For those in the Canucks Community who are prowling around the Fan Zone blogs on this Friday evening, here's a sneak peek at the scouting report against the Oilers. Don't forget to read the entire Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview on Saturday.
After a solid start to the season, Pat Quinn's crew has run into some pretty hard times over the last month.
Heading into their last meeting with the Canucks back on October 25th, the Oilers had a record of 6-3-1, sat third in the Northwest Division, and had a three point lead over the Canucks after the same number of games played. Since then, including their 2-0 loss to the Canucks on October 25th, the Oilers have just four wins in 16 games (4-9-3) and find themselves sitting two points back of the Canucks despite having played two more games in the meantime.
While no team will use injuries as an excuse for poor play, the Oilers might have a legitimate reason to want to curse the hockey gods. No fewer than 18 different players have missed games due to injuries this season for the Oilers, who lead the NHL in man-games lost. The crowded sickbay in Edmonton received yet another body yesterday after it was announced that Ales Hemsky, the Oilers' second leading point scorer on the season, will be requiring shoulder surgery and likely out the rest of the season.
Goal scoring has been one of the stronger points for the Oilers so far this season and they have certainly gotten a lot of offensive contribution up and down their lineup with 17 different players having scored for Edmonton this season. What they'll be looking for, however, is some more consistent performances from some of their young superstars.
With Hemsky out of the lineup, the Oilers have just one active player with more than 20 points this season (Dustin Penner with 28 points). As far as forwards go, Gilbert Brule and Sam Gagner are the next leading active point producers with 15 points each in 23 and 25 games played, respectively.
Another bright spot for the Oilers is that their back-end, thankfully if you're an Oilers fan, is as healthy as it has been in the past two seasons with Denis Grebeshkov being the lone top-six blue-liner currently out with injury. They are still missing starting netminder Nikolai Khabibulin and his absence has clearly been felt with the Oilers having given up three-or-more goals in four of their last five games coinciding with the time that Khabibulin has been out of the lineup.
Back-up goaltender Jeff Deslauriers has at least shown he is capable of picking up some points in the standings for Edmonton. He has started the last five straight games and has posted a 2-2-1 record so far in his stint as number one goalie (3-3-2 overall). The Canucks certainly remember Deslauriers being at his best back on October 25th when he made 27 saves on 29 shots in a losing effort for the Oilers.
Deslauriers has actually posted better numbers than Khabibulin so far in the young season. He comes into tonight's contest with a 2.58 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He also owns Edmonton's lone shutout of the season.
For the complete Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview, click here. (updated on the morning of each game)