The effort was there on Saturday night, and the Edmonton Oilers nearly completed the craziest comeback of the season, but there were no points to be had for the home team. Tonight, the Oilers return to business in what is likely the last call for their playoff hopes. A win wasn’t expect on Saturday against an elite team. It will be expected tonight against a rebuilding team that has already sold off.
This is the third game of a four game home-stand for the Oilers, and opens a very important week. To put it politely, the four points at stake tonight and on Wednesday have to be had. They are there for the taking against weaker teams. It’s time to get down to business and make it happen. If not, the playoff dream truly dies.
No confirmation from the Oil, but Mikko Koskinen is expected to start after missing Saturday’s game with the flu. New York, meanwhile, is expected to turn to Henrik Lundqvist.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: The Oil have to get back to that strong team game they were playing prior to that loss to the Leafs. They were hard on pucks, staying within the system and converting on their chances. Toronto is an elite team and it can be easy to get overmatched by them. The Rangers are not that team, and battling hard and staying within the system very well could be enough tonight.
New York: I felt like Edmonton really struggled to handle the constant controlled entries into the zone by the Maple Leafs. If I were the Rangers, I’d be focusing on that and trying to replicate those issues for the Oil. Carry possession into the offensive zone and try to force the Edmonton defense on their heels.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: I’m going with a different approach here and choosing two players. Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell have been a complete disaster together all season long. Coaches love them together, but they struggle mightily when it comes to transitioning the puck. It’s a problem. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them tonight as they try and show better against a depleted Ranger team.
New York: Mika Zibanejad doesn’t get a ton of press because his team is bad, but he’s developed into a true star the last two seasons. Now clearly the best player on the Rangers, Zibanejad is their crown jewel up front as the Rangers rebuild. He’s one of the few players in this forward group worth keeping a close eye on.
Milan Lucic will not be ready to go tonight, and will miss his second straight game with a rumored hip issue. Lucic is expected to return to practice tomorrow and play Wednesday night against the Devils. Ty Rattie will come out in favor of Brad Malone, while Alex Petrovic and Kevin Gravel sit once again.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Sam Gagner
Tobias Rieder – Colby Cave – Alex Chiasson
Brad Malone – Kyle Brodziak – Josh Currie
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
The Rangers moved out core veterans Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes prior to the deadline, and also shipped out veteran D Adam McQuaid. Brendan Lemieux, acquired from Winnipeg, and Boo Nieves (AHL recall) are among the new faces for Oiler fans tonight.
New York Rangers Lines:
Vladislav Namestnikov – Mika Zibanejad – Filip Chytil
Chris Kreider – Ryan Strome – Jesper Fast
Brendan Lemieux – Brett Howden – Pavel Buchnevich
Jimmy Vesey – Lias Andersson – Boo Nieves
Kevin Shattenkirk – Brady Skjei
Brendan Smith – Anthony DeAngelo
Libor Hajek – Neal Pionk
This is the second and final meeting on the season between the sides, who met back in October at Madison Square Garden. Edmonton’s 2-1 victory in the contest was their first of the season, and kicked off a three-game winning streak in mid-October. The Oil will be hoping for a similar result and fallout.
The Metropolitan Division hasn’t exactly been kind to the Oil this season. Edmonton is just 5-6-2 against the Metro on the year, most recently shutting out Columbus 4-0 on March 2nd. The Oilers, with wins tonight and Wednesday, can jump to over .500 against the division this season.
The Oilers’ win in October snapped a five-game losing streak against the Rangers, who the Oil haven’t defeated in Edmonton since December 11, 2015. The Rangers are 2-0-0 all-time at Rogers Place, and have won 18 games in Edmonton since the Oilers joined the NHL in 1979.
It won’t be easy, the Rangers have been playing quite hard lately too, but this is a game the Oilers absolutely should win at home. They’ll take care of business, sweeping the season series on the strength on a 4-2 victory.