The Oilers finished a quick two-game home stand with a record of 0-1-1 after a loss Friday night to the Minnesota Wild. Tonight, they look to turn the page in their final game prior to the trade deadline. The Oilers are in LA to battle the Kings for the fourth and final time this season.
The Oilers are coming off of that aforementioned loss, 5-3, on Friday night against the Wild. The Kings also lost their last time out, dropping a 2-1 decision in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while Cal Peterson gets the go for the Kings.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Protect the puck better. The Oilers were far too sloppy against a desperate Wild team on Friday night and it cost them. Far too often, they were turning pucks over in their own zone and failing to transition up ice. The Wild made them pay. They cannot afford to make the same mistakes against a Kings team playing solid, loose hockey.
Los Angeles: Keep playing loose. The Kings are not going to the playoffs, and they will be a seller ahead of tomorrow’s deadline. They know this. It also hasn’t prevented them from playing solid hockey as of late. The Kings play a hard, fast style that has given the Oilers trouble. Do that again, and they’ll have the chance to play spoiler.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Welcome back Connor. Connor McDavid will return to the lineup after missing six games with a quad injury. The club went a strong 3-2-1 without him. McDavid has made a habit of making big plays when he returns from an injury. Case in point, his highlight reel goal against Columbus in February of 2016 and the game-winner this year on opening night. McDavid will, as always, be worth a close watch tonight.
Los Angeles: Martin Frk, signed as AHL depth in the summer, has emerged as a nice story on the Kings. In nine games at the NHL level this season, the former Red Wings prospect has five goal and six points. He’s been a nice find and recently extended his contract two-years. He’ll be interesting to watch in a top-six role tonight.
Zack Kassian is serving the fifth game of his seven game suspension. He will return on February 29th against the Winnipeg Jets. Kris Russell (concussion), James Neal (ankle), Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) and Joakim Nygard (hand) remain on IR. Evan Bouchard and Colby Cave were assigned to AHL Bakersfield on Saturday afternoon.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Sam Gagner – Connor McDavid – Alex Chiasson
Tyler Benson – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Jujhar Khaira – Gaetan Haas – Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
William Lagesson – Matt Benning
The Kings enter this game relatively healthy. Jeff Carter is not expected to play tonight (lower-body) but is considered day-to-day. Veteran Alec Martinez will be missing tonight. He was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this week. Gabe Vilardi faces the Oilers for the first time in his young career.
Los Angeles Kings Lines:
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe – Gabriel Vilardi – Martin Frk
Trevor Moore – Blake Lizotte – Austin Wagner
Tim Schaller – Mike Amadio – Trevor Lewis
Derek Forbort – Drew Doughty
Matt Roy – Ben Hutton
Kurtis MacDermid – Sean Walker
McDavid returns to the lineup tonight, which is good news in the eyes of coach Dave Tippett. He was happy with how his team battled without the captain. “That’s adversity you don’t hope for but when you get that adversity, you see how your team acts,” Tippett said this morning. “We played (really sound hockey) on the last trip and coming in here that’s the talk. We have to get to that today.”
The Oilers have taken two of the first three meetings between the teams, including a 2-1 decision back in December. The problem is, the Oilers have been a nightmare in Los Angeles in recent history. The Oilers have won just one of their last 16 trips to the Staples Center. They’ll be looking to break a nasty streak tonight.
Edmonton’s offense has been on fire in 2020. The Oilers are averaging 3.80 goals per game since the calendar flipped. That is the highest total in the NHL. One reason for the increased offense? Another league high total, a 12.3% shooting percentage.