Sidney Crosby Vs. Connor McDavid. Don’t be fooled folks, that is what tonight is all about. It’s the featured game not just in Canada, but is also Wednesday Night Hockey in the United States as well, taking center stage on NBCSN. This game is a big damn deal because it showcases the best two players in the sport. Sit back and enjoy, because you know they’ll both be up to the task.
The Oilers are starting a vital three-game road trip that takes them to Pittsburgh, Carolina and Brooklyn before heading back to Rogers Place. The Oil enter tonight six points back of a playoff spot with two games in hand on Minnesota for the final spot out west. It’s now or never for Edmonton.
Mikko Koskinen makes just his second start since the All-Star break for the Oil, while Matt Murray is back in for the Penguins after a stellar effort in Philadelphia on Monday.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Pace is huge in this game. The Penguins have a great offensive group, but their defense is left lacking right now due to injury, while Murray has struggled at times this season. Attack Pittsburgh’s makeshift defense and the chances should come for you in this one.
Pittsburgh: Play aggressive. The Oilers are prone to taking bad penalties and sometimes even packing it in when things get tough. Play an aggressive style and the Oil are almost guaranteed to make mistakes. Better yet, you’ll probably get some powerplay chances against Edmonton’s horrid PK.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Connor McDavid is the man to watch from the Edmonton side tonight. Let’s be honest, McDavid is at his very best in money games like this one. He’s hungry for a win and maybe even hungrier to finally beat Sid. This is his last shot on the season, and I suspect he does everything possible to get it done.
Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby scored one of the best goals of the season in overtime when these two met the first time. Just as it is with McDavid, Crosby takes it to another level in games like this. You better believe he’ll be ready for this one. I suspect he and McDavid put on an absolute show on this stage.
Andrej Sekera will play tonight in Bakersfield for the Condors and then could rejoin the Oilers on the weekend. As for tonight, Brandon Manning and Kyle Brodziak will both be scratched, while Matt Benning is still injured and won’t be able to go.
Alex Petrovic draws back into the lineup, while Ty Rattie will play after leaving Saturday night’s tilt after blocking a shot.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Jujhar Khaira – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic – Brad Malone – Alex Chiasson
Tobias Rieder – Colby Cave – Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel – Alex Petrovic
The Penguins will be without D’s Olli Maata and Justin Schultz, who are both battling injury, and F Evgeni Malkin as he serves a one-game suspension. The Pens have made some acquisitions since the sides last met, bringing in Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad from Florida in a deal that sent Derick Brassard to Sunrise.
Tanner Pearson (trade from LA), Teddy Blueger (recall from AHL) and Marcus Pettersson (trade from ANA) are among the other new faces in the lineup since the two sides met in late October.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson – Nick Bjugstad – Phil Kessel
Teddy Blueger – Jared McCann – Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese – Matt Cullen – Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Juuso Riikola – Jack Johnson
Marcus Pettersson – Chad Ruhwedel
Better thank a Flyer fan today after Philadelphia scored late to beat Minnesota last night. That means the Oilers enter this road trip six points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand on the Wild. The odds are Edmonton won’t be a playoff team this season, but if they are going to make it happen it has to start right now. This is a vital game.
Seems like we are in for a close game tonight. Each of the last seven meetings between the teams has been a one goal game, with three of the last four needing extra time. The last multi-goal victory? It belongs to the Pens, who beat the Oil 6-4 on March 12, 2015.
The Oilers have really struggled in this series, going 2-5-3 in their last ten. Edmonton last won in Pittsburgh on November 28th, 2015 in a shootout. The last regulation win in this series? January 10th, 2006 in Pittsburgh on the back of a Shawn Horcoff hat-trick.
The Oilers finally, for the first time in over 13 years, defeat the Penguins in regulation time. It’ll be on the strength of another hat-trick, as Connor McDavid erupts with a four point night. The captain sets up a Klefbom powerplay goal in addition to his three goals, as the Oil take it 5-3. Klefbom and Kassian (ENG) get the other tallies.
Crosby makes the highlight reel with a beautiful goal of his own, while Phil Kessel snipes home a pair on the powerplay.