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Smyth to say goodbye when Oilers play Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

CANUCKS (35-34-11) at OILERS (28-44-9)


Last 10: Vancouver 4-5-1; Edmonton 3-7-0

Season series: The Vancouver Canucks may have struggled against California teams in the new Pacific Division, but they continued to play well against their older Northwest Division rivals, including three wins in four games against the Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton won the most recent game against Vancouver, 4-2 on Jan. 27, but the Canucks won the first three by a combined score of 12-3.

Big story: Edmonton's final game of the season took on added significance when longtime Oilers forward Ryan Smyth announced Friday it would be his last. Smyth played most of his 19 NHL seasons with the Oilers.

Team Scope:

Canucks: Coach John Tortorella wasn't willing to experiment too much with his lineup against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday because the Avalanche are battling for playoff position. But he made it clear that wouldn't be the case in the final two games against the also-ran Oilers on Saturday and the season finale against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, so expect to see some new faces.

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who made his first start with Vancouver against Colorado and is looking for his first NHL win since October, and promising defenseman Frank Corrado were set to play all three games. Tortorella will bring regular healthy-scratch forwards Jordan Schroeder and Zac Dalpe back into the lineup, and recently signed college free agent forward Michael Zalewski will play his first NHL game

Zalewski has been practicing with the Canucks since signing out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on March 14, and Tortorella wants to see what the skilled 6-foot-2, 220-pound wing can do in a game. The 21-year-old had nine goals, 17 assists and 53 penalty minutes in 35 games in the NCAA this season.

"You don't want to make judgments on practice, so I'm anxious to see him play," Tortorella said. "He's practiced really well, we've shown him a bunch of tape on our team concept, and to me it's been a really good process for him."

Oilers: Edmonton selected Smyth with the sixth pick in the 1994 NHL Draft. If seeing him play his final game in front of the home crowd isn't enough motivation for the Oilers, who will miss the postseason for an eighth straight season, there is one more milestone in reach.

Saturday will be Smyth's last chance to set the franchise record for power-play goals. Smyth and Glenn Anderson each have 126, one ahead of Wayne Gretzky, and Smyth would like to be No.1 alone.

If Smyth does score the goal, chances are it will be from right in front of the net, on a deflection or rebound after absorbing punishment from either an opposing defenseman or the puck.

That's how most, including current teammates, will always remember the gritty forward.

"He was always around the net being greasy and scoring goals that everyone was like, 'How did that go in? Oh, Ryan Smyth scored again,'" David Perron, who grew up idolizing Smyth, told the Canadian Press after practice Friday. "At the end of the year he'd have 30-40 goals."

Who's hot: Canucks center Henrik Sedin has a goal and assist in three games since returning from a knee sprain and leads the Canucks with 48 points. Daniel Sedin has one goal and four assists in eight games since returning from a hamstring injury and is second with 45 points. … Before getting shut out by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, Edmonton defenseman Justin Schultz had two goals and an assist in his past three games, and Perron had a goal in each of his past two games; he leads the Oilers with 28 goals.

Injury report: Canucks center Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery) and defensemen Christopher Tanev (broken fingers) and Andrew Alberts (concussion) are out. … Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference (pectoral tear) and forwards Jesse Joensuu (high ankle sprain), Nail Yakupov (broken ankle), Ryan Jones (torn PCL), Boyd Gordon (shoulder) and Luke Gazdic (shoulder) won't play.

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