side. That’ll exactly be the case tonight in Vancouver as the Canucks become the last NHL team to open the season.
Vancouver will strike early as Sam Gagner snipes home his first of the season, but Edmonton will respond quite swiftly as Zack Kassian bangs home a rebound 92 seconds later to tie the game.
In the second frame, Edmonton’s powerplay gives them the lead as Milan Lucic tips an Oscar Klefbom shot past Markstrom to make it 2-1. The Oilers continue to push the pace as McDavid sets up Leon Draisaitl for his first of the season to make it 3-1 after two.
The Oilers go up 4-1 early in the third when Mark Letestu gets his first powerplay goal of the season on a beautiful feed from McDavid, who tallies his fifth point of the year. Vancouver gets one back late on a Del Zotto point shot, but the Oilers seal it with an empty net goal by Nugent-Hopkins to win it 5-2.