CANUCKS (1-2-1) at OILERS (1-0-1)
TV: CBC (HD)
Season series : It's the first of six intradivisional matchups. The Canucks took the first four games last season, with Cory Schneider getting the home wins and Roberto Luongo winning on the road. The Oilers won twice in the final week of the season, sweeping a home-and-home with a 4-1 drubbing at Rogers Arena and a 2-0 shutout at Rexall Place.
Big story: Believe it or not, the Canucks had the same record last year after four games -- and they finished with the best record in the NHL. Still, it's out of character for this team to struggle at any time, even on a four-game road trip that has seen them go 1-2-0, including a 2-0 loss at Detroit on Thursday. Edmonton has played a pair of 2-1 games that were decided in shootouts, beating the Penguins and losing to the Wild, but injuries are starting to cause trouble again.
Canucks: Vancouver came flying out of the gate against the Red Wings, but the Wings turned things around in the second period, launching 24 shots, scoring twice on Canucks mistakes and dominating the rest of the way in a 2-0 win.
"We can't let this slide here," captain Henrik Sedin said to the Vancouver Sun. "We need some wins. We had a good start tonight but we've got to keep going. We [want] to make the other team break down and make mistakes. Right now, we're the ones making mistakes."
Oilers: Some streaks take on lives of their own, like the Oilers' five-year run of futility at the Xcel Energy Center. Nikolai Khabibulin did all he could to prevent a 17th straight loss to the Wild in their St. Paul home, making 33 saves in regulation, stopping Marco Scandella on a breakaway in overtime, but allowing the deciding goal to Devin Setoguchi in a 2-1 shootout loss.
But it was the loss of winger Ales Hemsky, scorer of the shootout winner that beat the Penguins last Sunday, that took the fire out of the Oilers late in the first period. He left the ice after hurting his right shoulder, the same shoulder that was surgically repaired last March.
"He was really flying around early," coach Tom Renney said. "That whole line was buzzing. He was really good tonight, and it's unfortunate he got hurt. The game was definitely different when he left."
Hemsky has had both shoulders repaired in the last two seasons, reducing him to 69 total games played. He was expected to be evaluated by team doctors on Friday.
Who's hot: The Sedins have five points each through four games, while the two Oiler goals scored in regulation so far went to the youngest player on the team (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and one of the oldest (Ryan Smyth). Both Devan Dubnyk and Khabibulin have allowed a goal apiece in their 65-minute performances so far.
Injury report: Unlike Hemsky's past shoulder issues, this one wasn't the result of a hit. "I think it was a sweeping motion with the puck; making a pass or making a play," Renney said. Forwards Ben Eager (concussion) and Sam Gagner (ankle) skated Friday wearing non-contact jerseys. Ryan Whitney (ankle) is still considered day-to-day but will not play. … As Vancouver center Ryan Kesler (surgically repaired hip) continues to skate, speculation builds up about a sooner-than-expected return to game action, perhaps as early as Tuesday at home.
Stat pack: One reason the Oilers have kept games tight is a strong penalty kill that's snuffed out 10 of 11 man-up opportunities. The power play, though, is looking for its first score in seven attempts. ... The Canucks have been a so-so 3-for-18 with the man advantage, and with a man down, an uncharacteristic 4-for-20, a number skewed a bit by the Penguins' 2-for-3 performance in the home opener last Thursday.
Puck drop: "We like to have a good system, like to play as a team. We like to make the other team crack before we do, playing well all over the ice … and being defensively sound. I think we still have a lot of work to do. We've got to make sure we play together and keep working hard and keep getting better." -- Alex Burrows in the Vancouver Sun on the Canucks slow start