The Canucks close out the pre-season tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers in the back half of a home-and-home series at Rogers Arena.
After stumbling through the first six pre-season contests with mixed results, the Canucks found a way to put everything together in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Oilers even though they were missing some of their top stars including the Sedin twins, Radim Vrbata, and Alex Edler. The Canucks enjoyed their most dominant and consistent performance of the pre-season out-shooting the Oilers 29-23, winning 54 percent of the faceoffs, and had the lion's share of the scoring opportunities on the night.
As is usually the case in the pre-season finale, both teams are likely to dress lineups close, if not exact, to what they plan to start in the regular season opener although the Canucks still seem to be on the fence with regards to several of their youngsters who are pushing for roster spots. Look for Ryan Miller to go the distance in net for Vancouver.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, 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)
The Oilers may be an offensive powerhouse to be reckoned with come the regular season but if Thursday night was any indication their defensive prowess might leave something to be desired. For at least one night, the Canucks had no problems generating scoring chances and goals facing an Edmonton back end that was supposedly much improved compared to last season. Specifically, it was the trio of Baertschi-Horvat-Virtanen that had their way with Edmonton generating four of the five Vancouver's goals – three at 5-on-5 and one on the man-advantage.
The defensive pairing of Ference and Nikitin had a particularly rough night on Thursday getting caught on the ice for four of the five goals against and it would not be a surprise to see either left off the roster on opening night. Ference, the current Oilers captain, has been subject to rumours of having his captaincy stripped as a precursor to a significantly reduced role with the club. Nikitin, meanwhile, has been the subject of trade rumours in recent days. The Oilers currently have 10 blue-liners on their roster and, of the ones who did not suit up on Thursday, Mark Fayne and Oscar Klefbom are basically locks in the top-six. It could be a different story for Edmonton when the two of them are in the lineup but clearly Thursday's loss has to set off some warning bells for Coach Todd McLellan's crew.
Keys to the Game
The Sedins get going. It is definitely an odd sight to look up the stats pack and see zeros beside Daniel and Henrik Sedin's names even if it is pre-season. They'll definitely want to get on the board tonight to give themselves some momentum heading into the regular season.
Take advantage of the very last chance. All throughout pre-season it's been said how certain games could be the final opportunity for bubble players to show they belong in the NHL. After tonight, there are no more dress rehearsals so this will be a significant game for pro rookies McCann, Virtanen, and Hutton to make their final impressions.
Who wants a spot in net? Despite this being their final pre-season outing, the Oilers are still carrying three netminders. Talbot has his spot secure, so it could come down to Scrivens and Nilsson for the last opening. Whoever gets the call, even if it's Talbot coming off a poor outing, will want to step it up tonight.
By the Numbers
Goals allowed by Oilers G Anders Nilsson in 120 minutes of pre-season action.
Vancouver's all-time pre-season win percentage (162-156-34).
Combined points (3-15-18) in five games for Daniel & Henrik Sedin against the Oilers last season.
Players remaining on the Canucks training camp roster (9 D, 15 F, 2 G).
Players remaining on the Oilers training camp roster (10 D, 15 F, 3 G).
Points for Jordan Eberle last season to lead the Oilers. He's out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury.