After a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime defeat in Buffalo, the Oilers shipped up to Boston and will battle the Bruins this morning at TD Garden. It is the first of two meetings on the season between the sides, who finish things up in Edmonton next month. The sides split the series a season ago, with the home team winning both tilts.
The Oilers blew a 2-0 lead on Thursday night, and lost their second 2-1 lead after two periods in four games. The Oilers have led after two periods in three of their last four games, but have really struggled to get points. It doesn’t get any easier against the Atlantic Division’s best team.
Mikko Koskinen starts for the Oilers, while Jaroslav Halak gets the go for the Bruins.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: I don’t care how cliche it is, the Oilers need a full 60 minutes today. The Bruins are an elite team and they absolutely will make you pay if you make any kind of mistakes. The Oilers cannot afford to be careless with the puck or take their foot off the gas. It has to be full steam ahead for 60 full minutes.
Boston: Avoid a special teams battle. Yes, the Bruins are a solid powerplay and penalty kill team, but Edmonton has them beat in both areas. The big difference between these two teams? The Bruins are an elite five-on-five team. The Oilers? Not so much. Keep this game five-on-five and the Bruins should have their way.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Connor McDavid hasn’t been himself lately. The captain has hadn’t a signature moment in a few weeks and has been radiating frustration. It feels like it is a matter of time before he has a big night. McDavid finally started to figure the Bruins out last season. I suspect that trend continues in this contest.
Boston: David Pastrnak is currently the NHL’s best goal scorer. The first to reach 30 goals on the season, Pasta has had a sensational season on Boston’s top line. His shot might just be the best in the NHL and presents all sorts of challenges for a goaltending duo in Edmonton that is struggling to stop shots right now.
Kris Russell did not skate on Friday at Boston University but is expected to play. Caleb Jones, Patrick Russell and Sam Gagner are the healthy scratches as the Oilers keep the same lineup as Thursday.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – 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
Joakim Nordstrom (doctor’s appointment), Brad Marchand (illness) and Zdeno Chara (illness) all missed practice on Friday but are expected to play. David Backes and Danton Heinen are out up front, while Connor Clifton (upper-body) is out defensively.
Boston Bruins Lines:
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork – Par Lindholm – Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
John Moore – Matt Grzelcyk
Its dynamic duo Vs. dynamic duo. Connor McDavid (64) and Leon Draisaitl (63) meet Brad Marchand (59) and David Pastrnak (60). That group of four players represents four of the NHL’s five leading point producers. Only Nathan MacKinnon, who is third with 62 points, won’t be in the building on Saturday. You want star power? You got star power today.
“We seem to put our best foot forward when we play tough opponents. We’ve proven that this year,” Zack Kassian said at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University on Friday. “I expect nothing less.”
“You got to keep doing things well that have got you the lead,” Dave Tippett told the team’s website. “There’s no mindset of backing off but it’s more the mindset to sustain the pressure and keep doing things that you were doing. That’s hard. You got to keep going hard all the time. You can’t take your foot off the gas.”