The Canucks may be coming off a loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday but they certainly deserve credit for their compete-level that night especially when icing a line-up that, thanks to a multitude of injuries, resembled something that one would expect in an exhibition game. They won't use injuries as an excuse even though they'll likely be dressing another largely inexperienced line-up again tonight going up against the Oilers, a team that resides in the Western Conference basement but could pull to within a point of the Canucks in the standings with a regulation win.
Vancouver will get one bit of positive news on the injury front with Alex Biega expected to return tonight after missing Wednesday's game with an undisclosed ailment. The news is not as good for Jannik Hansen, who was hopeful to return either tonight or tomorrow versus St. Louis but has reportedly suffered a setback and will be unavailable for either contest. Jacob Markstrom will be in net for Vancouver while Cam Talbot will likely get the call for Edmonton.
Puck drop at 6 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
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2015.16 Season Series
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Keys to the Game
Back to regular rotation. Now that the likes of Tryamkin and Pedan have had a chance to settle in, the Canucks would love to be able to roll their defensive pairings and avoid having to play any of their blue-liners major minutes like they did with Hamhuis, who saw over 28 minutes on Wednesday. The expected return of Biega should help with that as well.
Beware the Zack attack. With all due respect to another former Canuck on the Oilers, Adam Cracknell, you can bet Zack Kassian has had this date circled on the calendar for a while. Regardless of the issues he's faced since his departure than Vancouver, he'd love nothing more than to show the Canucks they made a mistake by cutting him loose.
Power through. It's hard to believe, with all their offensive talent, the Oilers went on a 1-for-32 stretch on the power play over 14 games before breaking out on Wednesday with four against the Blues. They hope that's a sign of things to come for a team that has been struggled putting up goals all season long.
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By the Numbers
Point for Connor McDavid against the Canucks in one career game. He had an assist in his first-ever game vs VAN on Oct. 18.
Straight wins for the Canucks at Rexall Place entering play tonight, all coming last season. They've won 4 of their last 5 in Edmonton.
Players with two points each so far in the season series: Hansen, Bartkowski, Korpikoski & Letestu.
Combined goals scored by the Canucks and Oilers through two games in the season series (4 in regulation).
Of the last 7 head-to-head games between the Canucks and Oilers have been decided by one goal.
Straight games the Canucks have earned at least a point in against the Oilers (6-0-1).
- The push for the playoffs for the Oilers realistically ended many months ago and that might explain why they've put together one of their best stretches of the season with very little pressure. They come into tonight's game as winners of six of their last 10 outings which includes victories over teams that are either in a playoff position or on the cusp of one including the Blues, Wild, Flyers, and Islanders.
- One player who certainly seems to enjoy having the pressure off is netminder Cam Talbot. The former Ranger struggled after joining the Oilers in the off-season but has been turning in some strong performances of late although he's allowed eight goals on 57 shots over his last two starts. Prior to that, he had given up just 11 goals on 266 shots (.959 save percentage) over eight starts.
- Talbot's been getting some help from his defenders lately. The Oilers rank near the top of the league when it comes to giving up shots averaging 31.2 shots against per game but they've held their opponent to fewer than 30 shots in five of their last seven outings.
- Of course when you talk about the Oilers you have to talk about their offence. Edmonton will have a much different look tonight compared to the last time the Canucks faced them back on Boxing Day. Connor McDavid being back in the line-up is the most notable change, but Vancouver can also expect to see a healthy Nail Yakupov as well as newcomers Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon.
- The Oilers are hoping the additions of Kassian and Maroon can provide some much-needed secondary scoring and take some pressure off the likes of McDavid, Hall, and Eberle. Both players, however, have been inconsistent at best. Kassian had four points in his first eight outings but has since managed just three points in his last 19 games. Maroon, meanwhile, has six points in eight games since joining Edmonton but did have a four-game point drought mixed in. Considering he only had only 13 points in 56 games with the Ducks prior to being dealt to the Oilers, his contributions to date have to be deemed a success.
- Speaking of McDavid, his lengthy layoff certainly did not affect his confidence or his scoring touch. He had five goals and 12 points in 13 games prior to his shoulder injury, and has 14 goals and 38 points in 36 games since returning. Look for him to be on a line with Eberle and Maroon.