EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks tonight in the midst of a tumultuous week for the visitors. Their Head Coach John Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his actions during the first intermission of the team’s game against Calgary on Saturday. Tortorella attempted to enter the Flames locker room after the first period, which included a line brawl after the opening faceoff.
Saturday night’s extra curricular activities came after a three-game winless road trip for Vancouver. The Oilers are hoping to end their losing streak as well, having lost four road games in a row leading up to tonight’s contest.
“We want to forget those games on the road,” said Oiler defenceman Justin Schultz. It wasn’t our best showing, obviously. We want to come home and show our fans what we’ve got and get a couple of wins for them.”
Oilers forward Mark Arcobello added, “You still have to learn from the mistakes we made. Tonight is a new night. It’s another opportunity to do something, especially at home, so we’re getting ready for that.”
Despite the Canucks being in the headlines this week and the loss of their head coach for the intermediate future, the Oilers claim the recent events have no effect on how tonight will go.
“It has no bearing on how we’ll prepare for the game,” said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “In the end, the players go out and play. We give them direction, we give them the game plan, but in the end, they go over the boards and play the shifts. I know they have two other assistants over there that have all been head coaches so the team’s in good hands. It has absolutely no bearing on how we prepare or maybe, how the game’s going to go.”
“I don’t think we’re too focused on anything going on with them,” Schultz added. “We’re going to worry about our game, try to get off to a good start and play a full 60 tonight.”
If it affects Vancouver at all, it will be minimal.
“Maybe a little bit,” Arcobello said. “Their coach is out for a few days there but, it doesn’t change much. Not for us at least. We’re going to stick to our game and worry about the guys in this room and I think it’s more about us than it is them.”
Oilers newest goaltender Ben Scrivens will play his first-ever game at Rexall Place. The Spruce Grove, AB native will have a contingency of family and friends in attendance tonight for only his second start with the club after being acquired in a trade on January 15.
“I know he’s excited to be back home and anytime you get to play in front of your family, I don’t care home old you are, it’s a special thing because they don’t get to see you play live that much when you’re in other cities,” said Eakins. “It’s always a flight for them or catching you on the road somewhere and this time, his family gets to see him play in his hometown. I’m sure he’s got some buddies here and his wallet’s going to be a little bit lighter, grabbing those tickets. I hope they don’t think that’s going to be a common occurrence.”
Scrivens says he is excited, but he is not trying to get too emotional.
“Obviously, I’d like to go out and have a good one,” he said. “I’m taking care of everything I have to do off the ice here and setting myself up for a good effort tonight.”
“I try and push all that stuff out and just try to prepare like it’s any other game. You don’t want to get yourself too high and then kind of put yourself behind the eight-ball mentally. Just try to focus like it’s a normal game. It’s one of 82. Try not to put any special importance on it and try and go out and put up a good after and give the guys a chance.”
BELOV OUT, POTTER IN
Oilers defenceman Corey Potter has been out of the lineup since December 27, dealing with a groin injury. Tonight, Potter re-enters the lineup as Anton Belov will come out to make room.
Coach Eakins talked about the decision to make the switch, with the long Olympic break looming in the near future.
“I just grabbed the whole D and, especially with this big, huge, long, massive break coming up, Corey has worked extremely hard, he’s ready to go back in, he’s been ready for a game or two now and I just explained to the D that it’s still very important to make the decision to take you out to be a very hard one,” Eakins said.
“The reality is, on our backend, that we’ve got a few guys that are all kind of the same. If they’ve had an off night or I think they played terrible or the effort wasn’t there, whatever it is, they will know that’s the reason they’re coming out. But, there’s going to be nights like for Belov tonight, where we’re just giving him a rest. Corey has worked extremely hard to come back, we want to get him back in and we may just rotate it around a little bit, unless somebody really, really struggles. It looks like Larsen is progressing too, getting close, and that break is an awful long thing and I’d hate to have one or two guys sitting around who haven’t played now for months and not just weeks.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
CANUCKS (25-16-9) at OILERS (15-30-6)
TV: SNET-P, SNET-W
Last 10: Vancouver 2-5-3; Edmonton 2-6-2
Season series: This is the third of five games between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. Vancouver has already claimed a pair of four-goal victories on home ice. Nine different Canucks have scored a goal and 14 have registered at least one point. Roberto Luongo has stopped 40 of Edmonton's 42 shots.
Big story: Luongo is back again for the Canucks, and though he's played only two games since originally getting hurt on Dec. 22 both have been tremendous efforts. He made 46 saves in a Jan. 4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings and then was back on the shelf until this past Saturday, when he turned in 31 stops in a shootout win against the Calgary Flames.
Canucks: Since missing four games during the 2003-04 season due to an abdominal strain, Vancouver center Henrik Sedin has played in 679 consecutive games. However, he's failed to finish each of the past two due to a suspected rib injury and his ironman streak will come to an end Tuesday.
Canucks assistant coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Monday that Sedin, who has 40 points in 50 games (nine goals, 31 assists), will not be in the lineup in Edmonton.
"The fact he's been able to play that many games consecutively is just a testament to his determination and how tough he is," Sullivan said. "Him and [twin brother] Daniel both play in the hard areas of the rink on a consistent basis because they have the puck so much."
Sedin's offensive ability will be missed on a team that was shut out twice and limited to a single goal once in the three games prior to Saturday. The Canucks also were without forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder) against the Flames.
Oilers: This is the start of a three-game homestand for Edmonton, which had a rousing 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in its most recent time out at Rexall Place, but followed that up by getting swept on a four-game road trip.
The Oilers did enough to squeeze a point out of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon when David Perron drew them even with two minutes left in regulation. They gave up 39 shots on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, though, and average nearly 32 shots allowed per game, in the bottom third of the NHL.
"Once we learn to enjoy the hard parts of the game, we'll be much better," defenseman and team captain Andrew Ference said in the Edmonton Journal.
Who's hot: Canucks forward Ryan Kesler had a goal and an assist against the Flames. … Oilers forward Jordan Eberle has goals in consecutive games.