The Vancouver Canucks look for the season series sweep of the Edmonton Oilers when they close out the regular season on a night they will honour Gino Odjick and host Fan Appreciation Night.
The Canucks know they'll be facing the Flames when they begin the playoffs in a few short days. What they don't know, at least to begin today, is where their playoff series will start. Vancouver's focus tonight, however, will be to end their regular season on a high note and win their way to home-ice advantage in the first round. A victory over the Oilers would accomplish that. It would be a franchise-first if they defeat Edmonton tonight as they have never swept the Oilers in a season series. The closest they came was in 2002.03 when they finished with four wins and a tie back in the pre-shootout era.
The Canucks could potentially secure second spot in the Pacific Division even before puck drop should the Flames fall to the Jets this afternoon. There will be plenty of interest in this game regardless of whether or not it has any significance in the standings because it will be the first start for Ryan Miller since he suffered a knee injury back on February 22. He returned to the lineup on Thursday and had a front-row seat to watch Eddie Lack's 28-save shutout performance in the 5-0 win over the Coyotes.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on CBC, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Oilers may or may not get a chance to ruin the Canucks' hopes of securing home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs but if they are put in that position they do have some experience playing the spoiler to draw upon. They had all of Western Canada pulling for them on Tuesday when they scored that improbable 4-2 upset victory over the Kings on the strength of a 25-save performance by netminder Richard Bachman, a win that helped the Canucks officially clinch a playoff berth. They received another stellar netminding performance in their last outing on Thursday – a 3-1 loss to San Jose – although this time not from Bachman but rather Laurent Brossoit, an AHL call-up who turned aside 49 shots in his NHL debut.
The Canucks, however, won't see Bachman and might not even see Brossoit in tonight's regular season finale if the Oilers stick with their intended plan. Viktor Fasth, who was injured in a shootout back on February 16, has been working towards getting into a game before the end of the regular season and could potentially make his return tonight. Whoever the Oilers get to play in net, he'll need to find a way to make that one extra save that Edmonton has not been able to get in the season series. Three of the four games in the season series have been decided by one goal, the only exception was Vancouver's 2-0 win on October 17 where the second tally was an empty-net marker. Edmonton's netminder will also need to be extra sharp overall considering the team's goal-scoring slump of late. They have scored just eight combined goals in their last five outings, four of which came in that aforementioned win over the Kings.
Keys to the Game
Give Miller some support. Coming back from injury is never easy, especially for a goaltender. The Canucks need to make sure Ryan Miller's night isn't too eventful especially when it comes to contact. Keep shots to the outside and don't let the Oilers employ any crease-crashing techniques.
Four lines all rolling. Expect Coach Desjardins to give all his lines a chance to get plenty of ice-time tonight which means there won't be any leaning on a few key guys to get all the goals. This is a night where all the forward units will want to fine tune their offensive game heading into the post-season.
In Todd they trust. For all the negatives the Oilers have experienced this season, the arrival of new bench boss Todd Nelson is not one of them. In fact, there seems to be quite a groundswell of support among the players for his return next season. There's no better way for the players to help their coach's case than to go out on a winning note.
By the Numbers
All-time in percentage for the Canucks in regular season finales (23-14-6). They have won five of their last six finales.
Point needed by the Canucks beginning the day to clinch second place in the Pacific Division.
Times the Canucks have amassed 100-or-more points in a season. They need one point tonight to make it nine.
Career wins, and no losses, for Ryan Miller against the Oilers (4-0 this season).
Wins for the Oilers this season. A loss would set a new franchise record for fewest wins in a season (excl. lockout-shortened seasons).
Minutes and 47 seconds of consecutive playing time without a goal surrendered by the Canucks entering play tonight.