Bring 'em on!

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

The Vancouver Canucks begin their seven-game exhibition schedule tonight in Edmonton against the Oilers.

The results mean nothing, but the minutes mean everything to some of the players who are jockeying for National Hockey League jobs.

The Canucks are seeking blue-line replacements for veteran defensemen Brent Sopel and Marek Malik. Sopel went to the New York Islanders in a trade while Malik joined the New York Rangers as a free agent.

"We're deeper in the back end in terms of prospects than we are in the front," said general manager Dave Nonis.

Trail's Steve McCarthy, an ex-Chicago Blackhawk, Manitoba Moose Nolan Baumgartner and ex-Washington Capital Jason Doig are three of the most-likely candidates. Even Canucks' 2005 first round draft pick Luc Bourdon has an outside chance.

"He'll be given that opportunity," Nonis said. "It's still difficult for an 18-year-old to have an impact in the league, but he has been good."

Centre Fedor Fedorov, who had a goal and two assists in Sunday's scrimmage at General Motors Place, is showing marked improvement.

"He's worked harder than any previous camp," Nonis said. "Whether or not it's enough we'll find out in the next three weeks."

Meanwhile, goaltenders Alex Auld and Brent Johnson are vying to be Dan Cloutier's backup.

Canucks return home Friday to host the San Jose Sharks Saturday against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The National Hockey League season opens Oct. 5.


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