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7:00 PM PT8:00 PM MT9:00 PM CT10:00 PM ET3:00 GMT11:00 8:00 PM MST10:00 PM EST7:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ET1:00 BRT, January 13, 2021
Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta  Attendance: 0

Motivated Oilers ready to roll vs. Canucks

Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers

  1. The Canucks and Oilers alternated wins last season, with each team winning one at home and one meeting on the road. The Canucks won the last meeting, 4-2, in Vancouver on December 23, 2019.
  2. Vancouver fell to Vegas in seven games in the Second Round series following the Canucks' first playoff series wins since the 2011 Stanley Cup final run. Vancouver went 22-9-4 (.686) at home last season compared to just 14-18-32 (.441) on the road -- the fifth-largest differential in the NHL.
  3. Quinn Hughes tallied 53 points (8g, 45a) last season, the most by a Vancouver defenseman since Jyrki Lumme had 56 in 1995-96. His 45 assists were the most by any rookie blueliner since Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom had 49 in 1991-92.
  4. Edmonton fell to Chicago in four games in the Qualifying Round series and has won just one postseason series in two playoff appearances since 2006-07. The Oilers scored 72 first-period goals last season, tied for second-most in the NHL; only Colorado (73) had more.
  5. Leon Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the league with 110 points, while teammate Connor McDavid finished second with 97 points. Draisaitl's 110 points came in just 71 team games last season, joining Nikita Kucherov (115 points in 2018-19) as the only skaters in the last 20 seasons with 110+ points in 71 games.
  6. The Canucks finished fourth in the NHL last season with a 24.1 percent power-play rate, scoring 57 goals -- only Edmonton (59) scored more. Meanwhile, the Oilers led the league with a 29.5 percent power-play mark and ranked second with an 84.4 percent penalty kill (Sharks, 85.7 percent).

The Edmonton Oilers have waited a long five months to make amends for their qualifying-round disappointment to end the 2019-20 season.

Despite boasting the fifth-best winning percentage in the Western Conference -- and led by the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl -- the Oilers were ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks before the actual Stanley Cup playoff tournament kicked off.

As the Oilers prepare to play host to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday to kick off the truncated NHL season, it's with extra motivation and the belief they are due to take a big step forward.

"There's no time to tip-toe your way into the season," forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "It's going to get rolling right away. ... It's going to be intense right off the get-go. There's no time to waste with a shortened schedule like this."

The Oilers and Canucks open with a pair of games in the Alberta capital, the site of last year's restart after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they have completely different memories.

Edmonton was knocked out by a veteran Chicago team that barely squeaked into the qualifying round while the young, up-and-coming Canucks eliminated the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round. They followed up by dropping the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the opening round and took the powerful Las Vegas Golden Knights to a seventh and deciding game in the second round before being eliminated.

Even so, the prognostications abound in Edmonton's favor this season. The Oilers may be starting the season without veteran James Neal, who netted 19 goals in 55 games last season, but retooled their lineup in a positive way. Sure, there are questions about their defensive ability and goaltending, but the Oilers appear to have much more forward depth with the addition of veteran Kyle Turris to center a third line that appears will start with newcomer Dominik Kahun and 2016 first-round draft pick and fourth overall selection Jesse Puljujarvi back in the fold.

On defense, Edmonton will dearly miss Oscar Klefbom this season due to shoulder surgery, but adding Tyson Barrie will certainly provide more pop to its already potent attack, especially on the power play.

The Canucks, who boast a fantastic collection of young talent with the likes of forwards Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat as well as defenseman Quinn Hughes, had a curious offseason. They lost starting workhorse goalie Jacob Markstrom, key defenseman Chris Tanev and forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Leivo via free agency.

They added veteran goalie Braden Holtby to work along with talented youngster Thatcher Demko, and may have a more complete defense corps by adding veterans Nate Schmidt and Travis Hamonic as well as 2016 fifth-overall pick Olli Juolevi.

The Canucks appear ripe for a step back due to a lack of forward depth but enter the season believing they can build on their strong run thanks to the positive experience the last time they played in Edmonton.

"I like the makeup of our team a lot," Horvat said. "We lost some key guys after last year, but the (players) we brought in have fit into our locker room. We've added some key pieces and guys have stepped up. We have a really bright future."

Canucks general manager Jim Benning told Sportsnet 650 that forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Jordie Benn "aren't available to us" for the opener and the team is following COVID-19 safety protocols.

"This is going to be a type of season that we're going to have to accept that these things are going to come up," Benning said.

The season format is altered, too with clubs playing 56 games, all against divisional opponents.

"When you're from Canada and playing Canadian cities or coaching Canadian cities, there's an excitement level," Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. "The competition is going to be unreal. Missing the fans is the only drawback to it, but I think the excitement that will run through the country with people cheering on their teams will excite everybody. It's going to be a blast."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 12, 2021

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