Canucks visit reeling Oilers
The Vancouver Canucks took advantage of a shaky goaltending situation Saturday to end a three-game losing streak. They can possibly do the same on Wednesday, which would send their opponent to a ninth straight loss.
That's because the Canucks are visiting an Edmonton Oilers outfit missing its starting goaltender and currently on a dismal 1-14-1 run — including an eight-game losing streak.
Vancouver (28-18-2) hosted the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on the weekend, who were starting their illness-ridden third-string goalie and had a 19-year-old backup just signed to a tryout contract. The Canucks predictably lit up both netminders on the way to a 6-2 win.
Edmonton is without Nikolai Khabibulin, who will have back surgery to repair a herniated disc and is expected to be out for about three more months.
Now the Oilers (16-27-5), who are last in the Western Conference and 29th in the NHL, have to rely on the already-shaky tandem of Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk for the forseeable future.
Neither goalie is making a case for the starting job while Khabibulin is out.
Deslauriers is 1-10-1 in his last 12 games with a 3.87 goals-against average, while Dubnyk is 0-4-0 with a 4.09 GAA in six starts. Deslauriers and the rest of the Oilers were left with another bad taste in their mouths after they were spanked 6-0 by Colorado on Monday.
Teeth knocked in
"I won't be flashing my teeth, because I think they just got kicked in," Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said after the loss. "After a game like that you're pretty discouraged. There were a lot of people that didn't compete very well."
It marked the first time the Oilers lost eight in a row since a 12-game slide back in March 2007.
It's mostly good news on Vancouver side of things. Pavol Demitra finally made his season debut for the Canucks on Saturday, and Ryan Johnson could be back in the lineup tonight. Steve Bernier is also close to returning, meaning coach Alain Vigneault will have some roster decisions to make soon.
Defenceman Willie Mitchell won't play Wednesday after getting slammed headfirst into the boards by Evgeni Malkin late in the game against Pittsburgh, and is doubtful for Thursday's game against Dallas.
"They say they watch every game so I'm sure that they've seen that hit," Vigneault said. "We'll leave it up to them to decide if something needs to be done."
The Canucks find themselves in a dogfight for the playoffs, sitting in sixth in the West but only two points clear of ninth. With a brutal road schedule coming up before and after the Olympic break in February, Vancouver is going to need all the healthy bodies it can get.
Injuries slamming Oilers
Along with Khabibulin, the Oilers continue to miss the services of Ales Hemsky, out for the season with a shoulder injury, and Mike Comrie, who's been out two months with mononucleosis. Gilbert Brule (knee), Ryan Stone (illness), and Steve Staios (concussion) have also missed time.
Expect a big night Wednesday out of Vancouver's Henrik Sedin. The NHL's leading scorer is at his best against the Oilers, with 46 points in 55 games, his highest point production against any club.
Linemate Alex Burrows has continued his hot string of play with another goal during the Penguins victory, and now has 11 in seven games. Patrick O'Sullivan has the hot hand in Edmonton, with four points in his last four games.
Both teams face Dallas next. The Canucks host the Stars on Thursday, while the Oilers do the same Friday.
With files from The Canadian Press