A matchup with a last-place team, which is perhaps lacking motivation with the season winding down, gives the Vancouver Canucks a good chance to build a cushion in the Northwest Division. The Edmonton Oilers seem particularly vulnerable right now.
The Canucks, trying to increase their slim lead in the division, look to hand the Oilers a club-record tying 11th straight loss when the teams conclude their season series Monday night.
Vancouver (43-23-6) is trying to stay ahead of surging Minnesota, which doesn’t play until Tuesday night against Phoenix. The Canucks remained a point ahead of the Wild with a 4-1 win Saturday night against Detroit, which came in as the NHL leader with 99 points.
“It was a good statement game that we match up against anybody in this league,” Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo said.
The Canucks will now face an Oilers (30-35-7) team that is last in the Northwest Division and a loss away from tying the franchise record for consecutive defeats in a single season, set from Oct 16-Nov. 7, 1993.
Vancouver has also won four straight against Edmonton and is 5-2-0 in the series this season. The Canucks have outscored the Oilers 19-9 during their run, with Edmonton going 0-for-20 on the power play.
Vancouver is 7-1-1 in its last nine games despite finishing 0-for-9 with the man advantage in a penalty-filled game Saturday.
The Canucks were having problems holding onto late-game leads before shutting down Detroit for the final two periods. Luongo made 14 of his 32 saves in the third before Trevor Linden scored into an empty net with 1:26 left.
Vancouver had surrendered two-goal leads in its last two games and the Red Wings came in with the most third-period goals in the NHL.
“We didn’t sit back as much as we have in the past,” said Canucks center Brendan Morrison, who had a short-handed goal late in the second to make it 3-1. “It was a good test, we got to challenge ourselves and answer some questions about playing a full 60 minutes and we did.”
The Oilers’ latest loss was 3-2 in overtime against St. Louis on Saturday night.
Injuries have been a factor in Edmonton’s struggles, considering it is missing 11 players. The Oilers had just four defenseman for most of Saturday’s game after Ladislav Smid suffered bruised ribs and didn’t return. His status for Monday’s game is uncertain.
“It has not been an easy time by any stretch of the imagination,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. “I don’t think any team could overcome the amount of injuries that we have had.”
Horcoff has three goals in his last five games against Vancouver.