In fact, they’ll play four games against each other in six days – nine this season – starting with two back-to-backs in Vancouver on Monday and Tuesday, then relaunching in Edmonton on Thursday and Saturday.
While one team plays the rope while the other prepares for a playoff series, if it was a prize fight, they would bill it as “Tuning Up vs. Tuning Out.”
“Ready to roll or roll. ”
The Oilers can land a playoff berth with a point and they can’t wait.
“It was our first goal this year. Getting into the playoffs, ”said Jujhar Khaira, who returns to the roster on Monday. “Solidifying a place here tonight would be huge for the group. It shows that the hard work we have done this year has paid off.
Is this something the coach talks about with his team? Or is it quite the opposite, a topic to be avoided?
“We talked about it,” said head coach Dave Tippett after practice. “We want to put that ‘X’ next to our name. We are well aware of what we have to do. ”
As such, Edmonton has all the energy in the world and everything to play for. Connor McDavid is chasing 100 points, while players like Mikko Koskinen, Tyler Ennis and Ryan McLeod get a few games and different roles to hone for the postseason.
The Oilers have been playing 0.700 hockey for three months now. They are not perfect, but Edmonton is a very good team.
Here’s how they’ll line up tonight:
Draisaitl, McDavid, Yamamoto
Kahun, Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi
Ennis, McLeod, Archibald
Neal, Khaira, Chiasson
Khaira returns after missing five games. He suffered his second concussion in just over a month and will be center in the fourth row with James Neal and Alex Chiasson, a unit that was excellent in the playoff bubble last summer.
“Three big bodies in a row, we keep it very simple there – put some pucks in and get on the body. It creates space for us, ”said Khaira, who has no problem coming back from concussions. “The comfort level is 100%. It’s one of those things – I really did ring my bell, but by the time I was in the tunnel, I felt like I was back to normal. The most frustrating thing was not being able to play. I just wanted to come back ASAP.
There was a time in hockey where coaches called for injuries like this which caused players to come back before they were ready. Now not only are doctors calling, most if not all coaches are aware of how careful they are to deal with brain damage.
“I made sure the doctors, neurologists, everyone (can sign). We stopped it for a few more days to make sure everything was in place, ”Tippett said. “He’s had tough training, talking to the medics that they don’t hesitate to play, and I felt we had to get to this point before we play him again. He’s been looking forward to playing for three or four days now.
“It has been fully authorized by all professionals, so you have to take their opinion on it.”
One final note: Tippett continues to investigate young McLeod’s ability to help in the playoffs. He will center a line with Ennis and Josh Archibald and get a shot from the penalty spot.
More weight on McDavid or Matthews to find playoff success?
May 3, 2021
The Oilers have their goals per game up to eighth in the NHL at 3.22, and their goals against 10th in the NHL at 2.67. Their power play stands at 26.6%, the second best in the NHL, while the Canucks’ average of 9.8 penalty minutes per game ranks 30th.
It’s a bad contrast as we approach this four-game set.
The Canucks, meanwhile, can’t wait until a bad, worsening season ends. After winning three of their first four games after COVID, the Canucks have become a team that just doesn’t have what it takes to outdo the NHL competition in anything other than the weird part of the game.
They are now without eight forwards including Brandon Sutter, Elias Pettersson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Micheal Ferland, Jake Virtanen and Tyler Motte. Their last 10 games have been a mirror image of the Oilers, with Edmonton going 7-3 and the Canucks stumbling to 3-7.
Here are the Canucks lines:
Pearson, Horvat, Lind
Hoglander, Miller, Boeser
Vesey, Boyd, MacEwen
Highmore, Graovac, Hawryluk