CANUCKS (4-2-2) at OILERS (4-3-1)
TV: RDS2, SNET-P, SNET-W
Big story: Has Roberto Luongo officially won back his job? It's starting to look like it, and with a win Monday night, not only could Luongo continue to distance himself from fellow goaltender Cory Schneider, but he could distance the first-place Canucks from the second-place Oilers.
Canucks: These days it's impossible to talk about the Canucks without talking about the apparent reclamation of the man in net. Before this season many assumed Luongo's time in Vancouver was at an end, with Schneider expected to assume No. 1 status and Luongo expected to leave the organization once GM Mike Gillis found a trade offer of reasonable valuable. But after a shaky start to the season by Schneider, Luongo has gotten the call for the last three three games and the numbers from that stretch speak for themselves: a 2-0-1 record, three total goals against, 77 saves on 80 shots against, one shutout and one shootout win over first-place Chicago Blackhawks Friday night.
Luongo isn't the only one reaping the benefits of his second chance. Vancouver has overcome two losses to start the season to return to the location the Canucks are most familiar with: first place. Still, despite the good feelings in British Columbia, the season is still young. Vancouver has played eight games and has 40 left to play. The top four teams in the Northwest Division are separated by a grand total of two points meaning the Canucks are about as far from safe as safe can be, but if Luongo continues to play like the Luongo of old, it's certainly a start.
Oilers: The young Oilers grabbed a lot of attention in the season's first two weeks after winning four of their first five games, but a 2-1 overtime win in Phoenix last Wednesday Edmonton has started to slump. The Oilers fell to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night to give them consecutive losses for the first time this season a trend that could get worse with the suddenly hot Canucks coming into Rexall Place.
Edmonton might want to be wary that its early-season success was something of a mirage. Three of the Oilers' four wins came in either a shootout or overtime and the team, for all its offensive firepower, has scored more than three goals just once in its first eight games. Regardless, the Oilers sit just one point out of first place, meaning that despite any struggles they may have had to this point, they are poised to take over first place with a win Monday night.
Who's hot: Luongo isn't the only Canuck doing his part on the back end. Defenseman Alex Edler has a goal and three assists in his last five games. ... The learning curve hasn't been too steep for Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov, who has three goals and an assists in his last four games.
Injury report: Shawn Horcoff (strained neck) is questionable for the Oilers. The Canucks are still playing without David Booth (strained groin), who is expected to miss another 2-4 weeks. Vancouver is also still without Ryan Kesler, who is on IR following surgery on his wrist and shoulder.