Oilers at Canucks, tonight, 7 p.m., GM Place, CBC Hockey Night in Canada
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks will complete their eight-game homestand tonight against the Edmonton Oilers well-rested but with a certain amount of trepidation.
Vancouver is 5-2-0 in the first seven games with the two losses coming at the hands of Anaheim and St. Louis, both of whom were in last place in the Western Conference when they arrived at GM Place. The Oilers have since replaced the Ducks and Blues as the West's worst team.
Edmonton has lost five straight and continues to play without injured No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The Canucks are coming off an impressive 4-1 Tuesday over the Nashville Predators.
"I think our main goal is to worry about our game," said Canuck captain Roberto Luongo, citing a familiar mantra. "We want to make sure we keep building off what we did last game against Nashville. That's the type of game we want to be playing every night."
The Canucks will be without fourth-line centre Ryan Johnson, who has a sore foot that did not get any better over the three-day Christmas break. His lineup spot will be taken by Darcy Hordichuk, with Rick Rypien sliding into the middle. According to Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault, X-rays on Johnson's foot have not discovered a fracture.
"Nothing is coming up on the X-rays but the foot is still very swollen and he's having a tough time walking," Vigneault said. "We're going to keep him off the ice here a little bit and see if a couple of days of non-activity might help him out."
Eary last season, Johnson played about 10 games with a fractured foot before the actual break was discovered.
Defenceman Mathieu Schneider was also absent from today's morning skate, marking the fourth straight practice he has missed for an undisclosed "personal matter." Schneider's last appearance on the ice was Dec. 18.
"Personal matter, he's taking care of it, that's all I can say," Vigneault said.
Meanwhile, the Oilers' best line of late has been their fourth featuring tough guy Zack Stortini at centre between wingers Ryan Stone and Robert Nilsson, the latter with nine points in his last 11 games.
Edmonton's other lines, barring any last-minute changes, are expected to be Shawn Horcoff between J.F. Jacques and Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner between Ethan Moreau and Andrew Cogliano, and Ryan Potulny with Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule. Potulny and Gagner could flip-flop if coach Pat Quinn's opts for a change.
Jeff Deslauriers (8-8-2) is scheduled to start in goal for Edmonton.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks have slipped to 11th in faceoffs at 50.8 per cent. Edmonton is 29th at 46.4... Oilers Patrick O'Sullivan and Shawn Horcoff are among the worst plus/minus players in the league. O'Sullivan is minus-19 and Horcoff minus-18. Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour is the bottom feeder at minus-20...Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff is at the opposite end and his plus-16 is tied for third best behind New Jersey's Zach Parise (plus-20) and Washington's Alex Ovechkin (plus-18).
INJURIES: The Canucks will be without centre Ryan Johnson (foot) and veteran forward Pavol Demitra (shoulder). Demitra did skate with his teammates this morning... The Oilers will be missing elite winger Ales Hemsky (shoulder surgery), goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), centre Mike Comrie (mononucleosis), winger Fernando Pisani (colitis) and winger Marc Pouliot (sports hernia).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Much-malignd defenceman Kevin Bieksa managed to avoid the big mistake in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Nashville. Can he play another smart, error-free game tonight? Oiler winger Dustin Penner has been a force this season after two lousy years. He's been Edmonton's most consistent player and leads the team in goals, assists and points at 19-19-38.
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I'll be updating this thread with post game talks etc. Since the original thread starter is banned.