Preview: Canucks at Oilers
Mike Smith doesn't want to see the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers rest on their laurels. Smith and the Oilers hope to continue their good fortune on Saturday when they open a home-and-home series versus the visiting Vancouver Canucks.
While statistics suggest that approximately three-fourths of teams in the postseason picture at American Thanksgiving ultimately punch their ticket to the playoffs, Smith was quick to note that the Oilers have a healthy slate ahead -- namely 55 games remaining on their schedule. "I don't think it means much," the 37-year-old Smith said. "Where we are at in the standings is a bar we've set for now. It'll be difficult, going forward, to stay there. Every team now is looking at the standings, seeing where teams are and where they need to be." Vancouver, which dropped a season-opening 3-2 decision to Edmonton on Oct. 2, fell for the ninth time in 12 outings after surrendering six goals in the third period of Wednesday's 8-6 loss at Pittsburgh. "It's unfortunate," Canucks coach Travis Green said. "This could've been one of our best wins of the year and it turns into a loss that hurts. That really stings."
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver), Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, CBC (Edmonton)
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (12-10-4): Reigning Calder Trophy recipient Elias Pettersson scored for the fifth time in eight games on Wednesday to boost his point total to 25 (nine goals, 16 assists) in his last 19 contests. Fellow forward J.T. Miller tallied twice to claim the team lead in goals with 12, increase his point streak to four games (four goals, two assists) and lift his point total to 18 (eight goals, 10 assists) in his last 18. The 26-year-old Miller set up a goal by Alex Edler in the season opener, accounting for the defenseman's team-leading 31st point (nine goals, 22 assists) in 59 career games against Edmonton.
ABOUT THE OILERS (16-8-3): Leon Draisaitl collected a goal and two assists in the first encounter versus Vancouver and captain Connor McDavid also tallied in that contest, but the latter saw his 11-point streak (12 goals, 12 assists) come to a halt in Wednesday's 4-1 loss against Colorado. Former top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely will join the top-flight duo on the ice as early as next week after undergoing a procedure on a hand injury he sustained in a 4-2 victory versus Vegas last Saturday. "It's been a little bit of a nagging thing for a few weeks," coach Dave Tippett said of the 26-year-old British Columbia native. "We decided it was the right time to make sure we took care of it. Hopefully, a week or 10 days will do that."
1. Vancouver D Quinn Hughes, who set up a goal against Edmonton last month, has nine assists in his last six games.
2. Oilers D Kris Russell is trending toward playing on Saturday after sustaining a lacerated ear against the Avalanche, per Tippett.
3. Canucks G Jacob Markstrom sports a 7-5-2 record in 14 career encounters with Edmonton.
PREDICTION: Canucks 3, Oilers 2