G79 Game Notes: Pacific Division race still alive as Edmonton Oilers host Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
23 days ago
After losing in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, the Edmonton Oilers will be right back at it on Saturday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
1. This is the fourth and final meeting between the Oilers and Canucks on the regular season schedule and it’s the first time the two teams will face each other since November.
A lot has happened between then and now. The Oilers made a coaching change, waived their $25 million veteran goaltender, and added Corey Perry, Adam Henrique, and Sam Carrick. The Canucks leaned into their hot start to the season and acquired Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov well ahead of the trade deadline.
Here we are now in April, Edmonton and Vancouver are in a race for the Pacific Division, and this could be a preview of the first playoff series between the Oilers and Canucks in over 30 years.
2. The Canucks beat the Oilers at home in the first game of the season by a score of 8-1, they won 4-3 in Edmonton’s home opener, and they handed the Oilers a 6-2 loss a few weeks later in Vancouver. If the Canucks win on Saturday, they’ll complete their first season sweep of the Oilers since the 2014-15 season, which saw Vancouver win all five meetings against Edmonton.
That aforementioned November loss in Vancouver was the beginning of the end for head coach Jay Woodcroft. The Oilers lost their next game to the lowly San Jose Sharks and Woodcroft was fired when the team returned from the road trip.
Following that 6-2 win, the Canucks owned a 9-2-1 record while the Oilers were in the basement at 2-8-1. It’s taken an incredible 45-15-5 run under new head coach Kris Knoblauch, but the Oilers still control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Pacific Division.
The Canucks are in first place with a 48-22-9 record with three games remaining and the Oilers are right behind them at 48-24-6 with four games left to play. If the Oilers beat Vancouver in regulation, they’ll be just one point back of the Canucks with a game in hand.
Vancouver is set to play the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets next week and the Oilers have games against the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, and Arizona Coyotes.
3. The Oilers have already secured home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs but there’s still quite a bit left to be determined.
If the Oilers pass Vancouver for the top spot in the Pacific Division, they’d play one of the Wild Card teams, either the L.A. Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, or Nashville Predators, a trio of teams currently separated by three points in the standings. They’d also guarantee themselves home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, as it appears the Dallas Stars will lock up the best record in the Western Conference.
If the Oilers don’t pass the Canucks and stay where they are, it’ll either be another first-round series against the Kings or they’ll go up against the Golden Knights right off the hop. As it stands right now, L.A. has 95 points, Vegas has 94 points, and both teams have three games left.
4. Passing Vancouver would be exciting for Edmonton because the Oilers haven’t won their division since the 1980s. The Oilers finished with the best record in the Smythe Division six times in a row starting in 1981-82 and their most recent division crown came in 1986-87.
Of course, the prize that ultimately matters is the Stanley Cup, and the Oilers aren’t going to go full-send in the final days of the regular season over a division banner. Connor McDavid has missed the team’s last two games with a lower-body injury and he’ll again be out on Saturday against the Canucks.
5. With McDavid absent for the past couple of games, Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning could become the fourth player ever to record 100 assists in a single season. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr are the only players ever to do so and the last 100-assist season came in a much higher-scoring era in 1990-91.
McDavid leads the league with 99 assists and Kucherov is right behind him with 98. Kucherov and the Lightning are scheduled to play the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

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