VANCOUVER, BC - The tide is coming in as the Oilers look to make a splash in Vancouver against the Canucks, a team treading water in the North Division.
Edmonton is becoming a big fish in the all-Canadian pond, displaying a 9-2-0 record in the past 11 games for a second-place ranking in the division. The template remains the same for members of the Orange & Blue on Tuesday: continue improving internally while pushing the pace versus their opponent.
"You're going to come in against a desperate team tonight," Head Coach Dave Tippett said pre-game. "They're looking to get themselves back in the race."
The Canucks are 2-1-2 in the last handful of outings and have struggled over the past 10, going 2-6-2. A strong start is a focus for the Oilers as Vancouver is 0-11-0 when their opponent gets on the board first.
Wins don't come easy against the Canucks, though. The Oilers are 5-5-0 in the past 10 encounters and Alex Chiasson finds Vancouver to be one of the hardest working clubs in the National Hockey League.
"Since I've been here, they're always good games," the forward said. "The one thing with the Canucks is their work ethic is through the charts. They work hard, they play their structure and they're hard to play against. I'm sure they'll bring that for their two home games here against us."
Edmonton is 4-1-0 in their last five and 7-2-0 in February overall. When leading after the opening 20 minutes of play, the squad is 10-2-0. "We've had a good stretch here lately but it's so tight in our division," Chiasson added.
A major part of Edmonton's current success stems from the club's depth scoring and defensive play. Forwards Chiasson, Jujhar Khaira, Tyler Ennis, James Neal and Josh Archibald have all chipped in offensively in the previous five games. Defensively, the Oilers have allowed just 21 goals in the last nine, averaging 2.33 against during that time.
"Our focus has got to be to defend well, do things well without the puck as well as play well with the puck," Tippett said. "We're finding a happy balance there that's helped us win but we've got to continue to focus on that to make sure we're getting better going forward."
Tippett also acknowledged his taxi squad and how much of an impact the additional bodies have made to the team.
"They've got a great attitude," the coach said. "You've got motivated players. I love the way they work whether they're in the lineup or not. And when they do get their opportunity, they're ready to go."
Edmonton's decision to maximize the taxi squad roster has paid dividends, granting Tippett and Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland flexibility on any given night.
"You want to play but being on there doesn't mean you're going to play every night," Chiasson, who has three goals and four points in his past five games, said.
"The coaching staff, the guys, the players and everyone understands what it is this year."
Tippett confirmed Mike Smith would start in goal. He is 4-0-0 this year in five starts, holding a .940 save percentage and 1.83 goals-against average.
Neal and Kyle Turris, who did not skate in Monday's practice, are not available and Neal did not travel with the team to Vancouver.
Tippett did not disclose whether defenceman Ethan Bear would be available for Tuesday. A defender is expected to slot back into the lineup after Slater Koekkoek suffered an upper-body injury on Saturday and was placed on Long Term Injured Reserve.
"Somebody's going to have to come in and really do the same job that he was doing and give us solid minutes," Tippett said of the void left by Koekkoek. "There's a couple of guys that have to skate and would have to get clearance to play."
Patrick Russell was recalled under emergency conditions Tuesday afternoon. The Oilers held an optional skate in the morning, so lines and defence pairings will be apparent at warmups.
-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (12-8-0) at CANUCKS (8-12-2)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West
Oilers Team Scope
The Oilers are coming off a 7-1 Battle of Alberta drubbing over the Calgary Flames, in a game that saw Connor McDavid net five points including his second career natural hat trick. Edmonton is 4-1-0 in the last five games, 8-2-0 in the last 10 and currently riding a three-game winning streak.
McDavid is the National Hockey League assists and points leader with 25 and 37, respectively. Leon Draisaitl is T-2nd in scoring with 10 goals and 30 points. Darnell Nurse (6G, 10A) and Tyson Barrie (3G, 13A) are top-five in defencemen scoring.
Goaltender Mike Smith is 4-0-0 in five starts, allowing eight goals on 133 shots for a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Mikko Koskinen is 7-8-0 with a 3.26 GAA and .901 S%.
Canucks Team Scope
The Canucks get back into action after suffering a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
Vancouver concluded the month of January with a 6-5-0 record but opened February with a six-game losing skid. The club is 2-1-2 in the past five games and 2-6-2 in the last 10. The Canucks are sixth in the North Division with 18 points and a .409 points percentage through 22 games.
Forward Brock Boeser leads the team in goals and points with 12 and 22. Defenceman Quinn Hughes is the NHL's top point-producing defender with two goals, 19 assists and 21 points. Netminder Braden Holtby is 4-5-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .893 S%. Thatcher Demko is 4-7-1, sporting a 3.31 GAA and .901 S%.
Tuesday's contest marks the third of 10 meetings between the Oilers and Canucks in 2020-21. Vancouver opened the year with a 5-3 win over Edmonton at Rogers Place on Jan. 13. Edmonton answered with a 5-2 victory at home on Jan. 14.
Draisaitl is the series leader in points with five assists. McDavid is second with three goals and four points, scoring the seventh regular-season hat trick of his career in Edmonton's win against the Canucks. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2G, 1A) and Kailer Yamamoto (1G, 2A) have three points versus Vancouver.
McDavid has 11 goals and 31 points in 23 career games against the Canucks, averaging 1.34 points per game. Draisaitl has eight goals and 26 points in 27 games vs. VAN.
Hughes leads all Canucks in the season series with three assists over two games. Boeser (2G), Bo Horvat (1G, 1A), Travis Hamonic (2A) and Tanner Pearson (2A) each have two points. Boeser has six goals and 13 points in 13 games vs. EDM.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers rank 9th on the power play (26.4%) and 21st on the PK (76.6%). ... Edmonton is 2nd in goals for per game, averaging 3.60. ... The Oilers defence has scored 13 goals, 36 assists and 49 points in 20 games to lead the NHL in team scoring by defencemen. ... EDM is 2nd in team scoring by forwards with 59 goals, 87 assists and 146 points. ... Nurse is 6th in time on ice per game, averaging 25:30. ...
Vancouver is 20th on the PP (17.1%) and 10th on the PK (82.1%). ... The Canucks are being outscored 32-20 in the second period, owning a minus-12 goal differential. ... VAN is averaging 2.91 goals for per game (17th) and 3.55 goals-against per game (3rd). ... The Canucks own a 52.6 faceoff percentage, good for 6th in the League.
OILERS - William Lagesson (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Kyle Turris (lower body) is day-to-day; Ethan Bear (undisclosed) is on IR; Slater Koekkoek (upper body) is on LTIR; Zack Kassian (hand) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on LTIR.
CANUCKS - Jayce Hawryluk (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Justin Bailey (upper body) is on IR; Travis Hamonic (upper body) is on IR; Tyler Motte (lower body) is on IR.