The Edmonton Oilers have simply not been playing good hockey as of late. They’ve been vastly outplayed in each of their last four games and five of their last six. That has to change. The Oilers, after a strong practice on Tuesday, get the chance to change tonight. They host the Winnipeg Jets for the third and final meeting this season between the sides.
Edmonton is coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday that, quite frankly, they were lucky to get a point from. Winnipeg, meanwhile, took down Arizona 4-2 on Monday night.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while Connor Hellebuyck gets the go for the Jets.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Consistent offensive pressure has been lacking big time for the Oilers recently. They’ve struggled mightily to cycle the puck in the offensive zone, and haven’t had the waves of attack that we saw in January and February. That needs to change if Edmonton is going to punch a ticket to the playoffs. Against a Jets team with a weak defensive group, the Oilers need to find a way to pressure Hellebuyck consistently.
Winnipeg: We’re going to keep saying this until the Oilers figure out a way to stop it. Clog the neutral zone. The Oilers have been clogged up and frustrated by the Stars, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Golden Knights. Hell, the Jets did the same thing roughly ten days ago. That’s the key to slowing down this offense right now. Do that, and the Jets will have a chance at a big two points tonight.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Leon Draisaitl has been held pointless in two games. That is not a trend that is likely to continue much longer. Leon struggled on Monday night, but did help create Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ third period goal. I suspect Draisaitl has an impact against a Jets team that, quite frankly, is not very good defensively.
Winnipeg: Tucker Poolman has quietly put together a strong season. He recorded his first career multi-point game on Monday, tallying a goal and an assist against Arizona. He has established new career-highs in goals (4), assists (12) and points (16).
Connor McDavid (illness) missed Monday’s game and did not practice on Tuesday. He will play tonight. Kailer Yamamoto also missed practice, but will play tonight. Patrick Russell and Gaetan Haas are the likely healthy scratches up front. Joakim Nygard (hand) and Mike Green (knee) remain on IR. On defense, Matt Benning comes out for Caleb Jones.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Tyler Ennis – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
James Neal – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Andreas Athanasiou – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Kris Russell
The Jets are dealing with some key long-term injuries right now. Bryan Little (ear) and Dustin Byfuglien (ankle) are both done for the season. Sami Niku (lower-body) is week-to-week, as is Luca Sbisa (upper-body). Anthony Bitetto (upper-body) is listed as day-to-day.
Winnipeg Jets Lines:
Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Cody Eakin – Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perreault – Nick Shore – Mason Appleton
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Dmitry Kulikov – Neal Pionk
Nathan Beaulieu – Tucker Poolman
This series has been a battle of strong goaltenders. The Jets took a 1-0 shootout decision in October, while the Oilers evened things with a 3-2 victory last Saturday. In those two games, Mike Smith is 1-0-1 with a .967 SV%. Connor Hellebuyck, meanwhile, is 1-1-0 with a .940 SV%.
Getting an early lead is vital for the Oilers. They are 29-6-3 when scoring the first goal this season. When they protect that lead through 40 minutes? They are almost unbeatable. Edmonton holds a record of 26-1-2 when leading after two periods of play.
McDavid is back in the lineup tonight and is facing a team he has ripped apart in his career. In 13 career games, McDavid has 18 points (2-16-18) against the Jets. He’s energized and ready to go tonight. It’s a good bet that he’ll add to these totals.