Canucks-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 14, 2011
The Vancouver Canucks aren't panicking too much about their slow start. After all, they only have to look to last season to see how quickly things can change. The Canucks will try to avoid losing their third straight when they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Vancouver (1-2-1) might not be too worried considering it had the same record through four games last season before finishing with the NHL's best record, setting a franchise mark for victories and eventual making it to the Stanley Cup finals. Still, the Canucks aren't pleased with how they've played so far. They have trailed in all four games, getting outscored 6-3 in the opening period of their first three games before a 2-0 loss to Detroit on Thursday. Vancouver outshot the Red Wings 12-9 in the first period, but Detroit held a 24-8 advantage in the second while scoring twice. "Right now, we're making mistakes," Henrik Sedin said. "Last year, we waited for the other teams to make mistakes." One area the team is trying to improve is special teams. Vancouver had the NHL's top power-play unit last season, converting on 24.3 percent of its chances, but it's cashed in 16.7 percent so far after going 0 for 4 on Thursday. Part of the struggles with the man-advantage could be the absence of Ryan Kesler (hip), who had 15 power-play goals last season. Kesler, who underwent surgery in July after scoring a career-high 41 goals last season, could return as soon as next week. Until then, the Canucks - who have also lost to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - will try to take advantage of a more favorable stretch in their schedule. After visiting Edmonton, which had the league's worst record last season, they return home for three games. The Canucks lost three straight games in the Western Conference quarterfinals, but had only two losing streaks of more than two games during the regular season. Edmonton (1-0-1), meanwhile, is coming off a 2-1 shootout loss at Minnesota on Thursday after defeating Pittsburgh in a shootout by the same score Sunday. After giving up the tying goal in the second period, Nikolai Khabibulin had 14 saves in the third, but the Oilers got only one shot off during the frame. Coach Tom Renney thought his team struggled after Ales Hemsky left with a sore shoulder after playing 5 1/2 minutes in the first period. Hemsky had an assist and was a plus-1 in the opener against the Penguins. "He was really flying around early," Renney said. "That whole line was buzzing. He was really good tonight, and it's unfortunate he got hurt. The game was definitely different when he left." Renney isn't sure how severe Hemsky's injury is, but his club is already without center Sam Gagner and defenseman Ryan Whitney, who both have ankle injuries. They are unlikely to play Saturday. Vancouver went 4-2-0 against Edmonton last season, with the Oilers winning the last two meetings. Daniel Sedin had three goals and three assists in the series while Henrik Sedin had one goal and seven assists.
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