EDMONTON — With two straight wins, playoff fever has gripped Edmonton but, for the Oilers, the more important development has been finding something the Vancouver Canucks don’t have: A healthy and stable lineup.
“There’s some confidence in the group,” Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said in advance of Saturday night’s game against the Canucks. “Tonight, it must be more about us than them.”
With the NHL now officially in its stretch run, the Oilers have all their young guns available and they’ve offered a glimpse of what this team might be in a few years.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has five points in his last three games. Jordan Eberle has three goals in his last two outings. Taylor Hall has two goals and three assist over the last three games.
“There’s never been a question about their talent up front,” said Canucks goalie Cory Schneider. “I don’t know what their totals are like for goals scored, but every time we see them they’re dangerous.”
The Oilers will start tonight’s game with Nugent-Hopkins centering Hall and Eberle; Sam Gagner between Magnus Paajarvi and Ales Hemsky; Shawn Horcoff betwent Ryan Jones and Nail Yakupov; and franchise icon Ryan Smyth centering former Canuck Mike Brown and Lennart Petrell.
Krueger said the key for the Oilers is establishing a four-line game with pace from everyone in the lineup.
“We need to use our bench but our players decide that,” Krueger said.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal for the Oilers. The Oil were three points back of the eighth-place St. Louis Blues in the West before Saturday night’s games.
KASSIAN GOOD TO GO?
Zack Kassian has been cleared by Canucks’ medical staff to play in Edmonton Saturday night.
The Canucks’ winger now has to clear himself.
At the morning skate in Edmonton, head coach Alain Vigneault said Kassian would be a game-time decision for tonight’s game against the Oilers.
Kevin Bieksa, who’s been battling a tender groin, will be available. Keith Ballard, who suffered a hairline fracture in his foot, will be out tonight and Monday in San Jose.