Canucks Game Day: Vancouver looks to stop surging Edmonton Oilers

 

Newcomer Derek Roy to line up with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen

 
 
 
 
Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall, now seventh in league scoring with 41 points, celebrates his first goal against Vancouver Canucks netminer Cory Schneider during the first period of last Saturday's 4-0 Oilers shutout win at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Schneider will be back between the pipes tonight in the rematch against Edmonton.
 

Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall, now seventh in league scoring with 41 points, celebrates his first goal against Vancouver Canucks netminer Cory Schneider during the first period of last Saturday's 4-0 Oilers shutout win at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Schneider will be back between the pipes tonight in the rematch against Edmonton.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

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VANCOUVER — Last Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks were on a six-game winning streak when they arrived in Edmonton to play the Oilers. They were spanked 4-0 and have lost two straight.

The Oilers, meanwhile, have put together a five-game winning streak of their own — the victory over Vancouver was No. 3 in the run — and now it's the Canucks' turn to try and spoil the Oilers' happy times. They will have to do it with defence, too, as the Oilers have exploded offensively with 25 goals in their last five, and 16 in their last three.

Edmonton isn't giving up much either and has allowed just seven goals during the same span. Two of the wins have been by shutout. Edmonton is back in the Western Conference playoff picture in a big way, sitting in eighth spot with 39 points.

A win for the Oilers tonight (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040) would move them to within three points of the Canucks.

Cory Schneider will make his ninth straight start in goal and claims he has put the start in Edmonton, where he was hooked after two goals on two shots in two minutes, behind him.

“I don't really think about how it went,” Schneider said today following the morning skate. “I just think about them as a team. They're obviously a hot team right now, one of the best in the league and they're putting up a lot of goals. We're going to have a tough assignment tonight shutting down that top line and not giving them too many power plays.”

Oilers left-winger Taylor Hall, the first overall pick in the 2010 entry draft, has been leading the way offensively with 15 points in his last six games. He had five points Wednesday in Calgary as the Oilers crushed the reeling Flames 8-2. Hall is now seventh in league scoring with 41 points.

“He's such a dynamic player,” Schneider said. “He passes as well as he shoots and he's a finisher around the net. We're going to have to be conscious of his speed coming through the neutral zone and make sure we're slowing him down and making him give up the puck before he wants to.”

Burnaby's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also on fire after a slow start with 11 points in his last six games. The third member of the Oilers' big line, Jordan Eberle, has eight points in his last five.

New Canucks centre Derek Roy will make his debut tonight on a line with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen while Alex Burrows returns to the first line with the Sedin twins. Vancouver's other lines, at least to start, should see Max Lapierre with rookie Nicklas Jensen and Zack Kassian while Andrew Ebbett centres the fourth unit between Tom Sestito and Steve Pinizzotto.

Kassian is back after a one-game stint with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves where he scored on his first shift.

“It was good to be down there to get in a game and I feel really confident,” Kassian said. “My back is 100 per cent and I'm really excited to get going again. I spoke to management before I went down and they stressed the things I need to work on, both on and off the ice. On the ice, it was just play the way I was early in the season, moving my feet and playing physical. Off the ice, it was just being professional, especially in a market like this. You have to be a professional.”

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault was reluctant to address the “professional” aspect of Kassian's demotion.

“For me, you know what, that's not important at this time,” Vigneault responded. “What's important is tonight's game and how he's going to perform.”

Edmonton did not have a morning skate today but the other lines the Canucks will likely see are: Sam Gagner between Magnus Paajarvi and Ales Hemsky; captain Shawn Horcoff with Ryan Jones and Nail Yakupov; and old warhorse Ryan Smyth between Lennart Petrell and one-time Canuck Mike Brown.

ICE CHIPS: New Oilers centre Jerred Smithson, obtained Wednesday from the Florida Panthers for a fourth-round pick, will not be in the lineup ... Referees for tonight's game are Dave Jackson and Francis Charron ... The Oilers enter the game with the league's third best power play (23.8 per cent) while the Canucks continue to wallow near the bottom of the league at 12.8 per cent, bad enough for 29th.

INJURIES: The Oilers will be missing fourth-line centre Eric Belanger (groin). The Canucks will again be without Ryan Kesler (foot), Keith Ballard (foot), Dale Weise (shoulder), Mason Raymond (shoulder) and David Booth (ankle surgery). Kesler, Ballard, Weise and Raymond all skated today under the direction of skills coach Glenn Carnegie.

epap@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/elliottpap

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Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall, now seventh in league scoring with 41 points, celebrates his first goal against Vancouver Canucks netminer Cory Schneider during the first period of last Saturday's 4-0 Oilers shutout win at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Schneider will be back between the pipes tonight in the rematch against Edmonton.
 

Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall, now seventh in league scoring with 41 points, celebrates his first goal against Vancouver Canucks netminer Cory Schneider during the first period of last Saturday's 4-0 Oilers shutout win at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Schneider will be back between the pipes tonight in the rematch against Edmonton.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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