Oilers looking to playoffs, Canucks aiming to finish strong

NHL Hockey

Their next game is against the Vancouver Canucks, but it’s obvious the Edmonton Oilers are looking further into the future.

As the Oilers (35-18-2, 72 points) finish their regular season with Saturday afternoon’s home clash against the Canucks (21-28-3, 45 points), they have an eye on what’s coming — their opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

The Oilers open what they hope to be a long playoff run on Wednesday when they face the Winnipeg Jets. That’s the same day the Canucks’ season mercifully comes to a close against the Calgary Flames.

Edmonton is assured of finishing second in the North Division, and captain Connor McDavid will officially win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer.

McDavid has recorded seven consecutive multi-point games, a stretch in which he’s collected five goals and 20 points. McDavid has run away with the scoring title, having posted 104 points in 55 games. With 71 assists, he’s the first player to record 70 helpers in 55 or fewer games since Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins had 70 assists through 50 games in 1995-96.

One question going forward is whether the Oilers will put McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together to start the playoffs or put them on separate lines to provide more scoring depth.

“We’ve talked about Connor and Leon and where they play for a long time now. It’s situationally motivated,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “Sometimes it is within the game, where things aren’t going the way you want them to. You want to change the rhythm, there’s match-up stuff, lots of factors. It’s who’s playing with them if they’re apart and how they’re playing. It’s not a game-by-game thing, it really can be within the game.”

The Canucks head to Edmonton with just two wins in their last 11 outings and could finish as low as 29th in the 31-team league. Because of their three-week pause due to a COVID-19 outbreak, they will be playing regular-season games after the playoffs have already started, finishing the season with five games on seven nights.

They face the Calgary Flames in each of their last three games (Sunday and Tuesday in Vancouver, Wednesday in Calgary). The fifth-place Flames are also mathematically out of the playoffs.

“It’ll be different for sure,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “Whenever you’re out of the payoffs, it’s about getting the most out of your group, especially the veteran guys. We’ve talked to our group about what’s expected.”

And what’s expected is to give their best. Amid the outbreak, the Canucks were also beset with injuries, and their depleted lineup has struggled, rushing to make up games and finish the season with 19 games in 31 days.

It’s to the point they see Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Flames as a step forward from some recent outings.

“I’m encouraged by our group,” defenseman Tyler Myers said. “Obviously, we’re going through a tough stretch right now. We don’t want to make any excuses, but we’re battling hard. We’re still battling even though we’re out of it with a lot of guys out of the lineup right now. We’re still taking a lot of pride in these last few games and will continue that going into Edmonton.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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