Availability of Adam Henrique for Canucks series up in the air for Oilers

The absence of Adam Henrique has had a negative impact so far versus the Canucks, but there is still uncertainty on when he will return for the Oilers.
San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers
San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

It's been a tough slog so far for the Edmonton Oilers versus the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the playoffs. Kris Knoblauch's team has been the second-best team, although they should arguably still be leading the series entering Tuesday night's pivotal game four meeting, by virtue of giving up a three-goal advantage during the series opener at Rogers Arena.

Regardless, the Oilers dare not lose game four at home and face the prospect of returning to Vancouver down three games to one in the series. One key will be getting better play between the pipes, whether Stuart Skinner remains as the starter or Calvin Pickard gets an opportunity.

Another key is the availability of Adam Henrique, who has proved to be an excellent addition to the top six since he arrived in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks (via the Tampa Bay Lightning). Unfortunately for the Oilers, he has had little influence on the series against the Canucks up to this point.

Henrique sustained an ankle injury in the series-clinching 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. As a result, he has only been able to play in one of the three games played so far versus the Canucks, and it is no coincidence it was the one game the Oilers actually managed to win.

Not the same without Henrique in the lineup

Certainly the Oilers have missed the 34-year-old's physical presence, as the Canucks have been the more aggressive side, whether it be within the boundaries of the game or overstepping what is considered acceptable. Consider that he led all Oilers players in hits during the first round against the Kings, with 22. (Zach Hyman was second with 19, while Evander Kane was third with 17.)

In reality though, it was clear during game two's 4-3 overtime win that Henrique was not his usual self. He only saw 11:38 of ice time and had minimal impact, as evidenced by failing to register even a single hit versus the Canucks.

Knoblauch was asked if the veteran forward had suffered a setback, which resulted in the decision not to play him in game three. Speak to the media on Monday afternoon, the Oilers coach said: "he's still day-to-day. I'm not sure about setback, or just maybe not quite as good as we thought he was going to be. I know during game (two) we needed him to play, we wanted him to play, he felt comfortable playing. (However), as the game went on, you know it's a little bit different playing the game where there's contact and physicality. As opposed to going out on the ice by yourself, doing some skating drills, and he probably just wasn't quite ready."

This of course leads to the question of Henrique's availability for Tuesday night at Rogers Place. Knoblauch said: "Possibly game four, maybe five. We'll see."

This response from Knoblauch is not particularly encouraging for fans, with the teams needing every edge they can to muster to get back into the series versus the Canucks. These are desperate times for the Oilers, despite having arguably the strongest roster of the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era in Edmonton.

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However, it doesn't matter how strong your roster is, if key personnel such as Henrique is missing; yes the Oilers can still win, but they stand a better chance with him in the lineup. In a lot of respects, their salary cap situation for next season makes it almost a case of now or never for McDavid and company, and fans will be hoping Henrique can still play a key role in the outcome of this second round series against the Canucks.

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