Vancouver-Edmonton: Previewing the Rivalry

KP Wee@kpwee1Senior Writer IFebruary 16, 2008

On Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks (28-22-8) take on the Edmonton Oilers (27-27-5) at G.M. Place in the second game of the CBC doubleheader.

Given the history of these teams, having a shootout to decide this contest will not be a shocker.

The two teams have already been involved in three shootouts in head-to-head meetings this season, with Edmonton going 3-0, and Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon in net for all three victories.  Edmonton has won 12 of 15 games in shootouts this year.

For the Canucks, they have been involved in only two non-shootout outcomes in their last six games overall.  Vancouver is 2-1-3 in that span.

Garon is 3-1-0 against Vancouver this season, including a surprising 1-0 shootout victory back on November 14th—in only his seventh appearance in an Oilers' uniform.  He's been hot lately, going 4-1-0 with a 1.61 GAA in his last five outings, which included a 5-0 shutout against Calgary.

Garon has been the first star in all four of those victories, which also included wins over contenders San Jose and Minnesota.

In fact, Edmonton has shown a lot of character recently, and has won four of five games since losing leading scorer Shawn Horcoff for the rest of the season to a left shoulder injury.  The Oilers have also been playing without Sheldon Souray (since January 25th) and Raffi Torres (since December 15th).  Like Horcoff, both are also gone for the season.

The Oilers are 12-13-4 on the road this season.

The Canucks have been hampered by injuries of their own on the blueline.  However, the Canucks' latest loss—a 5-4 shootout affair at home against Minnesota—could not be pinned on injuries.

Goalie Roberto Luongo looked weak on all four goals he gave up in regulation as the Canucks blew a third-period lead, and the All-Star goalie then surrendered two more goals (in three attempts) in the tie-breaking session.

Coach Alain Vigneault sent two rookies—Alex Edler and Ryan Shannon—out for the shootout, and they both failed.

Edler was a surprise offensively against the Wild on Thursday, potting two goals and adding an assist, all in the third period.  However, he wasn't stellar on defense, making a couple of misplays with the puck.

The Oilers may be 13th in the Western Conference, with only 59 points in 59 games, but it's the Canucks (9th place, 64 points in 58 games) who look vulnerable.

Vancouver is now 1-5-2 in their last eight games against their Northwest division rivals after starting the year 9-0-2.  Their recent shootout struggles have also been detrimental in their bid to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Bottom line: if both teams end up tied after regulation, look for Garon to stone the Canucks shooters and for the Oilers to come out with a road victory to square their record away from home to .500.


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