VANCOUVER, BC - The Edmonton Oilers have struggled this season against a Vancouver Canucks team that has, in three previous games this season, outscored them by a combined 12-3. However, in their most recent head-to-head game, the Oilers narrowly lost to Vancouver 2-1 and showed improvement in one particular area an that was on their power play.
Despite not finding the back of the net that night on the man advantage, the Oilers sustained pressure and had one of their best performances of the season in that category. When heading on the road, it become even more important to see progress and accomplishment in that area of their game.
“We feel good out there,” said Jordan Eberle. “I think when we go on the ice, we’re confident enough that we’re going to get chances and hopefully score. Like you said, against Vancouver, we had a lot of good chances. Luongo made some great saves, but I think when you get on the road the power play becomes that much more important. You kind of need it to be offensive and get a couple of goals if you’re going to win.”
The Oilers scored twice on the power play last night in a 5-1 win against the Nashville Predators, but it was that performance against Vancouver last Tuesday night that really shined.
“I think we make progress every night and I thought against Vancouver, we played really well,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who had a power play goal last night against Nashville. “We probably had one of our best power play nights of the season, we just couldn’t get anything past (Roberto) Luongo. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You get a little bit unlucky and hit some posts, but we battled hard last night with the opportunities that we had…”
Facing the Canucks, who are seventh in the Western Conference, is already a daunting task but the Oilers know beating them on the road is even tougher. The Canucks are 14-7-5 at home this season and the Oilers have had little success in their arena either.
But, after a win last night and they way they played against Vancouver in their last showdown, Eberle says the team really wants to put it all together and escape Vancouver with the victory.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “They play well here. We’ve definitely had some trouble with that. We’ve played pretty well in our barn. Last game, I think we came across a hot goaltender but, like I said before, we gained a little bit of confidence after last night’s win but if you pull one off tonight, it just keeps going. We definitely need this one.”
WINNING BREEDS CONFIDENCE
The Oilers strung together an impressive showing last night against Nashville and were still feeling the euphoric effects of a win this morning at the media availability. It’s a confident feeling the team hopes to carry into tonight’s game in Vancouver.
“Anytime you win, you gain confidence,” said Eberle. “I think that’s the biggest thing. That being said, it’s only one game. I mean, we play again tonight and if it goes the other way, all of the sudden you’re back in the gutter. If we find a way to win tonight, that just keeps building. You look at some of the best teams and they play with a little bit of swagger and they play with that confidence and it’s all attributed to winning games.”
The win was especially gratifying after having lost their previous six games.
Nugent-Hopkins added, “You’ve always got to start with one and getting out of a funk, like we just did, is big. The way that we played last night is huge for us. I mean, I thought we played a really good 60 minutes. We’ve just got to play that way. It’s easy to say, but you’ve got to find a way to play that way every night.”
TOP LINE PRECISION
The Oilers’ top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle played a very solid game last night at home. Hall had two assists as his other two linemates each had two-point nights with an assist and a goal each.
The three say they’ve built up chemistry and confidence over the years and games like that prove they can roll with some success.
“I think we’re all pretty comfortable playing on the same line,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We’ve developed some chemistry over the past three years so whenever we get the chance to play together, it’s pretty fun.”
Eberle talked this morning about how that line may be an important driving force behind the success of the team. When they’re hot, the team’s hot.
“We’ve played well and we’ve shown it in (the last few) years,” he said. “For our team to be successful, our line has to play well. I think when you’re given minutes and the opportunity that we are, you kind of have to be offensive every night. But, I think if if it shows, last night a big reason why we won is just showing the depth of our team. Almost every line scored and you look at some of the best teams in the league and they have that depth throughout their lineup and it kind of takes the pressure off us a little bit.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (16-32-6) at CANUCKS (27-17-9)
TV: SNET-W, SNET-P
Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Vancouver 4-4-2
Season series: This is the fourth of five games between the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver won the first three by a combined score of 12-3, including a 2-1 decision last Tuesday at Rexall Place.
Big story: Edmonton ended a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) Sunday night, when it cruised to a 5-1 victory against the Nashville Predators at Rexall Place. Goalie Ben Scrivens, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 15, stopped 34 of 35 shots to earn his first win since the trade.
Oilers: It was a memorable night for Ryan Smyth on Sunday. The veteran forward pulled into a second-place tie with Wayne Gretzky by scoring his 125th power-play goal with the Oilers, helping Edmonton end its skid.
Glenn Anderson holds the Oilers record with 126 power-play goals.
"For Ryan, that was a special thing to do," Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said. "Hopefully, he can keep moving up the charts. Anything that has Mr. Gretzky's name on it and you can match it, it's a great, great accomplishment. I'm really proud of Ryan."
Canucks: Vancouver has experienced trouble scoring goals lately, but it didn't have any problems Sunday.
Kevin Bieksa scored twice, including the game-winner 2:15 into overtime, to lift the Canucks to a 5-4 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes at Rogers Arena. Chris Higgins chipped in with a goal and two assists for Vancouver, which found a way to win despite blowing a pair of two-goal leads.
"It was kind of a sloppy game and with the weird goals it was kind of a strange game," Higgins said. "It's nice to be on the winning side of those games and nice to score a bunch of goals; it's been tough to come by recently."
Who's hot: Oilers forward Jordan Eberle extended his point streak to five games Sunday (four goals, two assists). Taylor Hall had two assists Sunday to extend his point streak to four games. He has five assists over that span. … Canucks forward Ryan Kesler has four points (one goal, three assists) in the past four games.