At 26th and 29th in the League on the penalty kill and powerplay, respectively, it's no surprise what the Canucks addressed this week during practice.
The Canucks scored just three goals on 33 chances with the man-advantage after going 29.3% in the preseason, scoring at least one powerplay goal in each game.
Vancouver, who topped the League on the penalty kill in 2006-07 is currently sitting at 26 after surrendering at least one goal in their last five games while shorthanded.
"I think we're too good on both sides of it to be where we are right now," said Willie Mitchell. "It's early in the year and it can change in a hurry because we haven't had to many powerplays or penalties to kill either so you go on a little streak where you kill 10 in a row or score a couple of powerplay goals in a row and you go from the bottom half of the League to the top half of the League. I think we've got the personnel to be very good at both and I think you'll see it improve."
The Canucks current personnel is more than capable of performing more effectively on special teams, especially after a strong preseason campaign that saw them go 6-0-1.
The PK will have to be especially sharp tonight against the Oilers powerplay, which is seventh best in the League and fourth best on the road. With a young squad full of offensive talent, the Canucks know that their preparation is key to coming out on the right side of the game.
"They've got a lot of speed and skill up front with Hemsky, Cogliano, Nielsen – we've got to respect their speed and skill," Kevin Bieksa
said after the morning skate Saturday. "They like to try to beat guys one on one and it's something we've already talked about. We're going to put most of the onus on ourselves – our special teams have to be better and if we play our game and play the way we can, we're confident we'll be able to win."
"We've prepared for that and now it's time to go out and execute that," said Mitchell. "We can go out and do that tonight and still possibly lose but if we go out and do what we've been working on all week, we're going to put ourselves in the right position to get the results and that's what we're going to do."
After dropping below .500 in their last outing, "must-win" is being thrown around the dressing room and while it may still be early in the season, it's never too early to win. Narrowly missing the playoffs last year by just three points isn't something the team wants to repeat and if the ultimate goal is the Stanley Cup, they've got to start putting some wins together right now.
"I think every team in the NHL from game one has a sense of urgency," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "It's a very competitive game, it's a very competitive conference, this division is extremely competitive and goal number one for all the teams is to get to the playoffs."
"I think Ken Holland described it best when he said that you have to play almost 70 playoff games before you get in there and that’s how competitive the NHL is now. Our sense of urgency has been there since day one and tonight is no different."
Injuries to the line up aren't new to the Canucks, who suffered through roster changes all lat season and the line juggling has already started with the addition of Kyle Wellwood and Jason Krog Tuesday in Columbus after losing Pavol Demitra and Rick Rypien.
Rypien and Sami Salo
, who both missed the last game against the Blue Jackets, both skated before the rest of the team hit the ice Saturday morning. Both should be well enough to take part in a full practice with the rest of the team Sunday when the team hosts their first Open Practice event of the year.
For Krog, it's an opportunity to make the best of his chance back with the Canucks after his stint with the Moose. He will try to take advantage of his minutes and playing on a powerplay unit with Daniel and Henrik Sedin
"It's huge but at the same time," said Krog. "I have to take it like it's just another game – go out there and have fun. It's a great opportunity and I want to have fun doing it."
"[The Sedins] pretty simple to play with – they cycle the puck, they look for you well, so you just have to always be ready because they can make the pass that most guys can't make when you're not even looking and I’ve got to be ready to capitalize on opportunities."