Game #35 Preview: Canucks @ Oilers

Thomas Drance
March 30 2013 12:49PM

 
Photo Credit: Larry Wong, Postmedia Photo

This Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, the Canucks will face the Oilers in Edmonton. It'll be the third meeting of the season between the two teams, with neither of the previous contests being decided in regulation. The Oilers took the first game in the skills competition, while the Canucks rather memorably won the second match on an improbable overtime winner from Chris Tanev. 

With the Minnesota Wild stumbling on Friday night against the Stars, the Canucks have an opportunity to restore their vicegrip on the Northwest Division this Saturday night. To that end Cory Schneider will be making his seventh straight start in Vancouver's net and he's been nigh unbeatable over the past couple of weeks. Edmonton meanwhile will look to puncture Schneider's ridiculous even-strength save percentage, and they should be a desperate team tonight as they sit only three points out of eighth place with fifteen games remaining on the docket.

Should be a fun game. Read past the jump.

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7PM PST

Television: CBC

Radio: The Team

Setup:

The Edmonton Oilers started this season off completely unable to buy a break at the offensive end at even-strength, and their on-ice shooting percentage only recently peaked up above 7% on the season. On the other hand they've been exceedingly lucky on the power-play - capitalizing on over twenty percent of their opportunities despite generating shots on goal at an atrocious rate - and they're a solid penalty-killing outfit that has recieved strong goaltending from Devan Dubnyk in particular. 

This is probably a somewhat improved Oilers club, but I'm less bullish on them now than I was before the season. I thought this Oilers team was probably a playoff team and I suppose they still might be, but that would surprise me somewhat. They're dead last among all NHL teams by Fenwick Tied, so they're a pretty woeful possession group and their depth lines and defensive pairings are basically a flaming tire fire.

Really this is an Oilers team with an okay top-five (in terms of Schultz, Schultz, RNH, Eberle and Hall) and really not much else. I tend to like Sam Gagner-  who is having a bit of a breakout campaign - Nail Yakupov is exciting and Ales Hemsky is absurdly skilled too. Beyond that it gets ugly for the Oilers, so even with their forward group injured and in shambles, Vancouver should have a big edge down the lineup in this one.

Of course they should have an edge with their top-five too. I somewhat expect the Canuckst to play strength-on-strength this evening - as they did in the club's first two meetings of the season - and generally speaking the Sedin twins handed Edmonton's kids their teeth. Henrik has controlled over 60% of Corsi events against the Hall line so far this season (in roughly 15 minutes over two games) and if that continues it should be a vintage Canucks versus Oilers game on Hockey Night.

In lineup notes it's expected that Zack Kassian will return to the lineup this evening - he's been day-to-day with a back injury for a couple of weeks now - though I think he's a game time decision (I'll update this post if we get more news). Meanwhile Kevin Bieksa will also be in the lineup after missing practice yesterday. Keith Ballard on the other hand won't be, he's out with a knee injury so I'd expect the Canucks to wood with an Andrew Alberts-Chris Tanev third pairing. Dubnyk gets the start for the Oilers, Schneider for the Canucks. 

Numbers Game:

  Edmonton Vancouver
Record 13-13-7 19-9-6
Goal Differential -12 +6
PP % 22.1% (6th) 13.1% (29th)
PK % 83.8% (8th) 81.8% (15th)
FO % 45.3% (30th) 47.1% (27th)
Corsi % 43.9% (30th) 53.0% (5th)
Fenwick Close % 44.6% (29th) 53.7% (7th)
Team PDO 99.1 (21st) 101.1 (7th)

Game Day Links:

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 JI123
March 30 2013, 02:51PM
Trash it!
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I don't understand why the Oilers really struggle so much in terms of possession numbers. They have a first and second line that should be able to keep Fenwick at least 50%+, and some decent puck moving defencemen who should be able to keep possession on the breakout. It seems that as soon as the puck enters their zone, they can't get the puck back, and struggle to get possession back. But also, if they can get possession and quickly get the puck up to the likes of Yakupov, Hall, RNH, Eberle etc. they can use their speed through the neutral zone and get the puck quickly past the backchecking forwards and get good chances, it just seems that they don't have the right mix of players.

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#2 KleptoKlown
March 30 2013, 03:27PM
Trash it!
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I just hope to see J Schulz get hammered on all night long.

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#3 mac962
March 30 2013, 06:51PM
Trash it!
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@KleptoKlown

And i hope you squeel l like a pig. Go do your meth freak.

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