Oilers eye playoff-berth clinch against Canucks

NHL Hockey

The Edmonton Oilers are one win away from clinching a playoff spot, while the Vancouver Canucks could really use a mini-series sweep when they face off on Monday in Vancouver to kick off four straight meetings.

The Oilers (30-17-2, 62 points), who are coming off Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, have won three of four games and possess an outside shot at the North Division title, sitting nine points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs with two games in hand and seven left on the slate.

However, as they ready to face a Canucks squad hoping for a miracle run, the Oilers are more concerned about preparing properly for the upcoming Stanley Cup chase.

“We’ve got to really concentrate on what we’re doing,” coach Dave Tippett said. “You understand where Vancouver’s at and their situation, but we’ve got to go into these games making sure we’re pushing our game ahead.

“Our preparation right now is to get our team playing as well as we can so we can clinch a playoff spot and go into a series playing well.”

After the Oilers and Canucks (19-23-3, 41 points) meet in Vancouver on consecutive nights, they hit the ice for two more games in Edmonton on Thursday and Saturday.

Not only are the Oilers on a roll, but captain Connor McDavid has 87 points in 49 outings and a shot to reach the 100-point mark — no small feat in a normal 82-game season, but a huge achievement in a 56-game schedule.

“Nothing ceases to amaze me with this kid,” goaltender Mike Smith said of McDavid. “It’s incredible how he continues to get better and better. It seems when he gets shut down one game, the next game he’s that much hungrier to get out there and help the team win.”

The Canucks have a crushing schedule — 11 games in 17 days — to make up for a three-week shutdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak that affected them. They are 14 points back of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens with five more games left to play.

A 4-1 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday has the Canucks on a four-game losing streak, all on the road.

“You can tell by how hard they’re playing that they want to win badly,” coach Travis Green said of his team.

Unfortunately, the Canucks look like a team still affected by the virus. They were in step with the Maple Leafs for two periods, but ran out of steam.

“We wanted to come up with at least a win on this road trip, and it is disappointing,” captain Bo Horvat said. “At the same time, we can’t dwell on it and just say we’re going to pack it in. We got to still come to the rink and be willing to play these last 11 games and play hard. I mean, we’re not out of it until we’re mathematically out of it, and as long as you still have a chance, we’ve got to come to the rink every single day and play hard.”

Immediately after their hiatus, the Canucks won three of four games, but have been overmatched every game since.

“I’m not going to sit here and say it’s been a cakewalk, it’s been easy since COVID,” Horvat added. “We’re not trying to make excuses here, but … obviously it takes a lot out of you. … We’ve got to find ways to try to win games, no matter what.”

–Field Level Media

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