VANCOUVER, BC - It's an interesting weekend that the Oilers are heading into starting tonight in Vancouver.
There's a lot at stake for the team in terms of the Pacific Division standings where the club could still finish anywhere from first to third but the prevailing thoughts from Oilers head coach Todd McLellan and his players has consistently been that the most important thing -- points aside -- is ensuring that the team is playing the right way heading into the postseason.
"We're trying to direct the focus on our game," McLellan stated. "Making sure that we're improving on a nightly basis, cleaning some things up. Our starts haven't been great so we'd like to improve that.
"Refining our systems and our structure so we're prepared to play when it begins."
Milan Lucic, who's played 101 career playoff games, was quick to point out how important the games tonight and Sunday are.
"Lots on the line for us as a team. Biggest thing for us is we want to keep our game sharp heading into the playoffs. We've had a good month of March and a good start to April and kind of want to keep it going," he said.
Cam Talbot will get the start between the pipes for the Oilers, his 73rd and potentially final start of the regular season.
"It'll be a good test for us tonight. They're going to come out and play us hard," said Talbot. "We need to make sure we're firing on all cylinders heading into the playoffs."
Talbot was quick to add the importance of the games standings-wise. The Oilers can clinch first in the Pacific Division with a pair of wins coupled with a loss by Anaheim to Los Angeles on Sunday night.
"It's never easy to win a division so any chance you have to win a couple of games, it means a lot."
Jordan Eberle was quick to caution that the team can't get too far ahead of itself as two regulation losses coupled with a Sharks win tonight at home against Calgary would mean that the Oilers would open the playoffs on the road.
"Before the division you want to think about home ice. We need one more point to do that. Then you start looking at the division. We need a little bit of help, too (to win the division).
"You want to finish confident as players and a team moving into the playoffs."
LINEUP BASED ON RESULTS
The Oilers are most likely going with the same lineup tonight as they had Thursday based on who was left skating following the optional practice this morning. As for Sunday, it depends on a lot of things, including what happens today around the League according to McLellan.
"I don't know what tomorrow will present, we're only going to worry about today. When we get on the plane tonight - we'll be one of the last games to play on Saturday - we'll know a lot more when we head home," he said.
Saturday's game marks the fourth of five meetings between the Oilers and Canucks this season and the second and final game in Vancouver. It also marks the first game in a home-and-home game set between the Oilers and Canucks, with these teams facing each other in Edmonton on Apr. 9th.
The last time these teams met was on March 18th in Edmonton when the Oilers shut out the Canucks by a score of 2-0. Cam Talbot stopped all 33 shots he faced for the shutout.
Oilers team scope:
With a point earned tonight, the Oilers can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If the Oilers can win tonight and tomorrow and Anaheim loses Sunday night to the Kings, the Oilers could still claim first place in the Pacific Division.
The Edmonton Oilers power play has been extremely sharp on the road this season and it currently ranks 3rd in the NHL in power play percentage on the road (24.8), converting 28 goals on 113 chances.
Edmonton's power play ranks 6th overall in the NHL at 22.7 percent. Milan Lucic scored two goals on the power play last game as a part of his natural hat trick and leads the Oilers with 12 power play goals and he ranks tied for eighth in the NHL.
Goaltender Cam Talbot posted his 41st win of the season last game against San Jose, setting a new Oilers franchise record for most wins in a season by a goaltender. The previous record was set by Grant Fuhr in 1987-88 when he posted 40 wins.
Talbot has appeared in an NHL high 72 games this season, and leads the NHL in minutes played (4,2234), in saves (1,917) and is tied for second in wins (41). The Caledonia, ON native has set new career highs in all these categories in 2016-17.
Canucks team scope:
Vancouver sits second-last in the Western Conference with 69 points, 22 points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche.
Bo Horvat leads the Canucks in scoring with 20 goals and 51 points on the season. Right behind him are the Sedins, Henrik and Daniel. Henrik has 48 points and Daniel has 42. Both of them have 15 goals on the year.
For Daniel, the total of 15 goals is significantly lower than the 28 he had last season, although he did only score 16 in 2013-14 in 73 games and bounced back from that campaign.
Sven Baertschi is enjoying a career year with the Canucks. In 68 games, he has 18 goals and 35 points to rank fourth on the Canucks in scoring this year.
Ryan Miller is expected to get the start tonight for Vancouver. In 14 career games against the Oilers, Miller has a 12-1-1 record with a 2.13 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. This season, Miller is 18-28-6 with a 2.80 GAA and .914 save percentage.