After a 7-4 win in Chicago on Friday are the Oiler forwards starting to feel comfortable? Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano scored their first goals of the season, while Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall each had two points. The entire forward group has had a bit more bounce in their step since Friday, and they hope to continue it tonight in the 200th regular season game between the Oilers and Canucks.
The Oilers all-time record v. the Nucks is 104-68-19-8 (19 ties came before the shootout). Tonight also marks the 100th home game v. Vancouver where the Oilers are 59-29-7-4. Many of those wins came in the in the 1980s, but since the lockout the Oilers have still been good v. the Canucks at home going 10-7-1, including going 2-0-1 last year v. Vancouver.
For many the Battle of Alberta is still the main rivarly for the Oilers, but I’d argue that in the past five years the games v. the Canucks have more animosity, chippiness and action. The Canucks have a lot of skill with the Sedin Sisters, but they have lots of skill, grit and overall piss-you-off-ness in the likes of Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Rick Rypien and Alex Burrows.
Burrows will make his season debut tonight, and you know he’ll be amped up to deliver a cheap shot or two. The Oilers seem to enjoy the chippiness and in most games v. the Canucks they have responded well and delivered as many blows/cheap shots as they’ve recieved. Outside of the first and last games v. Calgary this year, the Oilers haven’t been involved in many physical affairs, but tonight we should see the intensity heighten.
The Oilers need to be disciplined though, because if they take too many penalties the Sedins will destroy them. Daniel, seven goals and 12 points, and Henrik, no goals and 11 points, are once again leading the Canucks offensive charge early this season. They will have Burrow back on their RW tonight, and the Oilers have to make sure they don’t allow Burrows to agitate and become the focus, or that will just give the Sedins more room to work their magic.
The Sedins have killed the Oilers the past few years, especially on the PP.
The Canucks aren’t 9th on the PP at an efficient 21%, and the Sedins have five and four points respectively. The Canucks have only had 38 PP chances in ten games, while the Oilers have had 43 in their nine games. The Sedins along with Christian Ehrhoff control the Canucks PP and their puck movement and ability to read off one another might be the best in the league.
STICK AND SMARTS NOT SHOULDERS?
Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert will see a lot of the Sedins tonight, and Whitney might have to talk to his stick often to ensure it knows where he wants it to go. We always hear how you should try to play the Sedins, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin tough and hard, but according to Whitney that isn’t the best philosophy.
"I think they have the best chemistry as a pair of any players in the game. They’ve grown up together and know exactly where the other is all the time. They move so well off the puck. They move it and they never stand still, then they get to another area and the other one throws it back to where his brother is going. They have that sixth sense and that’s why when they move it you can’t let them create space and you have to take away their time.
"It’s all about having a good stick. Those guys want you to go the them. If you saw Datsyuk score a goal v. Nashville the other night, he waited in the corner for the D-man to come at him, and when he did, boom Datsyuk is off him and scored. Those guys you don’t go right at him, you have a good stick and good position because they are too good to try and put through the boards. Unless you are Chara, other guys just can’t do it consistently."
Whitney and Gilbert aren’t overly physical, but they skate well and Whitney, especially, has a good stick so expect to see them match up often against the Sedins. Five-on-five they are very dangerous. Burrows scored 26 EV strength last year, and added five SH and only four on the PP. Despite playing his first game in over five months, Burrows is someone the Oilers need to be aware of.
Tom Renney won’t make any changes to the lineup that beat Chicago.
Roberto Luongo will play tonight after a 3-0 shutout win last night v. New Jersey.
The Canucks have lots of skill, but a lot guys who like to run around like Glass, Hansen, Burrows, Kesler and even their bottom four D-men are physical. The Oilers will need a solid, energetic game from their 4th line tonight, and will need Smid to play more in-your-face than we have seen so far this season.
JDD AND JACQUES TO OKC
Jeff Deslauriers cleared waivers today and will head to Oklahoma and will play this weekend, and he will J.F Jacques on the flight with him. Jacques told me he is going down to OKC on a conditioning stint. He is hoping to play four or five games. He doesn’t have to clear waivers, because he is on a conditioning stint, but he remains on the 23-man roster so the Oilers can’t recall anyone.