VANCOUVER, BC - Away from Rogers Place last season, the Oilers had a record of 22-14-5. That was one of the reasons they were able to break their playoff drought and make the post-season.
"Good teams win on the road," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "They end up with winning records, and that's probably the difference of making and not making the playoffs and having an opportunity to continue on. It was a big step for us last year to end up on that plus .500 side of roads wins and losses. We'd like to continue, but we'll have our hands full tonight."
The Oilers first test on the road this season comes in Vancouver, against a Canucks team playing in their first game of the season.
"It's their home opener," said Oilers winger Drake Caggiula. "They're excited to start their season, so we have to make sure we match their level of intensity or even raise the bar ourselves. We can't be satisfied with one game, especially early on in the season. There are a lot of things people are still getting used to. We have to make sure we're playing our game and not resting on our laurels and make sure we come out and play the same style of game and make it hard on Vancouver."
Caggiula may not be the biggest player on the Oilers, but he sure likes to throw his body around. The gritty University of North Dakota product racked up eight hits in the home opener against Calgary. That's tied for the most in the League, with the other two players having played in two games, while Caggiula has only played one.
You can expect more of the same from the sophomore this season as he has become more comfortable playing his style at this level.
"Growing up through junior and college, it was always in my game playing physical and being a bit of a pest out there and getting under guys' skin, just playing hard and stuff like that," he said. "Last year, just being a rookie, I might have been tentative sometimes. This year, I feel a lot more comfortable with a lot more confidence to just be able to play my game. That brings a lot of intensity and physicality. Hopefully it creates more space for myself and offence because of it."
Zack is on the attack, and this time he'll do so on a line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Kassian showed off some pace to his game in the opener and has earned himself a shot on the second line, replacing rookie Kailer Yamamoto.
"I think it just keeps you in the League," Kassian said of working on his speed in the off-season and playing with pace. "It's a fast league now. You have to be able to skate if you want to be on the PK, if you want to be able to get in on the forecheck and get your hits. In my role, I need to be able to skate. That's something I'm going to continue to work on until my career is done."
Kassian might play with another gear tonight as he matches up against his former team.
"Every time I come in here, obviously, there are some memories here," he said. "I have some buddies over there, but it's a little bitter sweet and I definitely want to go out there and play a good game, a hard game."
Yamamoto will sit out and watch tonight as the Oilers begin their rotation of forwards.
"I like Kass there now, I don't necessarily like him there better," McLellan said of his second line. "I like him there now and Iiro (Pakarinen) hasn't played in 10 days, he didn't play last Saturday here in Vancouver and it's important that we keep some of the veterans alive right now. I'm not prepared to lose them or belief in them this early in the season. We also have (Anton) Slepyshev coming back and he's going to need some ice time. It's a matter of rotating players in and out and I told Yamo he doesn't have to be that guy every night, but tonight he is."
The lines and defensive pairings tonight are likely to be as follows:
Cam Talbot was first off the ice of the goaltenders today, meaning he'll get the start between the pipes. As for the Canucks, their pre-season leading scorer Brock Boeser will not play, according to their head coach. Jake Virtanen draws in, while Jacob Markstrom starts in net.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (1-0-0) vs. CANUCKS (0-0-0)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on CBC
Edmonton and Vancouver met five times last season, with the Oilers going 4-0-1 in those games. Edmonton closed out the 2016-17 regular season with back-to-back wins over Vancouver by a combined score of 8-4.
The Oilers are 7-0-3 in their last 10 games versus the Canucks.
This is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season.
Oilers team scope:
Connor McDavid stole the show in the Oilers home opener, scoring three goals in a 3-0 blanking of the Calgary Flames. McDavid has picked right up where he left off last season, when he led the NHL in scoring with 100 points. McDavid scored two game-winning goals against the Canucks last season… Oscar Klefbom led all Oilers in shots on goal Wednesday night versus Calgary with nine. The blueliner is coming off a career season in which he scored 12 goals… Cam Talbot is 1-0-0 on the season and has already recorded his first shutout of 2017-18 with 26 saves against Calgary.
Canucks team scope:
Brock Boeser led the Canucks in scoring this pre-season with four goals. He was also tied for seventh in the League in overall scoring with seven points in exhibition play. The 20-year-old winger was taken 23rd overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. He played at the University of North Dakota with Oilers forward Drake Caggiula in 2015-16… Former Oilers forward Sam Gagner is playing his first game for the Canucks.
By the Numbers:
McDavid is tied for the league lead in goals with three this season… Talbot is one shutout shy of 20 for his NHL career… Vancouver's Sedin twins have a combined 2,007 career points in the regular season… Four of the last five meetings between these two teams have been decided by one goal.
Oilers - Defenceman Andrej Sekera (knee) is out.
Canucks - Brendan Gaunce (hip) and Cole Cassels (arm) are out.