Game Notes G2: Vancouver Canucks @ Edmonton Oilers

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
6 months ago
Let’s hope the home opener goes better than the season opener.
The Oilers kicked off the 2023-24 season with an 8-1 loss in Vancouver on Wednesday and they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves on Saturday when they host the Canucks.
1. The seven-goal deficit matched the largest loss the Oilers have suffered in a season-opening game in team history. The other time came when the 1991-92 Oilers started their season with a 9-2 loss on the road to the Calgary Flames. That loss was forgotten by the end of the year as the Oilers reached the Western Conference Final while the Flames missed the playoffs.
The worst home opener the Oilers have ever had came when they began the 1997-98 season with an 8-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The Oilers wound up making the playoffs that season and pulled off an upset over the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. The Red Wings won their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups and their first with Ken Holland as the team’s general manager.
What happens in the first week of the season doesn’t indicate what’ll happen at the end of the season — teams have been blown out in October in the past and they’ve gone on to have success — but the Oilers can’t just sleepwalk their way through games like they tried to in Vancouver. Getting home-ice advantage through the playoffs requires a full 82-game buy-in.
2. The Oilers and Canucks both played with 17 skaters on Wednesday. The Canucks are dealing with a flu bug going through their dressing room while the Oilers are navigating the ramifications of a tight salary cap situation. Edmonton can currently only afford to carry one extra skater, so with Markus Niemelainen and Mattias Ekholm out due to injury, they had to play with 11 forwards and six defencemen.
The Canucks might again be shorthanded on Saturday but the Oilers will be back to a regular 18-skater roster as Ekholm is expected to draw into the lineup for his season debut. Also, Niemelainen was placed on waivers and the Oilers inked Adam Erne (forward in training camp on a professional tryout contract) to a one-year deal, so they’ll have the option to roll 11F-7D or 12F-6D.
3. Ekholm didn’t play during any of Edmonton’s eight pre-season warm-ups so this will be his first game action since the playoffs back in the spring. He logged 20:47 per game with the Oilers during the regular season and 21:53 in the playoffs but will need a few games to build up to those minutes this season.
Against Vancouver on Wednesday, the Oilers played Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard as their top pairing, Cody Ceci and Brett Kulak on the second, and Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais on the third. It looks like the Oilers will run last year’s pairings with Ekholm back. He was practicing on a pair with Bouchard on Friday while Nurse and Ceci were together.
4. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jay Woodcroft mix up his forwards after the loss in Vancouver. The Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod, and Warren Foegele third line was effective but the top-six looked out of sorts. Connor McDavid and Evander Kane were on the ice together for three goals against at even strength and the Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trio only managed one shot attempt when playing together.
5. The plan for Edmonton’s season-opening home-and-home seemed to be to start Jack Campbell in one game and Stuart Skinner in the other, but both goalies got shelled for four goals on 16 shots in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Campbell got the nod following an excellent performance in the pre-season and was pulled from the game in the second period. It was more of a mercy pull for Campbell given the way the team was playing in front of him but he certainly wasn’t sharp. Might Woodcroft give Campbell a chance to redeem himself so that he doesn’t lose the steam he had in the pre-season?

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