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At the Rink: Oilers at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks won't have No.1 goaltender Ryan Miller and top-pairing defenseman Christopher Tanev against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Coach Willie Desjardins labeled both "day to day," but indicated Miller could be out longer.

Miller left during a shootout against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 20 with what the team called cramps and didn't play Dec. 22 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He wasn't on the ice Saturday despite a three-day Christmas break, and while Desjardins didn't update the nature of Miller's injury, he expects him to be out "maybe a week."

"I thought he'd probably be close to being ready to go, but he's set back a little bit so he's probably a little longer than we thought," Desjardins said.

That means Jacob Markstrom will get a second straight start Saturday, but facing a skilled Oilers team won't be any easier with Tanev joining defensive regulars Dan Hamhuis and Luca Sbisa out of the lineup with injuries. Tanev, second on the Canucks with 21:33 of average ice time, blocked a Steven Stamkos shot in the final minutes against Tampa Bay in the final game of a six-game road trip.

Vancouver ended that trip on a 2-0-1 run after losing the first three games, and came out of the Christmas break in the last of three Stanley Cup Playoff spots in the Pacific Division. But the Oilers are only three points back in sixth place, and all four teams behind the Canucks in the division have played fewer games.

"For us it's like playoffs every night," Desjardins said. "It's a little early for that, but that's how we have to approach it, like every game is a must game."

The Canucks, who have played 17 of their past 23 games on the road since early November, are beginning a seven-game homestand but are 5-6-3 at Rogers Arena this season.

"We've had an extremely tough fall; it might be the worst schedule-wise I have been a part of throughout my career," captain Henrik Sedin said. "It hasn't been easy. No excuses, but when we get home now, we need to get on a roll."

The Oilers have the opposite problem: They have won their past seven games at home, but on the road Edmonton has lost four in a row, has two wins in the past 11 (2-8-1), and just one regulation win so far this season. Despite that, forward Teddy Purcell, who had two goals and an assist in the Oilers' 3-1 home win against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 21, thinks being on the road might be an advantage during the holiday season.

"There is a lot of stuff at home," Purcell said. "Guys have a lot of family in, the kids are all fired up, so it's kind of nice to get away as a group and just focus on hockey again."

Edmonton plays again on the road against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, part of a stretch of five straight within the Pacific Division. After missing the playoffs the past nine seasons, the Oilers are excited to still be in the race.

"It's nice to be involved in the fight," forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor HallLeon DraisaitlTeddy Purcell

Benoit PouliotRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksMark LetestuLauri Korpikoski

Luke GazdicAnton LanderIiro Pakarinen

Darnell NurseAndrej Sekera

Justin SchultzMark Fayne

Nikita NikitinEric Gryba

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Connor McDavid (collarbone), Rob Klinkhammer (ankle), Nail Yakupov (ankle), Brandon Davidson (upper body), Oscar Klefbom (finger), Andrew Ference (undisclosed)

Scratched: Jujhar Khaira


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata

Alexandre Burrows - Jared McCann - Derek Dorsett

Brandon Prust - Adam CracknellLinden Vey

Alexander Edler - Alex Biega

Ben Hutton - Yannick Weber

Andrej Pedan - Matt Bartkowski

Jacob Markstrom

Joe Cannata

Injured: Ryan Miller (undisclosed), Christopher Tanev (lower body), Dan Hamhuis (facial surgery), Luca Sbisa (hand), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia surgery), Chris Higgins (undisclosed)

Scratched: Ronalds Kenins

Status Report: Sutter, who has been out since Nov. 10, and Sbisa, out since Dec. 1, skated on Saturday morning, but Sbisa wasn't using a stick. Desjardins said Sutter is "probably a week, 10 days away." … Higgins skated Saturday and is expected to return Dec. 28 against the Los Angeles Kings. … The only change to the Oilers' starting lineup compared to their last game against Winnipeg is on defense, with right-shot defender Schultz expected to start on the left side after playing some shifts there against the Jets. "Left-right, just looking for some stability and continuity, trying to find pairs right now as we try and get healthy," McLellan said.

Who's Hot: Hall has four assists in his past two games and six goals and eight assists over the past nine games. … Baertschi has three goals and an assist in his past three games, easily his best output since joining the Canucks last season.

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