It wasn’t pretty, but the Edmonton Oilers opened a key home stand with a victory on Saturday night. Tonight, the Oilers can take over first place in the Pacific Division as they play host to the Vegas Golden Knights. It is the third of four meetings this season and the first in Edmonton.
The Oilers, as mentioned, won an ugly 4-1 game over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, took a 5-3 decision in Calgary last night. The Golden Knights shut the Oilers out 3-0 in their most recent meeting on February 26th. The series is split 1-1.
Mikko Koskinen starts for the Oilers, while Marc-Andre Fleury gets the go for the Golden Knights.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: A better transition game is a must for the Oilers. They’ve looked slow and frustrated in their last three games, even though they have won two of them. They are struggling to move the puck from defense to offense and haven’t been able to sustain pressure. That has to change if they are to beat the Golden Knights. Quick decisions, fast pace. That’s when this offense is at its best.
Vegas: Follow the script. The Golden Knights, for 40 minutes, dominated the Oilers on February 26th. Yes, it was a tired Edmonton team that night but what the Golden Knights did was clinical. They have the script, can they follow it again? If they do, they should be in very good shape at Rogers Place.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Tyler Ennis hasn’t scored since his Oilers debut, but he’ll get another glorious chance tonight. Ennis is returning to Connor McDavid’s wing, skating with the dynamic center and Zack Kassian. Ennis’ speed, hockey IQ and finishing ability, on paper, are great fits for the line. Can it work in reality?
Vegas: Chandler Stephenson has been a terrific fit in Vegas. Now centering the third line for Peter DeBoer, Stephenson has provided solid two-way play with an offensive spark. His line dominated in the last meeting. The Oilers will need to do a much better job against him tonight.
Connor McDavid, according to Dave Tippett, is battling an illness. That said, McDavid is expected to play tonight. Joakim Nygard (hand) and Mike Green (knee) both remain on IR and will not play. Matt Benning, Patrick Russell and Gaetan Haas are the scratches for this tilt.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Tyler Ennis – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Andreas Athanasiou – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
James Neal – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Kris Russell
The Vegas Golden Knights are relatively healthy outside of two forwards. The bad news? Those two forwards are two key pieces. Mark Stone (lower-body) is listed as week-to-week and will not play. Alex Tuch (leg), is currently on IR and also unavailable for tonight’s game.
Vegas Golden Knights Lines:
Jonathan Marchessault – Paul Stastny – Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty – William Karlsson – Nicolas Roy
Brandon Pirri – Chandler Stephenson – Nick Cousins
Will Carrier – Tomas Nosek – Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb – Nate Schmidt
Alex Martinez – Shea Theodore
Nick Holden – Zach Whitecloud
Not many teams have had success against the Vegas Golden Knights in their three seasons in the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers? They’ve been just fine against them. The Oilers are 5-5-0 against the Golden Knights all-time and hold a 3-1-0 record at Rogers Places against their divisional foe.
Tonight could be a special teams mismatch. The Oilers have spent an NHL-high 94 days ranking in the top-five in both powerplay and penalty kill percentage, per the club. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, have allowed 15 powerplay goals in their last 15 games. They are 77% on the penalty kill, which is 26th in the NHL.
The Oilers sit just two points behind Vegas for the Pacific Division lead. They’ve played one less game than the Golden Knights, meaning a win tonight would put them into first. The Oilers are three points up on the Calgary Flames for second in the division, and six points up on the playoff cutline. Vancouver (68 points) is the first team out right now.