The Edmonton Oilers are on the road again, this time travelling out east for a road trip that takes them through Buffalo, Boston, Toronto and Montreal. Tonight, the Oilers and Sabres conclude their two-game season series in New York.
The Sabres took the first meeting between these teams 3-2 in overtime last month at Rogers Place. The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Edmonton stormed back to force overtime. The Oilers are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since late November. They defeated the Rangers 7-5 on Tuesday night.
Mike Smith starts for the Oilers, while Linus Ullmark gets the nod for the Sabres.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Better attention to defensive detail. The Oilers jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Tuesday night and then went into a tailspin. They didn’t protect the puck, they were chasing and, worst of all, they didn’t hold their defensive assignments. It almost cost them two points. The Oilers need a much better effort tonight against this Sabres team. They have weapons that can and will burn you.
Buffalo: Forget about it. The Sabres weren’t as lucky as the Oilers on Tuesday night. Buffalo led 4-1 against Tampa Bay late into the second period, but lost 6-4 after a disastrous final 27 minutes. The Sabres quickly need to put Tuesday’s defeat behind them and move on. Don’t let things linger.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected four points (1-3-4) on Tuesday night in Edmonton’s victory. It was one of his better games of the season as the Oilers put Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins on separate lines. Is this the start of a quality stretch for RNH? The Oilers desperately need that to be the case.
Buffalo: Oilers fans did not get a chance to see Rasmus Dahlin last month. Tonight, they will. Dahlin is one of the best young defensemen in hockey and has a mesmerizing combination of speed and skill. He’s absolutely worth your time and attention tonight.
One big change up front for the Oilers as Sam Gagner comes out for Alex Chiasson. Patrick Russell remains scratched up front while Draisaitl shifts to the wing. Caleb Jones again sits on the blueline. Oscar Klefbom, injured on Tuesday night, remains in the lineup. A welcomed sign for Oilers fans.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Leon Draisaitl – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
Joakim Nygard – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Jujhar Khaira – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Oscar Klefbom – Ethan Bear
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
The Sabres are currently without sniper Jeff Skinner (upper-body) and veteran two-way forward Vladimir Sobotka. Matt Hunwick and Tage Thompson are also banged up and won’t go tonight. Evan Rodrigues has requested a trade.
Buffalo Sabres Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Marcus Johansson – Rasmus Asplund – Conor Sheary
Dalton Smith – Curtis Lazar – Jimmy Vesey
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Brandon Montour
Marco Scandella – Henri Jokiharju
Kailer Yamamoto scored the last goal of the decade for both the Oilers and the NHL on Tuesday night. His empty netter to seal things officially became the final goal of the 2010’s. Shawn Horcoff scored the final goal of the 2000’s, giving the Oilers the last goal in each of the last two decades. Robert Nilsson scored the club’s first goal of the 2010’s.
“We want to have the same start to the new year as we did to the start of the season,” James Neal told the club’s official website. The Oilers started the season by winning five in a row. They haven’t had a true winning streak of three or more games since then.
The Oilers are just 2-4-1 against the Atlantic Division this season. They defeated the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens, both at home. Their only road game against the Atlantic came in October when the Oilers lost to the Red Wings in Detroit. They’ll visit the Sabres, Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs on this trip.