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At the Rink: Oilers at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Radim Vrbata knows how important chemistry is for a line to have sustained success, and the Vancouver Canucks forward likes the early synergy he's found with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Vrbata followed up a promising preseason alongside the Sedins by scoring a goal as the new top line combined for four points in a 4-2 season-opening win against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Vrbata's decision to sign a two-year, $10-million free agent contract in Vancouver this summer in large part to play with the identical twins is looking prescient.

"The reason I came here was I thought they play a similar style I do and I thought it could work, and since the first day we seem to be on the same page," said Vrbata, who scored three goals in the preseason. "The patience, the vision, the skill, it's everything I thought and maybe even better."

If history is any indication, it could be better against the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA2).

The Sedins have feasted on the Oilers over the years. Henrik Sedin has 72 points in 77 games against Edmonton and Daniel Sedin has 34 goals and 69 points in 74 games. The numbers are even more impressive since the Sedins became top-line players in 2006, and they hope to build on them with Vrbata looking like an ideal right-shot triggerman.

"He's got a great shot," said Daniel Sedin, who hopes Vrbata's shoot-first mentality -- he was 11th in the NHL with 263 shots for the Arizona Coyotes last season -- rubs off.

"For our line to be successful we need to take shots," Daniel said. "We have to start every rush by taking a shot. We are pretty good at retrieving pucks and after that we can make plays, but we can't start every rush by passing it around all the time."

Vrbata said communication off the ice has been a big part of the line clicking early, and credited new coach Willie Desjardins for starting them together on the first day of training camp and keeping the line intact throughout, but said real chemistry requires more than good planning.

"It's a funny thing, chemistry, it's either there or it's not," he said.

The last time Vrbata had the same feeling was three years ago with the Coyotes, when he scored a career-high 35 goals and 62 points playing with Ray Whitney and Martin Hanzal.

"That was the feeling, every time you go out there and feel like you can have a scoring chance," he said. "When Ray Whitney left, for two seasons we couldn't find a left winger. We had like 15 players play with us and couldn't really find that one great fit."

Vrbata has found that fit again with the Sedin twins.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot - Leon Draisaitl - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Teddy Purcell

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Brad Hunt - Justin Schultz

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Will Acton, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom

Injured: Luke Gazdic (shoulder)


Daniel SedinHenrik SedinRadim Vrbata

Chris HigginsNick BoninoAlexandre Burrows

Brad RichardsonLinden VeyZack Kassian

Derek DorsettShawn MatthiasJannik Hansen

Alexander EdlerChristopher Tanev

Dan HamhuisLuca Sbisa

Ryan StantonKevin Bieksa

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Tom Sestito, Yannick Weber

Injured: Bo Horvat (shoulder)

Status report: Tanev, who had two assists on a top pairing with Edler in Vancouver's season-opening win against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, is listed as a game-time decision. Tanev missed practice Thursday and Friday but seems likely to play after taking part in the morning skate Saturday. If he plays, the Canucks will have the same lineup as their opener. If not, expect Weber to replace him. … The Canucks sent defenseman Frank Corrado, who was injured during the preseason, to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League on Friday. … Fasth will start for Edmonton after watching Scrivens play the first game, but the rest of the Oilers lineup remains the same. That means Nurse, a 19-year-old who was the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, and Klefbom, a 21-year-old picked 19th in 2011, are healthy scratches for a second straight game. "It's already weighing on me," coach Dallas Eakins said when asked if he worries about sitting out young players too long. "I'm sensitive to the development part of it." Edmonton's next game is against the Los Angeles Kings, but Eakins said he wouldn't hesitate to play them against the defending Stanley Cup champion if a lineup change was warranted: "Might as well jump in with both feet. I've got full confidence in both."

Who's hot: Hall, who finished seventh in NHL scoring with 80 points last season, scored a power play goal in Edmonton's season-opening loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday and has five goals and 18 points in 19 career games against Vancouver. … Burrows scored a power-play goal in the season-opening win in Calgary on Wednesday, which counts as a hot streak given it took until March 12 before he scored his first goal last season. … Daniel Sedin, who had an assist in the season opener, is one away from 500 career assists. … Miller is 7-0-0 in his career against the Oilers.

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