While it’s the last game of the preseason for both the Canucks and the visiting Edmonton Oilers, each team is taking a very different approach to their Saturday night showdown at Rogers Arena. A veteran-laden Vancouver roster featuring every notable Canuck except for Kevin Bieksa will face a young Oilers team, missing nearly every legitimate NHL player short of Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and Teddy Purcell.
It’s a final tune-up for the Canucks against a final audition for the Oilers. It’s a huge mismatch on paper, but anything can happen in a single hockey game. Read past the jump for more.
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST
TV: Sportsnet ONE
Radio: TSN 1040
#Canuck lines: 22-33-17, 20-13-14, 46-27-9, 36-7-51. D: 23-8, 2-5, 18-6
— Steve Ewen (@SteveEwen) October 4, 2014
For those without a roster in front of you, that’s the Sedins with Vrbata, Higgins-Bonino-Burrows, Jensen-Matthias-Kassian, and Hansen-Vey-Dorsett on line 4, with Edler-Tanev, Hamhuis-Sbisa, and Stanton-Weber as the D pairs.
Even with Kevin Bieksa and Frank Corrado out, that’s likely as strong of a Canucks lineup as you’ll see this season. Nick Bonino and Shawn Matthias aren’t fantastic middle-6 centres, but Bonino has 4 points through 4 games and has looked fine enough. He has a 49% Corsi through the three games we have that data for, which isn’t ideal for a second liner on a good team over a full season, but a 3-game sample means basically nothing and playing with Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, who are solid possession players on their own, should help Bonino in that regard.
The fourth line, with Linden Vey, Jannik Hansen, and Derek Dorsett, looks like it could be a very strong depth unit too. We’ve discussed recently that both Hansen and Dorsett are very effective players in their roles, and Vey is actually leading Vancouver in scoring through the preseason with 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 games. With Vey as the 4th C and Kassian and Jensen on line 3, it at least appears that this Canucks lineup is geared towards a more offensive game at 5-on-5, as Brad Richardson and Tom Sestito will sit this one out.
In contrast to the Canucks veteran lineup, Dallas Eakins looks to be using this preseason game as a final audition for some of the young Oilers prospects looking to make the NHL roster. Edmonton’s four centres tonight project to be 18-year old Leon Draisaitl, 20 year-old Jujhar Khaira, veteran Boyd Gordon, and 19-year old Bogdan Yakimov. On defence, 26-year old Brad Hunt is the oldest Oilers defender, while Justin Schultz and Keith Aulie are the most experienced. Ben Scrivens will battle Ryan Miller in net.
I don’t want to say that this will be a bloodbath tonight since forecasting single game results is a fool’s errand, but this absolutely could be a bloodbath tonight. The Sedins have eviscerated the actual Oilers plenty of times in years past, these are far from the actual Oilers, and Vancouver is playing basically their opening night lineup. It’s very much a sink-or-swim situation that Dallas Eakins has put his team in tonight, and I don’t like Leon Draisaitl’s chances to control the puck against Henrik Sedin.
Regardless of the result tonight, the Canucks are likely looking to use this as a final tune-up for the regular season that finally gets underway on Wednesday. While a big win would be nice, staying healthy, executing the new systems, and sticking to a good process (hi, AV!) are surely the main goals for one more night, at least.