Game Day: Canucks, Oilers both look for offensive spark
‘We just have to get more dirty,’ says Alex Burrows
EDMONTON — The Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers head into tonight's game (6:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040) ranked first and second in the NHL's Northwest Division, but they haven't exactly been overpowering opponents with their offence.
The Canucks and Oilers are tied for 20th in goals for, averaging just 2.38 per game.
"We have to get a little more dirty around the net, get more shots, get more traffic, it's the same story every year, I think," Vancouver forward Alex Burrows said after this morning's game-day skate at Rexall Place. "That's how you have to score goals in this league, you have to pay a price and go to the tough areas to score.
"We always like to be a team that thinks defence first, I think that is how we are built and how we are successful normally. Obviously, we have great goaltending and that's always a plus, we just have to get more dirty at the other end and get more shots."
The Oilers have leaned heavily on their power play this season. They have scored 11 of their 20 goals with the man advantage. Edmonton is obviously looking to improve its five-on-five production and hopes its top line of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can help make that happen.
"I think the last two games against San Jose and Colorado we had a good amount of shots for our line combined," Hall said today. "If we can get in that 12- to 15-shot area as a line, that is going to create chances and more importantly second chances.
"It's been much talked about that we haven't had a lot of five-on-five goals. We believe what we are doing is good, we just have to get more shots and convert those chances."
This is the second meeting this season between the teams. The Oilers registered a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win over the Canucks on Jan. 20 at Rogers Arena.
The Oilers lost their last two games on the road in Colorado and San Jose and were outshot 78-54.
"We have an opportunity here to come back home … and establish ourselves as a strong home team, to be consistent here at home, to show teams this our building," said Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger. "We want our identity to be present here right through the game. It's going to be extremely important to play great team defence, be strong as a group and above all we want to push the pace right through this game."
The Canucks have won two straight and four of their last six games and enter tonight's game with a record of 4-2-2.
"If you look at our record this has been one of our better starts since I have been here," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said today. "That being said, I do believe there are some areas where we can be better and have to be better. We have to manage the puck a little bit stronger, a little more efficiently in our zone and through the neutral zone. We need to spend a little more time in the other team's end to create quality scoring chances."
The Canucks don't plan any lineup changes, but Vigneault is expected to do some tinkering with his forward lines. Jordan Schroeder will likely skate between Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond, while Maxim Lapierre centres Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen. Dale Weise will be back on the fourth line with Manny Malhotra and Aaron Volpatti.
Roberto Luongo will get his fourth straight start and boasts a goals-against average of 1.46 and a .944 save percentage. If he's distracted by what some view as a goaltending controversy, it hasn't shown on the ice.
"Defensively, I think we are playing real well right now," Luongo said. "We're not giving other teams much, which is key because we have some key injuries up front. As long as we keep playing well defensively we will be in every game and that is our main goal."
Devan Dubnyk has played every minute in goal this season for the Oilers and will start again tonight. Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff will return to the lineup after missing two games with a strained neck.
Defenceman Ryan Whitney will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career tonight. His spot will be taken by Corey Potter.
The Oilers are without centre Eric Belanger (foot) and forward Ben Eager (concussion).
The Canucks are without centre Ryan Kesler (shoulder, wrist) and winger David Booth (groin).
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks will travel Tuesday to Minnesota and practise there on Wednesday. They meet the Wild on Thursday night … Vancouver returns home to play host to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
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