Game 51: Canucks at Oilers (1.21.14)
It's hard to imagine the Canucks could do something tonight to top Saturday's fight fest against the Flames although, considering the bad blood that has existed between the clubs this season mostly involving Vancouver's Zack Kassian and Edmonton's Sam Gagner, that might not be too farfetched. That being said the Canucks know their objective first and foremost is to bank two points against a team that sits far behind them in the standings – something they were barely able to do against the Flames escaping with just a 3-2 shootout win. Vancouver has had Edmonton's number this season winning both meetings to date quite handily but the Oilers are a more dangerous team now than before considering they're at the point where they've got nothing to lose with a playoff berth pretty much out of the question.
The Oilers kick off a three-game home stand at Rexall Place tonight after going winless on their recent four-game road swing, which concluded with a 3-2 overtime loss in Winnipeg on Saturday. Edmonton has been a bit better in recent games on home ice, however, earning points in four of their last five outings home ice including beating the Penguins in overtime in their last home outing eight nights ago. The Canucks will face a new foe between the Oilers' pipes tonight as the previous two goaltenders to see action against Vancouver this season – Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera – are both no longer with Edmonton. Roberto Luongo is expected to get the start for the Canucks, who will be without their head coach after he was suspended by the NHL for 15 days for his attempt to invade the Flames locker room on Saturday. Vancouver will also be without team captain Henrik Sedin, who will see his ironman streak come to an end due to injury.
Puck drop at 6:30 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Goon it up. Obviously this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but given the Canucks' struggles to be a team that can out-score and out-skill their opponent – something that used to be their trademark – perhaps if they carry themselves as a team that aren't afraid to rough things up by being physical early on, they will discourage the Oilers from doing likewise which could ultimately work to their advantage.
Win one for Torts. As misguided as his actions were, Torts' attempts to get into the Flames room last game had to do with him wanting to stand up for his players. The best way for the Canucks to repay their head coach would be to use that as motivation and win in his absence.
Entertain the crowd. In their last five home outings the Oilers seem to have found their offensive touch scoring a combined 20 goals much to the delight of their long-suffering fans. Knowing the Canucks have been struggling to put up goals this season, they might want to hedge their bets and open things up a bit and dare Vancouver to out-score them.
By the Numbers
Oilers named to Olympic team rosters: Hemsky (CZE), Marincin (SVK), and Belov (RUS).
Games that John Tortorella will miss behind the Canucks bench as part of his 15-day suspension.
Goal differential in the season series in favour of the Canucks (10 to 2).
Shot differential in the season series in favour of the Canucks (84 to 42).
Penalty minutes this season for Tom Sestito. The Canucks' single season team record by one player is 372 (Donald Brashear – 1997.98).
Consecutive games played by Canucks' Henrik Sedin. His ironman streak officially comes to an end tonight when he will sit out due to injury.