Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault feels his team is better with defenseman Sami Salo in the lineup. He'll put that theory to the test when the blueliner makes his return to the ice this evening against the Edmonton Oilers.
Salo has missed the Canucks past six games due to a concussion suffered on a low hit by the Bruins' Brad Marchand back on Jan. 7, a hit that earned Marchand a five-game suspension following a major call for clipping.
Vancouver went a respectable 3-2-1 without Salo, but was in danger of losing three in a row during the regular season for the first time since last January prior to Saturday's 4-3 victory over San Jose. The return of Salo should bring stability to the Canucks' game on the ice.
"When he's in our lineup, our record is much more on the positive side than the negative side," said Vigneault. "That has something to do with him being able to contribute both offensively and defensively. [He's] such a smart player both with and without the puck."
Without Salo, the Canucks gutted out a win over the Sharks thanks to a pair of goals from Cody Hodgson. He has seven goals and seven assists over his past 16 games and ranks fourth among all rookies with 13 goals and 29 points. His effort helped Vancouver win for the first time on its six-game homestand after opening things up with loss to the Ducks and Kings.
"It was a great win for us," Hodgson said following his first career two-goal game. "We haven't been playing the way we wanted to the last couple of games."
Vancouver leads the Northwest Division by eight points over Colorado, but sits five back of Detroit for the lead in both the Western Conference and NHL overall standings.
Edmonton ranks near the bottom of the standings with 40 points, but can win consecutive games tonight for the first time since Nov. 22-25 this evening thanks to last night's 2-1 shootout win over San Jose.
Taylor Hall had the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout and Devan Dubnyk made 44 saves and another three stops in the tiebreaker to help the Oilers snap a three-game slide with just their third win in 19 contests.
"It feels great right now, every win feels good," said Dubnyk. "We need to start having this feeling more and change things in here. But right now we'll take every win we can get."
After being added to the All-Star roster as an injury replacement, Jordan Eberle scored in regulation for Edmonton. He leads the club with 18 goals, 27 assists and 45 points and scored for the first time in three games since returning from a knee injury.
The Oilers have lost five straight and 12 of their past 13 on the road. They split a pair of home games with the Canucks back in October, but dropped a 5-3 decision in Vancouver in the previous meeting on Dec. 26.
The Canucks have won six of their past nine versus the Oilers overall as well as six of seven, eight of 10 and nine of the past 12 encounters in Vancouver.