Center Mats Sundin is expected to make his Vancouver debut soon. It can't come soon enough for the slumping Canucks.
Sundin believes there's a "good chance" he'll make his highly-anticipated season debut Wednesday night, when the Canucks will be aiming to avoid a third consecutive defeat as they visit the Northwest Division rival Edmonton Oilers.
After considering retirement at the end of last season, Sundin decided Dec. 18 to sign a one-year contract with Vancouver (21-15-5). The former Toronto captain participated in two morning skates with the Canucks prior to joining them for full practice on Monday and Tuesday.
Despite not appearing in a game since March 9, the 37-year-old Sundin is optimistic he's ready. The nine-time All-Star is Toronto's all-time leading scorer with 987 points, and has a total of 555 goals and 766 assists in 17 NHL seasons - the first four spent with Quebec.
He has 20 goals and 44 assists in 41 career games versus Edmonton (19-16-3).
"If nothing changes until tomorrow morning I think it should be a good chance I'll play tomorrow," Sundin said Tuesday. "If not, then obviously Friday" at home against St. Louis.
Whenever Sundin does play, he'll try to re-energize a Vancouver squad that has dropped five of its last seven games and is 7-9-3 following a season-high four-game winning streak from Nov. 19-24.
The Canucks' last two losses have come in shootouts, 4-3 at Atlanta on Friday and 3-2 at home to Dallas on Sunday. Vancouver has lost five of its six shootouts this season. The Canucks have also dropped seven of their last 10 road games, and three of their last four visits to Rexall Place.
These division rivals have split the first four games of their season series. Edmonton took the most recent matchup, 3-2 in Vancouver on Dec. 26. The Oilers also won their only previous home game in the season series, 3-0 on Dec. 13 behind Dwayne Roloson's only shutout of 2008-09. He made 23 saves in that contest, and 25 on Monday night in a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
Andrew Cogliano scored the decisive goal midway through the third period as the Oilers improved to 2-0 on their five-game homestand and won for the fifth time in seven games overall.
"It was a big win for us and a confidence boost going into our next game against the Canucks, which I feel is one of our biggest games of the season," said Cogliano, has four goals in his last seven games to move into a tie with defenseman Sheldon Souray for the team lead with 12.
Edmonton's top scorer Ales Hemsky (35 points) has missed the last four games and remains day-to-day with a concussion.
Vancouver continues to play without injured goaltender and captain Roberto Luongo (strained groin), but Jason LaBarbera - acquired from Los Angeles in a Dec. 30 trade - has been a bright spot, compiling a 1.90 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in three starts for his new team.
LaBarbera has won four of five career games against Edmonton with a 1.05 GAA and .966 save percentage in those outings.