The Edmonton Oilers will look to keep the good times rolling tonight as they play host to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. To put it in frank terms, this is another ‘must win’ game if the Oilers hope to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The road trip was a massive success, but they’ll need at least six out of eight points over the next seven days at home.
Edmonton hasn’t had much success against Vancouver this season, going 1-2-0 in the first three meetings. Their lone win came in the shootout in a game where the Canucks actually scored to win it late, but had the goal wiped out by an off-sides call. They need to be better tonight.
Mikko Koskinen has been huge as of late and will once again start for Edmonton. Vancouver’s goaltending decision is still unconfirmed, but I’m expecting it will be Jacob Markstrom.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: A quick start is going to be key for the Oil. They slept through the first period against the Sabres on Monday and found themselves down 3-1 as a result. Against a tired Canuck team, it will be imperative to push things early and often. Make Vancouver want to roll over and die, using the excuse of a back-to-back with travel.
Vancouver: Attack McDavid the same exact way you have all season long. Yes, Connor has found a way (still) to end up on the scoresheet against you, but you’ve done a helluva job keeping him contained when it comes to creating chances. Sure, most of what Vancouver has done is illegal by the rules, but if they don’t call it you would be stupid not to do it.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Sam Gagner revenge game? Gagner was quiet in both Columbus and Buffalo, but you have to think he’s going to be fired up tonight against the team that banished him to the AHL in September and gave up on him. I’m expecting him to be involved offensively in this one.
Vancouver: Josh Leivo was lost in Toronto, unable to get into the lineup and struggling to get the attention of Mike Babcock. A trade to Vancouver changed all of that, and Leivo has emerged as a top-nine winger in the NHL. He’s a good player and is worth your attention.
Jujhar Khaira could be making a return to the lineup against his hometown team. The physical winger will be a game-time decision after practicing yesterday and skating this morning. Jesse Puljujarvi will remain on IR, and it is expected that Brad Malone will be a healthy scratch. Kevin Gravel and Alex Petrovic will sit defensively.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Sam Gagner – Leon Draisaitl – Alex Chiasson
Milan Lucic – Colby Cave – Josh Currie
Tobias Rieder – Kyle Brodziak – Ty Rattie
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
The Canucks played, and beat, the Toronto Maple Leafs last night and did not skate this morning. As a result, we can only go off of last night’s lines for tonight’s contest.
Erik Gudbranson is no more, as the Canucks dealt him to the Penguins at the deadline for Tanner Pearson. Adam Gaudette is up from AHL Utica along with D Luke Schenn, acquired from the Ducks last month. One interesting omission? Ryan Spooner is not in the lineup for the Canucks (groin).
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Nikolay Goldobin
Josh Leivo – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel – Adam Gaudette – Markus Granlund
Loui Eriksson – Jay Beagle – Tyler Motte
Alex Edler – Alex Biega
Derrick Pouliot – Troy Stecher
Ashton Sautner – Luke Schenn
The Oilers enter tonight seven points behind the Wild for the second and final Wild Card spot out West. Edmonton currently has a game in hand, and both sides play tonight. The Wild will be in Tampa Bay to take on the Bolts, while obviously Edmonton plays Vancouver. The possibility exists for the Oil to leave tonight down just five points in the race.
The is the final time we will see the beautiful royal blue jerseys this season. The Oil are 2-1-0 in their previous three appearances with the threads, beating Los Angeles and Calgary in December. Their lone loss came on New Year’s Eve against Winnipeg. Here’s to hoping these threads return as the permanent home jersey sooner rather than later.
Although last night was fun for the Canucks, the last stretch of games overall has been a nightmare. The Canucks are just 4-8-3 in their last 15 games and have been shutout a total of three times. In that span they have won just a single game in regulation time. Edmonton, meanwhile, is 5-1-2 in their last eight.
The odds Edmonton pulls this off and makes the dance? Still very, very slim. That said, the Oil are playing a lot better lately and I think that carries over tonight in an electric building against a team that emptied the tank last night.
Oilers take in 3-1 and the city, for at least one night, starts to believe again.