Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers head to Vancouver
|Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (R) scores against Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo during their NHL hockey game in Edmonton October 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)
While it will be over two weeks until the Oilers next play in Edmonton, at least one skater will feel at home in tonight's road matchup in Vancouver.
British Columbia native and NHL rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins plays his first game at Rogers Arena tonight as the Oilers begin a seven-game road trip versus the Canucks.
With the World Junior Championship taking over the ice at Edmonton's Rexall Place, the Oilers won't play at home again until Jan. 11 in their longest trip of the season. Playing on the road could put Edmonton at a disadvantage heading into the new calendar year as it has lost four straight and eight of its last 10 on the road.
Perhaps Nugent-Hopkins can spark the Oilers tonight. Born in Burnaby, which is located directly east of Vancouver, Nugent-Hopkins leads all rookies with 34 points and netted a hat trick at home versus the Canucks back on Oct. 15.
Vancouver, though, won that meeting 4-3 thanks to pair of goals from defenseman Sami Salo. Edmonton rebounded with a 3-2 home victory 10 days later to win for the third time in the past four encounters overall.
Edmonton's young trio of Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have combined for five goals and seven assists versus the Canucks this year and will try to lead Edmonton to just its third victory in the past 10 trips to Vancouver.
It was Eberle who shined for the Oilers last time out, notching a pair of goals in a 4-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. Lennart Petrell scored shorthanded and Ryan Smyth added a goal.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 30-of-31 shots to post his 11th win of the season and help the Oilers snap a four-game slide.
"Every win brings you some kind of relief. I didn't care what the score ended up being, I just wanted to be able to say that we played well," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault was not a fan of his team's effort in its last game on Friday, a 3-1 loss to the Flames. Vancouver saw its three-game win streak ended with just its fourth loss in the past 16 games.
"We were just terrible. There's no other way to put it," said Vigneault, adding that he was "shocked" by his team's effort.
"You've got a divisional rival coming in, gave our guys a day off [Thursday], I was expecting a lot more and it didn't happen."
Dan Hamhuis scored the lone goal while Roberto Luongo stopped 28-of-30 shots for the Canucks, who played a third straight game without defenseman Keith Ballard due to back spasms and wrap a four-game homestand this evening.
"We obviously weren't good enough tonight to win," Luongo said. "They came in here and played a great road game to come away with two points."
Vancouver still has its sight set on first place in the Northwest Division. It is one point back of Minnesota, which hosts Colorado this evening.