The Edmonton Oilers conclude their five-game road trip tonight when they visit the rival Calgary Flames. It is the second of five meetings this season between the rivals, who met in Edmonton on December 27th. The Flames dominated that game at Rogers Place, claiming an easy two points.
The Oilers are 4-0-1 in their last five games, and have won three straight for the first time since October. They completed the comeback in Montreal on Thursday, defeating the Canadiens 4-2 after trailing 2-0.The Oilers have also defeated the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs on this trip.
Mikko Koskinen starts for the Oilers, while Cam Talbot gets the nod for the Flames.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: An urgent start is a must for the Oilers. They were trailing on the 27th before they even settled into the game, and shortly after that it was 2-0. The Flames are playing good hockey and will make you pay if you show up late. The Oilers need the same start they got in Toronto and Boston if they want to even the Battle of Alberta tonight.
Calgary: Play physical. The Flames, especially Matthew Tkachuk, have a knack for getting under the skin of their opponent. The Oilers have been thrown off their game before by the Flames pests. If the Flames want to break Edmonton’s strong stretch of play, aggravating them and getting in their head would go a long way.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Darnell Nurse is playing some of his best hockey of the season on this road trip. He helped hold two dynamic offenses in Boston and Toronto to minimal output. He’ll have another tough task tonight against this very difficult Flames team. Can Nurse keep this stretch of strong play going? It’s vital he does if the Oilers want a victory.
Calgary: It is a matter of time before Johnny Gaudreau breaks out. He is simply too good of a player to not be producing more at five-on-five. You get the feeling that the second half of the season will bring better results. What better place to start than tonight, at home, in the Battle of Alberta on Hockey Night in Canada?
Sam Gagner was supposed to rejoin the lineup on Thursday but was scratched in Montreal. He’ll play tonight as Jujhar Khaira and Patrick Russell sit. William Lagesson sits on defense. Matt Benning has resumed skating, but will be out through the All-Star break, per Dave Tippett.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Joakim Nygard – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Sam Gagner – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Kris Russell
Juuso Valimaki remains on the shelf with a torn ACL for the Flames. The club traded Michael Frolik to Buffalo last week and has been using Zac Rinaldo in a more regular role.
Calgary Flames Lines:
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Mikael Backlund
Andrew Mangiapane – Elias Lindholm – Mathew Tkachuk
Milan Lucic – Derek Ryan – Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo – Tobias Rieder – Sam Bennett
Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson
“The one thing we’re trying to key on here as players is to try to keep building our game,” Chiasson said postgame in Montreal after a big comeback win. “You got to figure out a way to get points. That’s what good teams do.” The Oilers have points in five straight games. That ties their season-best stretch.
Connor McDavid has feasted on this road trip. He has six points (2-4-6) in his last three games and is starting to feel like himself again. He collected his 70th point of the season on Thursday. That marks the fourth consecutive season that he has eclipsed the 70 point mark.
The first goal will be very important tonight. The Oilers are 18-4-2 when striking first, while the Flames are 12-3-3. Edmonton is just 6-13-3 when surrendering the first goal. They haven’t had a lot of luck coming back this season. That said, two of their wins on this trip have come after giving up the first goal of the game.