Oilers-Canucks Preview

The Associated Press

There's plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the Vancouver Canucks, from the health of their leading goal scorer to the identity of their first-round playoff opponent to exactly what they'll have an opportunity to clinch Saturday night.

They can, however, secure the top seed in the Western Conference - if they don't have it already - as they close the regular season against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

Vancouver (50-22-9) will open the postseason at Rogers Arena next week, with Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix all still possibilities to be on the visiting bench.

Depending on an earlier result, the Canucks may have a chance to win their second straight Presidents' Trophy. They are tied with the East-leading New York Rangers, but they would lose the tiebreaker, meaning the Rangers could clinch it by beating Washington.

If St. Louis beats Dallas, Vancouver needs at least one point to clinch the top seed in the West. The Canucks could have controlled their own destiny for the NHL's top spot as well if they hadn't allowed three goals in the third period of a 3-2 loss at Calgary on Thursday.

"That's not the be-all, end-all, to win the Presidents' Trophy," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We're trying to win our conference, which we're in good shape still. We want to finish our last game against Edmonton, finish on a good note there, and you never know what's going to happen with New York.

"We take care of our end ... we'll be happy."

Roberto Luongo is expected to be in net Saturday and in Game 1 of the playoffs, although Cory Schneider has prompted chatter of a possible goaltending controversy by going 13-3-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average since Christmas.

Luongo probably wouldn't mind a confidence-boosting performance after going 3-3-1 with a 3.41 GAA in his last nine starts. He was pulled from his most recent outing Tuesday against Anaheim after yielding four goals on 15 shots.

Schneider, a former Boston College star who has a rooting interest in the NCAA title game Saturday night, came in and stopped all nine shots he faced in a 5-4 shootout win.

That was the Canucks' seventh straight victory. The loss at Calgary was their first defeat since March 21 at Chicago, where Daniel Sedin - the team leader with 30 goals - suffered a concussion. Sedin's status for the postseason remains unclear.

They may not have much trouble against Edmonton (32-39-10) without him. They've won four of five meetings this season and seven of eight at home in the series, and Luongo is 11-2-1 with a 1.91 GAA versus the Oilers in Vancouver.

Edmonton is 8-2-2 in its last 12 on the road after losing 15 of its previous 16 away from home, but it dropped its home finale Thursday, 3-2 in overtime to Anaheim. Coach Tom Renney wasn't thrilled about Ryan Getzlaf's unassisted game-winning goal.

"Until we get deeper and have more firepower and some different ways to win, we are going to have to play smart, really intelligent hockey that doesn't give the opponent too much and gives us a chance to sting you with a quick strike," Renney said. "We'll get there and it will be fun to watch when we do. But you aren't going to win in this game if you don't defend properly and pay attention to detail."

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