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Game Day Preview- Game 1: Canucks @ Edmonton

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The 50th season of this godforsaken team is upon us. Celebrate, or commiserate as you see fit while we watch them start the year in Albertabama.

Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers

VANCOUVER CANUCKS @ EDMONTON OILERS

7:00PM PST ROGERS PLACE, EDMONTON, AB

TV: SN, SN360 RADIO: SN650

OPPOSITION BLOG: The Copper And Blue

It simply doesn’t feel right that this season is about to start without Jason Botchford. I find myself waiting for him to let us all know what this team is doing right and what they’re doing wrong, because I still can’t accept he’s gone. If there’s any justice in this world, he’ll somehow know when this team finally releases the fans from their misery and raises the Cup. This season is dedicated to you, Jason. We miss you.

The rosters are set, and now we can see what this team is made of as the Canucks begin Season 50 tonight with a game against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. Two teams with high expectations and fan bases that are tired of losing, but taking different paths. The Canucks made a number of personnel changes this off season, bringing in players they hope will address specific needs, while rewarding the GM who hasn’t seen them make the playoffs 4 years straight with a new deal. The Oilers meanwhile have a new GM in Ken Holland, a new coach in Dave Tippett, and apart from a couple player moves don’t really appear, on paper at least, to be any better than last year’s version.

To get some insight on tonight’s contest, we chatted with Preston Hodgkinson from our pals over at Copper And Blue about the Oilers:

1. The Oilers are starting the year with a new GM in Ken Holland, a new coach in Dave Tippett and some notable roster changes. Are these changes going to result in success, either now or down the road?

The changes made to the team are largely focused on short-term success, as the majority of Holland’s additions were brought in on 1-year deals. That being said I think that the changes were not enough to guarantee the Oilers a better season than they did last year. Their main concern entering the summer was to bring in a few top 6 wingers to surround McDavid and RNH with, but the only player that comes close to being that is James Neal, who is coming off the worst season of his career. In terms of Tippett, there is hope in Edmonton that he can remedy our defensive zone play...but that remains to be seen.

2. There’s a narrative going around the league that the Oilers are wasting Connor McDavid’s prime years. Is this just a case of people taking easy shots at a struggling team, or something they need to address?

It is absolutely a valid narrative and Edmonton Oiler fans should be terrified about it. Connor McDavid is a generational talent and it is up to management to surround him with the best team possible and to, one day, win a cup with him as our leader. The recent years of Peter Chiarelli has decimated his supporting cast and now he is expected to the tow the line with little to no help. Supporting McDavid should be near the top of Ken Holland’s to-do list.

3. The biggest moves for the Oilers in the offseason besides behind the bench and in the front office has to be Milan Lucic leaving and the signing of James Neal. Can Neal make a difference, and will they even miss Lucic?

As I mentioned, Neal will get every chance to succeed in the top 6 of the Oilers lineup and I anticipate that he will be a difference-maker. Edmonton has lacked a pure-shooter like Neal for quite some-time and I think he will benefit playing alongside playmakers like RNH, McDavid and Draisaitl. Milan Lucic, who has been regressing at an unprecedented rate, will not be missed at all.

4. Goaltending was definitely an issue last season. Can Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen get them through to the postseason?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Goalies, no matter how good or bad they have been in the past, are always wildcards entering the season. Koskinen has a lot of issues to work on and having a motivated veteran like Mike Smith might allow him to get some more time in practice to refine his game. Smith is coming off a terrible season in Calgary but looked better as the season came to a close. I want to say that, If all goes well, this tandem can get them into the playoffs but it is unlikely.

5. Anyone we’re not familiar with that we should be keeping an eye on tonight?

Joakim Nygard is one of the most interesting guys on the roster at the moment. He came over from the SHL after being the league’s leading scorer and he is an absolutely speed demon. I expect that he will get time with either McDavid or RNH and it will be interesting to see how he performs with those players. He only got better as the preseason went on and many people around the team are expecting him to pot 10-15 goals this year.

Thanks to Preston for taking the time to answer these for us, and you can follow him on Twitter @NHLHodgkinson

LINEUPS: This is likely what we’ll see from the Oilers tonight...

And the Canucks should be putting this lineup out, but it should be noted that there was a lot of shuffling going on with the bottom 6, including Gaudette on the wing.

We’ll update any changes through the course of the day. The starters tonight should be Mike Smith for the Oilers and Jacob Markstrom for the Canucks.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Kicking off things this season with some more must-hear metal, I am thrilled to offer the opening night slot to a Canucks fan and good friend. Justin Pierrot is the one man metal wrecking crew known as STORMLAND. He’s got a new ep coming out on Bandcamp this month of his Gundam-themed death metal called Incident Report: UC-0791227. In the meantime, here’s a track off his 2018 release ‘Songs Of Future Wars’. Follow him on Twitter @stormlandbrand and support local metal!