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OILERS (32-39-10) at CANUCKS (50-22-9)
LAST 10: Edmonton 4-3-3; Vancouver 7-2-1
Season Series: Final meeting in a Northwest Division battle dominated by the Canucks this season. Vancouver has won four of five, including both meetings at home, with the Oilers' only victory way back in late October, and only other point from a shootout loss in Edmonton in late January. The Canucks won the other three - Oct. 15, Dec. 26, and Feb. 19 - and scored 14 goals in the process.
Big Story: The Canucks lost control of their own fate atop both the Western Conference and overall NHL standings with a sloppy 3-2 loss in Calgary on Thursday that snapped a seven-game winning streak. Vancouver still has a shot at a second-straight Presidents' Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs if it can beat an Edmonton team locked into 14th place in the West and again looking at a lottery pick in the draft. But the Canucks need to finish at least a point ahead of the New York Rangers, who also had 109 points heading into their final game, and St. Louis Blues, who were at 107 with two games left to play, because they don't have the tiebreaker against either of those teams.
"We still have something to play for," goalie Cory Schneider said. "You look at some of those teams and their home records, teams like St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, they're pretty unbeatable at home. If it comes down to a Game 7 in your building that makes a huge difference."
Oilers: The Oilers may not have anything left to play in a season that has for the most part been over for months, but that hasn't prevented coach Tom Renney from starting to send messages for next year. The targets have often been veterans, including defenseman Cam Barker, who was a healthy scratch for 15straight games before playing for the first time in more than a month on Thursday night - and only after injuries to three regulars. Renney also sat veteran center Eric Belanger, a free agent addition last summer, just last week.
"The timing was to make sure he understood where I was coming from and what I needed from him," Renney told the Calgary Sun. "But more importantly, quite honestly, is the timing for everybody else to recognize that we don't discriminate. Players are going to have to be held accountable moving forward."
Canucks: Saturday's game is a big one for goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was pulled from his last start on Tuesday after giving up four goals on 15 shots against Anaheim. Coach Alain Vigneault made it clear afterwards that the move was more to spark a team that played porously in front of Luongo, and teammates apologized to their No. 1 goaltender for leaving him hung out to dry and facing grade-A scoring chances most of the night. But with Schneider on a roll - he was 12-1-1 since Christmas before giving up three third-period goals in Calgary on Thursday night - another off night for Luongo going into the playoffs will only increase the calls to start the backup ahead of him.
"People just need to take a deep breath and relax," Schneider said after fans in Vancouver cheered when Luongo was pulled on Tuesday. "They need to understand that Roberto has been there before for them and I'm sure he will again. Every time something doesn't go right, it becomes an issue … everything gets over-analyzed and picked apart. But it's part of the territory. If you want to play like a starting goalie, you have to be able to handle that adversity and pressure."
Who's Hot: The Canucks' checking line. Jannik Hansen scored late in a 3-2 loss in Calgary on Thursday, and Chris Higgins had five goals in the previous six games. Not bad for a line, anchored by shutdown center Samuel Pahlsson, that goes up against the opposition's best forwards on most nights.
Injury Report: Vancouver is expected to be without top goal scorer Daniel Sedin (concussion) for a ninth straight game but got top-four defensemen Kevin Bieksa, who missed four games to rest an undisclosed ailment, and Aaron Rome (knee) back in Calgary on Thursday. Defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion) is also close to returning, and defender Chris Tanev, who rested Thursday, is expected to be available to return Saturday. Forward Zack Kassian is out with an upper-body injury, replaced by call-up Byron Bitz. … Edmonton defenseman Jeff Petry returned Thursday against Anaheim after taking a puck in the face last week. But fellow defenders Ladislav Smid (neck), Theo Peckham and Corey Potter (concussions) are all still out. Bryan Rodney was sent back to the AHL with Petry back, but prospect Colten Teubert remains on emergency recall.
Stat Pack: Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns to his hometown with a share of the NHL rookie scoring lead after recording his 52nd point on Jordan Eberle's 34th goal Thursday against Anaheim. Nugent-Hopkins is tied with Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog despite playing 20 fewer games because of injury. … Edmonton veteran Ryan Smyth has been stuck on 19 goals for the last 12 games, while captain Shawn Horcoff has just four points in the last 20 games.
Puck Drop: Vancouver's power play is just 2-for-35 after a costly 0-for-6 outing in Calgary that included failing to build on a 1-0 lead during a 23-second 5-on-3, and being unable to convert 6-on-4 after pulling Schneider late. The Canucks' power play has dropped below 20 percent, more than five points below its midseason peak atop the League, while going 11-for-96 over the last 34 games, failing to score in 25 of those contests.