The Canucks play their final road game of the pre-season tonight when they head into Edmonton to take on the Oilers and rookie phenom Connor McDavid.
With six games already in the books, the pre-season storylines are familiar ones by now – evaluate the promising youngsters and bubble players who could crack the opening night lineup, and get the veterans up to speed. But even those basic storylines will take a backseat to a degree tonight when the Canucks tangle with an Oilers club that has, seemingly overnight, become the most must-see team in the NHL thanks to the arrival of 18-year-old junior sensation Connor McDavid. McDavid, at least so far in pre-season, hasn't disappointed being among the team leader in points while helping Edmonton to a perfect 5-0 record. It remains to be seen if he'll suit up tonight or in the pre-season finale on Saturday in Vancouver, but it's certain that all eyes will be on him when he does.
The Canucks have plenty of matters of their own to worry about in these next two games aside from McDavid on the ice. They made just one cut following Tuesday's 2-1 loss in San Jose sending Alex Grenier to Utica meaning tonight will be yet another opportunity for the bubble players to make their case for an opening night roster spot. One player expected to play both tonight and on Saturday is 19-year-old Jared McCann, who scored the lone goal in the loss to the Sharks on Tuesday.
Puck drop at 6 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet 360, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
2014.15 Season Series
2014.15 Regular Season Record
2nd Pacific 6th Pacific
All-Time Series (Regular Season)
From the moment NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly pulled the golden ticket bearing the Oilers' logo at the Draft Lottery announcement back on April 18, McDavid Mania has swept the city of Edmonton. Described by many as a "generational talent" not unlike Sidney Crosby or, dare we say, Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid has breathed new life into a franchise that has failed to generate much hype or, more importantly, positive results despite several consecutive years of drafting at or near the top of the order. McDavid didn't arrive in Edmonton alone, however. As part of the major front-office shake-up, the Oilers also welcomed in a new general manager in Peter Chiarelli, formerly of the Boston Bruins, and a new head coach in Todd McLellan, formerly of the San Jose Sharks.
McDavid Mania overshadowed some of the other critical off-season moves for the Oilers – that being the upgrade of their defence and the acquisition of netminder Cam Talbot. While scoring goals was an issue for the Oilers (they finished with the fifth fewest in the NHL with 193), keeping them out was an even greater problem. The Oilers, who surrendered a league-high 276 goals last season, brought in Griffin Reinhart (NY Islanders) and Eric Gryba (Ottawa) via trade and signed Andrej Sekera (Los Angeles) as a free agent to bolster to their defensive corps. Talbot, meanwhile, had a strong run with the NY Rangers last season when he took over for an injured Henrik Lundqvist. The Oilers are counting on Talbot to provide something they have not enjoyed since the days of Tommy Salo and that is consistently dependable goaltending.
Keys to the Game
The vets really step up. While it might not have been a huge concern early on in the pre-season, with just two games left in exhibition play the veterans would rather not go into the real season riding a scoring slump. They need to build some offensive confidence in these next two games.
Don't get caught in the McDavid hype. There will be plenty of talk about the rookie phenom regardless of whether he plays tonight or not. If he does play, the Canucks have to be aware of him while he's on the ice but they can't get caught marveling at the pundit-proclaimed "next one."
Keep pushing the pace. So far in pre-season, the Oilers offence is showing no signs of slowing down amassing 20 goals over six games. Facing a Canucks team that has had some offensive woes, they should have no qualms about turning this game into a track meet.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Vancouver's all-time pre-season win percentage (161-156-34).
Win percentage for the Canucks against the Oilers in 2014.15 (5-0-0).
Former first round picks currently on the Oilers training camp roster (Three 1st overall).
Former first round picks currently on the Canucks training camp roster (Highest 2nd overall – D. Sedin).
Players remaining on the Oilers training camp roster (10 D, 15 F, 3 G).
Players remaining on the Canucks training camp roster (10 D, 17 F, 3 G).