The Edmonton Oilers have won three straight games, four straight on the road, and eight of their last ten overall. Currently sitting at 12-8-0, the Oilers sit second place in the North Division and are feeling good after a home-and-home sweep of the Calgary Flames over the weekend.
Tonight, the Oilers return to action as they take on the Vancouver Canucks for the third of ten meetings this season. It’s the first of five games in Vancouver this season, and the first of a two-game set that concludes on Thursday night. The sides split their first two meetings, which opened the season back in January.
Thatcher Demko gets the nod for the Canucks, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Test Demko early and often. A hero in Vancouver’s second round playoff series against Vegas in August, Demko has struggled out of the gate this season. He’s just 4-7-1 with a .901 save percentage and a 3.31 GAA. He also surrendered five goals in his lone appearance against the Oilers this season, a 5-2 loss in the second game of the year. Demko is struggling and the Oilers are shooting the lights out. Test the young netminder early and make him uncomfortable.
Vancouver: Use your speed. The Oilers have done a solid job of locking opponents down in recent games, but the Winnipeg Jets proved eight days ago that speed still kills this Edmonton defense. The Canucks have a lot of issues, but speed and skill up front aren’t in that category. The Canucks created all kinds of mismatches on opening night. Can they do it again with their speed and skill? It’s their best chance to get a win.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Caleb Jones is back. With Slater Koekkoek out for the season and both William Lagesson and Ethan Bear not quite ready, Jones will draw back in alongside rookie Evan Bouchard. It’ a glorious opportunity for the mobile Jones to prove his worth. There’s a reason he was slated for top-four duty before the season. He’s a good young player, and I suspect he’ll show it tonight.
Vancouver: Brock Boeser may not grab the headlines that some other forwards in Vancouver do, but he’s extremely effective. Boeser leads the Canucks in both points (22) and goals (12) this season. He possesses a lethal shot and seems to always have an impact when the Oilers are in town. He scored twice in two games when the teams opened the season in Edmonton.
James Neal did not travel to Vancouver and will not play tonight or Thursday. There was no reason given by the team, but speculation is abound that it could have something to do with COVID-19 protocols. Kyle Turris, scratched the last two games, will also sit. Patrick Russell was recalled on an emergency basis and will replace Neal, while Lagesson (undisclosed) and Bear (upper body) remain day-to-day.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Tyler Ennis – Jujhar Khaira – Josh Archibald
Patrick Russell – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Evan Bouchard
The Canucks have three players on IR that will not be available to them tonight. Travis Hamonic (upper body), Justin Bailey (upper body) and Tyler Motte (lower body) are all on the mend. Energy forward Jayce Hawryluk is currently day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and is not likely to play tonight.
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Nils Hoglander
J.T. Miller – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel – Brandon Sutter – Adam Gaudette
Zack MacEwen – Jay Beagle – Jake Virtanen
Alexander Edler – Nate Schmidt
Quinn Hughes – Jordie Benn
Olli Juolevi – Tyler Myers
“Since I’ve been here, they’re always good games,” Alex Chiasson said on Tuesday. “The one thing with the Canucks is their work ethic is through the charts. They work hard, they play their structure and they’re hard to play against. I’m sure they’ll bring that for their two home games here against us. We’ve had a good stretch here lately but it’s so tight in our division. Starts are always a key part of games.”
You want offense? The Oilers have it. Currently, the Oilers rank first in the NHL in scoring from defensemen. Paced by Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie, the Oilers have 49 points (13 g, 36 a) from the blueline. Among forwards, the Oilers rank second in the NHL with 146 points (59 g, 87 a) in 20 games played. It’s a high flying group all around.
If you’re the betting kind, you may want to throw something on McDavid getting at least a point tonight. Over the course of 23 career games, McDavid is scoring 1.34 points per game against the Canucks. He has 31 points (11 g, 20 a) in those 23 games. That includes three goals in the second meeting of the season between the teams this year.