|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
- The Vancouver Canucks know they're up against an Edmonton Oilers team in need of a streak.
Back-to-back wins over the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets have brought the Oilers back to .500 (13-13-7). A win Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada would extend their streak to three -- a season-high, at a time when points are a necessity.
"I think we have to be ready," said Canucks forward Max Lapierre, who's posted a pair of goals and six points this season. "They're dangerous. They've got a really good team with a lot of speed, so we're going to have to be ready for a pretty good matchup. Where they're at in the standings doesn't really show what kind of team they have. We all know they're better than that."
Punctuated by a seven-game losing skid in late February/early March, the Canucks hovered around the .500 mark for much of the first half. The club has now posted six straight wins and are looking to extend their season-high streak to seven tonight in Edmonton.
Injuries played a role early on, but they're now feeling more and more like the team they should be.
"I think we've been improving every game, playing better and better and right now our focus is to play well defensively," said Lapierre, adding that the struggling power-play is still a work in progress. "We know our offence is going to come sooner than later, so we're just going to be patient with it."
The Canucks currently lead the Northwest Division with a 19-9-6 record and 44 points, two up on the hard-charging Minnesota Wild.
"It's a very good race," said Lapierre. "We have a lot of good teams in our division and (the standings) are lot tighter than they usually are. That was to be expected with only 48 games this season, but it's a good thing. Every game really counts and tonight is one of those where we need to be good.
"We need the points."
So do the Oilers. Edmonton sits 12th in the West, three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot currently occupied by the St. Louis Blues.
"We want to go out there, play hard and be physical," said Lapierre, adding that he expects the game to be a chippy, hard-hitting affair. "We know they're going to come very hard. These guys are young, they're going to be ready and come with a lot of speed. It's a big game for both teams tonight."
The Oilers and Canucks have split the season series so far with identical 1-0-1 records. Edmonton defeated Vancouver on opening night in a shootout, while the Canucks responded with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win back on Feb. 4 at Rexall Place.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick