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Oilers will face Canucks without Connor McDavid

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday March 30, 2024. (Jason Franson) Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday March 30, 2024. (Jason Franson)
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After clinching home ice for at least their first-round series in the playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers turn their sights on trying to finish in first place in the Pacific Division when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Edmonton (48-24-6, 102 points) trails Vancouver (48-22-9, 105 points) by three points entering the showdown but still has one game in hand on the Canucks.

The Oilers once again will be without reigning Hart Trophy recipient Connor McDavid, who was ruled out against the Canucks.

McDavid has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury sustained when he landed on his right leg near the end of a 4-2 win at Calgary last Saturday. He skated with Edmonton before its loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

"We've been taking it a day at a time, making decisions day to day, and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," McDavid said. "I'm extremely confident it will turn the corner quick. I'll be ready to go."

McDavid ranks third in the NHL in points (130) and needs one assist to become the fourth player in league history to register 100 assists in a season.

"I just want to feel good, I want to feel at my best, and that's not the case tonight," McDavid told reporters before his team's contest versus the Coyotes. "I never want to miss games. I really don't. It's frustrating, but at the end of the day, we're after bigger things here and everyone being healthy is priority No. 1."

Vancouver also could have a key player back for the game. Starting goalie Thatcher Demko, who left a 5-0 victory over Winnipeg on March 9 in the second period with a knee injury, could make his return on Saturday. Demko is 34-13-2 with 2.47 goals-against average and five shutouts.

Demko said the original timeline for his return was Tuesday's game against Calgary. Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet wouldn't rule him out when asked by reporters after practice on Thursday.

"He's ahead of schedule," Tocchet said. "He's looking really good. We're going to go kind of day by day right now."

"Yes I feel fine," Demko said. "I don't know if I'm playing Saturday. And yes, it was a knee injury. ... I'm excited to get back and see what games I can play in."

Tocchet was asked what kind of boost the Canucks would get with Demko's return.

"He's your rock, right?" Tocchet said. "When he does come back obviously it instills confidence."

Vancouver has won all three meetings between the teams thus far this season, with the last being a 6-2 decision on Nov. 6. Six days later, the Oilers fired head coach Jay Woodcroft and replaced him with Kris Knoblauch.

Edmonton has gone a sizzling 45-15-5 since Knoblauch took over.

"They've turned their season around," Tocchet said. "They're humming. It's a good test for us before the playoffs. I find that the guys are excited about this Saturday night game. I really do."

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