PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers at Vancouver
Paajarvi to take warm-up before deciding to play; Krueger not divulging starting netminder and more from the team's hotel availability
|TV: Sportsnet West (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 8:38 p.m. MT
AT THE TEAM'S HOTELVANCOUVER, B.C. - After a late-night arrival following a huge 8-2 win in Calgary over the Flames that vaulted them into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers held a workout at their hotel in Vancouver.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said that ideally the team will dress the same four lines and three defence pairings that they had in the past two games against Calgary and also last Saturday in Vancouver.
"We might dress an extra player in the warm-up but ideally in this situation you want to stay with the same lineup and keep the roll," said Krueger.
As for goaltending, Krueger would not divulge who would be tonight's starter.
"We've got some ideas here in the goaltending situation. The goalies are skating right now and we'll let them know what our decision is later on."
Krueger added that they have made the decision, however.
"I've decided but we'll make the call. There's no need to divulge that. Freddie (Goaltending Coach Frederic Chabot) is taking a look at the goaltending. He's got Khabby on the ice today and we're looking at Dubey here. We want everybody ready for every game right now so we've made our decision but you'll see tonight."
The head coach said that keeping the same lineup has been good because the team has been winning, but also difficult because you want everyone to get a chance to play.
"That's what's happened with the defencemen. We all spoke about how happy we are that Mark Fistric joined us. Here', Mark Fistric is not a part of this run right now but he's an important part of our team. The importance of players understanding that we're a deeper team than we used to be and that this can happen to somebody and to stay game ready. Mark's on the ice right now working 45 minutes with Kelly Buchberger and we're trying to keep him ready to go if we need the call. That's a great example of sticking with the D-pairs the way they are, the forward lines the way they are. It's just a synergy there that's unmeasurable that you want to keep going."
One change the team may be forced to make is up front with Magnus Paajarvi, who injured his knee last night in Calgary.
"I feel sore. I landed a little weird on my knee," said Paajarvi. "But I'm going to go to the rink and take warm-up and hopefully I play. I'm going to do everything I can to play, obviously. But I can't really tell right now."
If Paajarvi can't play, Anton Lander is most likely to draw in.
KID LINE ON FIRE
The line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle has been on fire as of late.
Since being reunited on March 26 against the Blues at the start of this five-game winning streak, Hall has six goals and eight assists for 14 points, Eberle has five goals and eight points and Nugent-Hopkins has a goal and 10 points giving the trio a total of 32 points during the stretch.
"They played very similar to that early in the season but there was a 5% missing that's needed at this level to score goals," said Krueger. "That's something they found. What's been nice is we haven't had to squeeze the lemon on them. They've been playing low minutes relative to what a line of that strength could play because of what the scores have been."
Krueger added that he didn't think the scores would continue to be as lopsided as the 8-2 win in Calgary or the 4-0 win over Vancouver last Saturday but it has helped with the group's energy overall.
"It's been good that we've been able to get points without crawling off the ice. The energy is great in the group right now. This doesn't feel frightening to have this back-to-back in Vancouver which maybe looking at it earlier in the season we thought this would be a daunting challenge -- it still will be difficult, but not impossible."
Hall said that as a group they're just enjoying playing in games that matter in April, being in the race and particularly now being in eighth place in the Western Conference.
"We're just really enjoying it," said Hall. "I feel in the room before the game, guys are a little nervous because we haven't been in this situation in a long time but it's also a lot of fun. We feel that the City of Edmonton and our fans have waited for this for a long time, for us to be close and make a playoff push and we're going to do everything possible to be there."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
TV: SNET-W, SNET-P
Last 10: Edmonton 6-2-2; Vancouver 6-4-0.
Big story: The trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and Roberto Luongo remained a member of the Canucks.
With 10 years and $64 million remaining on his deal, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis was unable to move the veteran goaltender before the deadline. While the Toronto Maple Leafs appeared to be the most interested in Luongo’s services, the contract was simply too much to bear.
"My contract sucks," Luongo said bluntly Wednesday afternoon. "That's what the problem is, and unfortunately it's a big factor in trading me and it's probably why I am still here."
"We've been close a number of times," Gillis said. "Thought we were confident in getting something done, but it didn't come together."
Oilers: While Edmonton might not have fresh legs when the puck drops, they’re heading to Vancouver with plenty of momentum. The Oilers won their fifth straight Wednesday night, erasing a 2-0 deficit by scoring eight unanswered goals en route to an 8-2 victory against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Taylor Hall led the way with a goal and four assists, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added a goal and three assists.
Wednesday’s win gave the Oilers 39 points and moved them into eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race. They’ve outscored their opponents by a 25-7 margin during their winning streak.
"Obviously it's been a few years of rebuilding and we want to take the next step," said Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick at the 2011 NHL Draft. "We're ready to do that and all of us here are excited about this opportunity that we have. We're ready to make a playoff push."
Canucks: Vancouver will attempt to avoid a three-game skid Thursday night after suffering a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on Monday. The Canucks were faced with a 3-0 deficit midway through the second period as Andrew Desjardins, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture all scored in a span of 2:13, but Chris Higgins scored late in the period and Alexandre Burrows found the back of the net midway through the third.
But Vancouver couldn’t find the equalizer. Alain Vigneault’s club enters Thursday’s action tied with the Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division standings at 44 points apiece, although the Wild are technically ahead due to possessing a game in hand.
"That was the game right there," Burrows told The Vancouver Sun regarding the Sharks' three quick tallies. "But I like how we responded; we responded much better than we did against Edmonton. We showed some character and tried to come back.
"We've got to be realistic. You look at our lineup; we've had a lot of young players taking their first steps in the NHL. If you start running and gunning with this kind of roster ... I'd rather try to play well defensively and not have those two or three minutes like we did tonight."
Who’s hot: Hall brings a six-game points streak to Rogers Arena. He has seven goals, eight assists and a plus-9 rating over that span. In the past five games, Nugent-Hopkins has a goal and nine assists, while Jordan Eberle is 5-3-8 and they’re both plus-9 over the stretch. As a trio, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle have combined for 32 points during Edmonton’s five-game win streak. … Burrows has three goals and an assist in the past five games for Vancouver.
Injury report: Eric Belanger (groin) is day-to-day for the Oilers, while Andy Sutton (knee) is out indefinitely. … The Canucks are likely to be without Keith Ballard (foot), Dale Weise (shoulder), Zack Kassian (back), David Booth (groin) and Ryan Kesler (shoulder surgery).
-- Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor