The Oilers hope to get their first win of the season against the Western Conference tonight as the Vancouver Canucks come to town. Edmonton is 0-2 against Vancouver this season with one of their losses coming in a 5-4 shootout.
The Oilers feel like they’ve played well in spurts but need to put it all together for three periods to change the complexion of this rivalry.
“We’ve just got to be more consistent,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “I think we’ve played some really good periods against them so far this season but I don’t think it has really been there for 60 minutes so far. We’ve got to be ready to go from the start and just play that consistent game that we can play.”
SHUTTING DOWN THE SEDINS
The Canucks top line of Radim Vrbata and Henrik and Daniel Sedin has enjoyed a lot of success against the Oilers this season. Those three players have combined for four goals and nine assists in the previous two meetings.
Stopping those three players, particularly the Sedin twins, will be an emphasis tonight.
“They know where each other is all over the ice,” Jordan Eberle said. “More than anything, you can’t give them space because they’re going to create stuff. They so a great job, maybe better than anyone in the league, at cycling the puck and moving it from side to side in the offensive zone. As a defensive player or as a player who’s probably going to play against them, you can’t give them time and space. That’s where you get that creativity to make plays behind the back and find guys open. You definitely have to limit that and their power play, they move around better than anyone too. You give them that opportunity to be out there and get the puck a little more on the power play it makes them a little more confident and you don’t want that.”
The Oilers don’t want to get sucked into playing it safe against the Sedins. It’s a slippery slope that can get them into trouble.
“Human nature is to back off and play safe against them,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “We need to close quickly, give them no space. As much as our team is watching from the ice, we’re watching from the bench and you guys are watching from up top, as much as we can see their backs tonight in our zone the better. We really need to get after them and don’t play safe and don’t be fearful of getting beat. Let’s get after it. It goes to the simple mindset of if you give skilled players lots of time, actually they don’t even need lots of time, if you give them more time in space they are going to make the play. If you close and you’re on them and you’re aggressive they may be more apt to turn it over. The problem is that those two guys are thinking out of one brain. There’s no solving that.”
Playing keep-away with the puck could be a strategy the Oilers use against that line. The less they have it, the less they can make the plays their accustomed to making.
“They’re so good at keeping possession of the puck,” Taylor Hall said. “They don’t give it up for anything. To be honest, they play hard, they battle hard. Against players like that you want to keep the puck as much as you can and make sure that we’re playing in their end. If they have the puck, it’s almost like you have to go to the other Sedin if one has the puck. You need to make sure you play hard on them. I’m looking forward to that matchup because if we can outplay them it will give our team a good chance.”
While the Canucks top line has put up points against the Oilers, Edmonton’s top guys have been held scoreless this season.
“I definitely think our line can step up our play against these guys,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I thought in Vancouver that we played a pretty solid game but were still held off the scoresheet. We had some chances but didn’t bear down and didn’t bury them when they came to us here. We’ve got to be ready to go tonight and we’re going to be fine tonight.”
CLOSING OUT THE HOMESTAND
The Oilers close out their longest homestand of the season (7 games) tonight against Vancouver. So far, the Oilers have posted a 4-2 record.
It would mean a lot to Edmonton to get the win tonight, move to 5-2 and enter their road trip with all the momentum.
“We want the win,” Eakins said. “This is a rival, we want to be desperate and energized in the game. We certainly think we’re up to the task man to man. We’ve got to execute the plan but absolutely, our fans have been great during the homestand. They’ve helped us along to leave them with something positive before we head out the door a couple of weeks. That’s where sometimes these things get rolling into something else. You win a big game against a rival at home, then you roll onto the road and that’s where you want to keep that positivity going, especially rolling into the east where we’ve had some success.”
Hall added, “It’s good to play well in front of your fans, good to have support and we want to finish it off well tonight. It’s divisional points against a team in our conference. I feel like we’ve been playing well against teams in our division and our conference but we’ve got to get the points.”