The Canucks begin a season-high seven-game home stand tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers in their first game back following the holiday break.
The Canucks weren't exactly tearing up the league heading into the holiday break but they have been on a positive trend of late picking up five of a possible six points in the last three games of their six-game road trip which included a 2-1 win over the Lightning in the trip finale. Continuing the momentum from the way that trip ended will be essential for Vancouver as the next 16 days could determine whether they're a contender or a pretender when it comes to a playoff spot. The Canucks' home ice record to date (5-6-3) has not been spectacular but there's no better opportunity than this stretch of seven in a row at Rogers Arena to pick up some much-needed points and create some breathing room against the rest of their division.
The Oilers are one of the teams that are nipping at the heels of the Canucks as they begin play today sitting three points back in the divisional standings albeit holding a game in hand. Vancouver currently occupies the third spot in the division but they have played more games than everyone in the division. With no practices held over the holiday break, news on tonight's line-up – including the injury status of goalie Ryan Miller who sat out the win in Tampa Bay – won't come until the morning skate.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on CBC, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
A season that was supposed to be all about the arrival of "The Next One" veered off course in an unexpected way on November 3 when Connor McDavid suffered a broken clavicle that would put him on the shelf indefinitely. The Oilers weren't exactly world beaters even with the young phenom in the line-up posting a record of 5-8-0 when he got hurt but they were averaging a very healthy 2.77 goals per game at the time. If the sky wasn't already falling then, the immediate aftermath must have felt like it for Oilers fans who have suffered through the doom-and-gloom all too often as they watched their team win just three of their next 12 outings (3-7-2) while averaging just 2.08 goals per game in the process. The start of December, however, brought some new hope to the club as they continue to await the return of McDavid. They won a season-high six in a row to begin the month and are 7-3-0 so far in December averaging 2.80 goals per game during the stretch.
The fact that their top players are producing like they should has been a big part of the resurgent offence. Aside from Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl who have been consistent producers throughout the season, players like Teddy Purcell (4 goals and 10 points in 10 December games; 4 goals and 13 points in 25 games prior) and Jordan Eberle (5 goals and 8 points in 10 December games; three goals in 12 games prior) have played a big part in the recent turnaround. At the very least, it's allowed the Oilers to withstand the loss of McDavid and, more recently, the loss of Nail Yakupov who has been out since suffering a leg injury on November 25. For the Oilers to truly turn the corner, what they'll really need is for their goaltending to be solid night in, night out. Cam Talbot's struggles paved the way Anders Nilsson to take over for a while as the de facto starter. The two seem to be engaged quite a heated internal battle right now for that top job. Talbot turned in a brilliant 44-save performance in a 3-1 win over the Jets prior to the holiday break so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a second consecutive start.
Keys to the Game
Home sweet home. The Canucks will want to set the tone for their home stand tonight with this being the start of seven straight at Rogers Arena. Their mindset should be that nothing short of running the Oilers - a team that has struggled on the road this season - right out of the building will be acceptable.
Practice makes perfect, but not too much. The Canucks had plenty of time to work on their penalty kill on Tuesday killing off 9-of-10 Lightning power plays. As much of a confidence booster as that must have been, they better not put themselves in a similar position tonight against Edmonton.
More from the Nuge. First it was the arrival of McDavid, then the emergence of Draisaitl that has pushed Nugent-Hopkins down the depth chart. However, he's still an integral part of the Oilers' offence and they'll need him to snap out of his recent three-game funk.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
All-time win percentage for the Canucks on Boxing Day (9-13-2).
All-time win percentage for the Oilers on Boxing Day (6-5-1).
Teams all-time that have beaten the Oilers in Boxing Day games – Canucks (4x) and Wild.
Game goal streak for Sven Baertschi entering play tonight, tied for his career-high.
Straight road losses for the Oilers entering play tonight (out-scored 13-3).
Straight games without a power play goal for the Canucks, longest drought of the season (0-for-11).