The Oilers host the Canucks tonight, searching for their first win of the season against their rivals from Vancouver.
“I know the team down the road (Calgary) is always going to be the rival but for me, on the ice and watching the two teams interact, this is the rival where the teams, the players clearly dislike each other,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “That always makes for an entertaining game for both sets of fans. In the games that we’ve played, I think the games have been very close. I think we’ve made some mistakes at critical times in the game and that’s something that every team is looking to get out of their game.”
The Oilers have played the Canucks close, but haven’t earned the results. Edmonton has lost 5-4 in a shootout, 2-0 and 3-2 in their previous three meetings this season.
“We need to win, obviously in our conference and our division,” Oilers Andrew Ference said. “Those teams that you play against a lot, you really do take away a lot of the unknowns. It’s about executing your game and how you’re going to play and doing a good job of it. Those close games are becoming more and more frustrating to us because we want to get on the right side of the ledger. Against a team we know well, we know what they’re going to do, we have to go out and do a good job with our systems and whatnot. If you can get a win that way it’s going to feel solid to us, against a very good team.”
The Oilers have played Vancouver twice in the pre-season and three times this season already. Playing a team a lot in such a short span only fuels the rivalry that already exists. It also helps in the game planning, knowing the opponent on this kind of level.
“I don’t mind it,” Ference said. “I still remember not too many years ago when we were playing those division rivals eight times a year or something crazy like that. It doesn’t feel like it’s that bad. It’s teams that you get to know well, there are no secrets. You don’t watch too much film because you know what the other team is doing and what their strengths are and whatnot. It’s about going out and executing the game. It’s not too bad.”
PINIZZOTTO DRAWS IN
The Oilers will make a substitution on the wing with Steve Pinizzotto replacing Jesse Joensuu on the line with Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon.
“What he brought last year and what he brought in camp,” Eakins said of what the team expects of Pinizzotto. “He had a good camp, it was a tight and a tough decision. He’s going to bring us a little bit of speed and a whole lot of grit and he’s worthy of the call up. That’s what happens. I think sometimes, everyone forgets that there are probably 25 guys in Oklahoma City doing everything they can to get here. Pinny obviously has played very well to earn the call up and it’s time for him to get another look. I think that’s highly motivational for all of our guys in Oklahoma City, knowing that they are not being forgotten about.”
Pinizzotto knows what he can bring to the lineup.
“I like to get the puck down and finish my checks,” he said. “I think the high-end guys build on that, the crowd builds on stuff like that. When you get those guys involved, then you start winning games. I just like to bring some intensity, finish some checks and hopefully do some offensive stuff too. I’ll just be simple here, play an easy game and just try to get pucks deep.”
Pinizzotto was close to earning a roster spot out of training camp, before being assigned to the American Hockey League. The winger says this is another opportunity to make an impression.
“Whenever you’re up here it’s an opportunity,” Pinizzotto said. “It’s a performance business, you’ve got to play well. If you’re playing well they’ve got to keep you in the lineup. Again, I can’t say it enough that I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to show them what I’ve got.”
QUICK NOTES: The Canucks will be well-rested against the Oilers, after four full days off from their last game. Ryan Miller is 10-0-0 with a 1.79 GAA against the Oilers in his career. Taylor Hall has 19 points (5-14-19) in 22 career games against Vancouver. Steve Pinizzotto makes his season debut for Edmonton, after playing nine games in Oklahoma City. Jesse Joensuu, Luke Gazdic and Martin Marincin will not play. Ben Scrivens gets the start in net for the Oilers (4-7-1 record, 2.94 GAA, .899 save percentage).
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
CANUCKS (12-6-0) at OILERS (6-10-2)
Season series: The Vancouver Canucks have defeated the Edmonton Oilers in all three games they have played this season, most recently a 3-2 win on Nov. 1. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have combined for two goals and nine points for Vancouver. Canucks goalie Ryan Miller is 3-0-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. David Perron leads the Oilers with one goal and two assists.
Canucks team scope: Vancouver is one of four teams that has not lost a game in overtime this season and is coming off a 5-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. Miller allowed five goals on 23 shots and has allowed 12 goals in his past three starts. The 34-year-old is undefeated in 10 starts against Edmonton. Forward Radim Vrbata returned to the lineup against his former team after missing two games because of a lower-body injury. He had three shots on goal in 16:27 in his first game in Arizona since signing with the Canucks in the offseason. The Sedins have a combined 150 points in 159 games against the Oilers. The Canucks start a three-game homestand Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Oilers team scope: Forward Taylor Hall returned to the Edmonton lineup in a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday after missing six games because of an MCL sprain. Hall scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season on the power play and had five shots on goal in 20:58. Goalie Ben Scrivens allowed two goals on 30 shots. Scrivens is 0-2-0 against Vancouver this season but has a 2.05 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Edmonton is on a three-game losing streak and finishes a five-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.