Early start for the Vancouver Canucks tonight, as Hockey Night in Canada is in town and they forgot to change their clocks as the bus crawled past the Alberta-British Columbia border. The Edmonton Oilers are visiting, and while their recent record isn’t a big problem, they’re playing tonight on the second half of a back-to-back against a rested Vancouver team. One could even suggest this is a “schedule loss” for the Oilers, and smart guy Jonathan Willis posits whether tonight’s game is a guaranteed win for Vancouver?
If THAT doesn’t get the nation to tune in, what will?
Puck Drop: 6 p.m. Pacific
Radio: Mr. Team
The Edmonton Oilers came into this season with renewed expectations. A new coach, a year tacked on to developing Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov. They upgraded at wing, replacing Magnus Paajarvi with David Perron. Stud Russian defencemen (?) Anton Belov and Denis Grebeshkov were added in the offseason and I didn’t think there was a real reason to conclude that the Oilers would be objectively worse in 2014 than 2013, except, well, Oilers.
Sam Gagner got hurt by Zack Kassian to start the season, and now in the lineup, he has not been particularly good. Per Lowetide, the closest thing we have at the Nations to a wise sage:
Gagner’s play defensively has been off this season. Although never a strength, his errant passes and exits from the defensive slot just in time to be “also in photo” are shocking for a player of his experience. I’ve watched this player from the beginning, and swear he’s never been this bad in his own end. Mistakes? Yes. Poor decisions? Sure. However, not like this year, a year in which we have this discussion damn near every game.
Well, that’s not fun. The player was supposed to be a legitimate contributor this season, although it is worth pointing out he’s been struck by the PDO cannon, with Oilers goalies getting an .860 even strength save percentage behind him. He’s been causing a lot of good scoring chances against, but those mistakes are correctible. Eventually.
Anyway, he’s sort of been the whipping boy at ON.
Defensive centreman Boyd Gordon may be available to the Oilers, knocking either Anton Lander or Mark Arcobello out of the lineup. One thing that’s pretty amazing is that while the Oilers start well below 50% of their attacking zone shifts on the offensive side of the ice, they’re able to find offensive minutes for the kids, and keep the checkers (Lander and Gordon, normally) out against toughs.
Meanwhile, the Canucks have won a bunch of games in a row and, while they say they aren’t, some of the veterans may be looking ahead to tomorrow’s game against Boston. Who knows. Canucks are still without Alex Burrows and Alex Edler, but they do have Yannick Weber! Indication is that Andrew Alberts and Tom Sestito will sit, meaning the Canucks forward lines will look they did against Carolina: sloppy, frustrating, and oddly dangerous.
Last November, myself and Thomas Drance wrote conflicting articles [here’s mine – here’s Thom’s] about the Sedin twins. Here is a chat conversation that followed the next morning (you can tell by the time stamps that I make bad decisions in the morning before I have coffee).
Here’s a transcript of our chat following the disagreement:
I can’t find where, but we eventually decided that our bet would take place over the next 82 games. Since that conversation (as Thom reminded me last night) Henrik Sedin has played 81 games, scoring 74 points.
Basically, I like my chan—
Coach Eakins says Bryzgalov is not quite ready to return to action yet. It’ll either be Dubnyk or LaBarbera tonight in Vancouver.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 13, 2013
Anyway, Thom’s made a $50 donation on behalf of Canucks Army to the Canucks For Kids Fund, to settle the bet, conceding that I am just better at forecasting hockey players than he is. This is Thom’s comment on the bet: