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Oil strikes Canucks

by Janelle Kidd / Vancouver Canucks

A young, explosive Edmonton squad rolled over the visiting Canucks, handing them their fourth loss of the pre-season.

After rebounding from a pre-season slump with a 4-1 win over the Ducks Saturday night, the Canucks took a drubbing from the Oilers, falling 8-2 at Rexall Place tonight.

Icing a completely different roster that didn't include Roberto Luongo or the Sedins, who were last night's three stars, the Canucks fell behind early and weren't able to battle their way back into the game.

Edmonton rookie Jordan Eberle, drafted 22nd overall in 2008, made the Canucks pay on the man advantage, opening scoring two minutes into the first period with Brendan Morrison in the box for hooking. From then on the scoring came fast and furious.

Again on the power play, Dustin Penner beat netminder Cory Schneider to put the Oilers ahead 2-0. Schneider playing his first full game of the pre-season, didn't have a lot of support. He was peppered in the first period with 15 shots compared to Vancouver's six and faced an explosive Edmonton team that the Canucks defence struggled to contain.

Newly minted Canuck Manny Malhotra, who finished the night with five shots on net, cut Edmonton's lead in half at 6:28 in the first, putting Vancouver on the board after his shot snuck past Nikolai Khabibulin. Raffi Torres and Lee Sweatt earned the assists.

Khabibulin made his first appearance since undergoing season-ending back surgery last year after playing only 18 games as an Oiler. Returning from nearly a year off the ice, his positioning and reflexes seemed intact as he turned away 26 of 28 shots.

Vancouver's comeback was short lived however as Horcoff from Eberle made it 3-1 at 6:44. The Edmonton pair switched rolls as Eberle tallied his second of the night to put the Oilers ahead by three goals after the first.

Heading into tonight's match up the spotlight was focused on Cody Hodgson, Vancouver's highly touted prospect. By the end of the game however it was the Oilers young stars that had stole the show.

The first overall selection in the 2010 draft, in his second pre-season appearance, Hall and his linemates combined for eight points to hand the Canucks their fourth loss of the preseason.

Overshadowed by his Edmonton opponents, Hodgson returned to the Canucks lineup after enduring a frustrating year dealing with a back injury. He played only 13 games last season with his junior club in Brampton, collecting eight goals and 12 assists.

Playing alongside Kesler and Mason Raymond, Hodgson finished tonight's game plus-1 with 17:40 minutes of ice time including 4:51 on the powerplay and two shots on net.

"There's no matching the intensity and speed of the game," said Hodgson. "It doesn't matter how many practices you've done or how hard you skated so I started to feel better in the second and third but I guess by that time, it was too late in the game."

"It was just nice to be back on the ice with the guys - that was the biggest thing. Obviously, I felt good, that's why I played. It would've been nice to get a win to start but it was my first game so hopefully we'll get it out of our system and come back stronger next game."

Vancouver came out stronger in the second, testing Khabibulin and generating good chances including a blast from Mikael Samuelsson that the Oilers netminder got his blocker on just in time.

Chris Vande Velde registered Edmonton's fifth goal, before Kesler retaliated, releasing a wrist shot high in the slot that found a little rust on Khabibulin as the puck hit the back of the net to close out the middle frame.

The final period was barely underway when the Edmonton squad put the game out of reach. Horcoff's second of the night beat Schneider just 30 seconds in. Linus Omark followed in suit scoring less than a minute later earning his second point of the game.

Dustin Penner made it 8-2 at 14:19, also his second goal of the night, assisted by Brule and Omark, capping the offensive barrage that Schneider faced.

Outshot heavily in the first, the Canucks rallied to finish with 28 shots to Edmonton's 33, but weren't able to generate enough to combat the Oilers offence.

Tonight's loss in Edmonton is one that the team looks to put behind them quickly, especially the players who are still battling for a few open roster spots.

Now 1-4-0 in pre-season action the Canucks continue to prepare for the start of the regular season and expect roster to become more defined over the next week.

NOTES: Alex Burrows was a guest commentator in the Sportsnet booth with Dan Murphy and John Shorthouse; Daniel and Henrik Sedin who were not in Edmonton celebrated their 30th birthdays.

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