The Edmonton Oilers aren’t making up much ground in the standings, in fact they are in the exact same spot as they were just one week ago. That said, the Oilers are certainly playing better and finally playing like a team on a nightly basis. Is it enough to save this season? Probably not, but it is certainly something to build off of for next campaign.
Tonight, the Oil look to sweep the Sabres and complete a 3-1-1 road trip. A win tonight would edge Edmonton to six points out of a playoff spot with a butter soft schedule the rest of the way. This is one the Oil need to have, especially considering how well they played Saturday.
Mikko Koskinen is back in goal after blanking the Blue Jackets Saturday, while Linus Ullmark gets the nod for Buffalo.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: I thought Saturday was, by far, the best showing of the season by the Oilers. There were no passengers, everyone was working, and everyone stayed within the system. That is the kind of team game the Oil need to bring to the table every night. Do that and they’ll walk out of Buffalo with two more points in the standings.
Buffalo: I thought the Sabres did a horrible job of keeping Edmonton out of the high-danger areas during their first meeting a month ago. Although the Sabres carried possession most of the night (Hello, score effects), I thought Edmonton was able to walk into the slot and in front of the net with ease. Buffalo has to tighten up tonight if they want a chance.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Alex Chiasson is finally back on the scoresheet thanks to his goal in Columbus on Saturday. Can the man dubbed “the answer” in the early portions of the season get back to filling the net? If he can, the Oil might just make this last month interesting. He’s worth keeping an eye on tonight for that reason alone.
Buffalo: The Sabres aren’t going to be contending for the Cup this spring, but that didn’t stop them from moving a first-round pick for D Brandon Montour. The former Ducks’ defender has struggled mightily this season, but he’s still extremely skilled and is a perfect fit for the modern game. I’ll be watching to see how he fits with his new team.
Kyle Brodziak drew back into the lineup on Saturday afternoon and we are expecting him to be in tonight as well. That would mean Brad Malone is the healthy scratch up front, with Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi on IR. Alex Petrovic and Kevin Gravel will sit on defense.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Alex Chiasson
Tobias Rieder – Colby Cave – Josh Currie
Ty Rattie – Kyle Brodziak – Sam Gagner
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
The Sabres remained quiet at the deadline, keeping pending UFA Jeff Skinner while trading for D Brandon Montour. I was a little surprised that veteran Jason Pominville stuck around as well, he seemed like a prime trade candidate.
Buffalo Sabres Lines:
Jeff Skinner – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Conor Sheary – Evan Rodrigues – Kyle Okposo
Scott Wilson – Casey Mittelstadt – Jason Pominville
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Tage Thompson
Marco Scandella – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Zach Bogosian
Matt Hunwick – Brandon Montour
The dynamic duo continues to do things not seen in decades in Edmonton. With both McDavid and Draisaitl now over 80 points, they’ve become the first set of Oilers to hit the mark in the same season since Vinny Damphousse and Joe Murphy did so during the 1991-92 campaign.
Draisaitl, who scored his 40th goal of the season Saturday, has joined some more rarefied air. He’s just the second Oiler to hit the mark (McDavid) since Petr Klima did so during the 1990-91 season. Stick taps to Jack Michaels for those stats.
The Oilers have dropped each of their last two visits to Buffalo, falling 4-3 in overtime on 12/6/16 before dropping a wildly disappointing 3-1 decision on 11/24/17. The Oil will be looking to build off of their 7-2 drubbing of the Sabres on 1/12/19 by winning consecutive games against them for the first time since the 2015-16 season, when they also swept the series.
The Sabres have a lot of talent at the top of their roster, and then not much after that. Sound familiar? They are also like Edmonton a month ago in the sense that as soon as things look grim, the Sabres fold.
The Oil are playing well right now and seem to be building a belief system. I think that benefits them tonight against a reeling Buffalo squad. Oil complete the season sweep with a 4-1 victory.