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Canucks enter second round as underdogs against Edmonton Oilers

Despite a better regular season record, including a clean sweep of the Edmonton Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks are entering the second round series between the two teams as underdogs.

The Canucks won all four matchups between the two teams this season and outscored the Oilers 21-7, but three of those games came early in the year when Edmonton was struggling.

They have since replaced then-head coach Jay Woodcroft with Kris Knoblauch, who helped them turn their season around.

“I think they’re pretty deep. They can play a physical game. They play a fast game,” said Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov. “They play a good rush game so there is definitely a lot to expect. It’s a big challenge for our group for sure.”

Oilers captain Connor McDavid led all scorers in the opening round of the NHL playoffs as he tallied one goal and 11 assists as his team dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

The team’s second-line centre Leon Draisaitl sits just behind him with ten points, including five goals.

“(The Canucks) played a good series against Nashville. Low scoring,” he said. “You know they’re going to defend well and so are we, so it should be a good series.”

The Canucks outscored the Nashville Predators 13 to 12 in a tight-checking six-game series.

“When you look at how good Edmonton is offensively and how explosive they are, no matter how well the Canucks play defensively, you’d be hard-pressed to think if this series goes six games, they’re going to be able to limit Edmonton to just 12 goals like they did in the last round,” said TSN’s Farhan Lalji.

Injured all-star Thatcher Demko was on the ice at the end of Canucks practice at the University of British Columbia on Monday – but he is not an option for game one.

Expect rookie Arturs Silovs, fresh off a 28-save shutout in the series clinching win against Nashville, to get the starting assignment.

Head coach Rick Tocchet says avoiding unnecessary penalties will be key for his team in this series.

“They’re incredible on the power play and they feed off of turnovers,” Tocchet said. “So, those are two things we have to be good at.”

The Canucks and the Oilers are the last two Canadian teams standing and whichever wins this series will keep their hopes alive for ending this nation’s 31-year Stanley Cup drought.

The 1993 Montreal Canadiens are the last team from north of the border to win the cup.

Game 1 and 2 are Wednesday and Friday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver before the series shifts to Edmonton.

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