The Edmonton Oilers rebounded nicely on Thursday night and largely controlled the game in a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Tonight, they’ll have a different test as they play host to the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place on Hockey Night in Canada.
It’s the first of a two-game set between the teams, who will be off on Sunday and then play again Monday night. Overall, it is the first of nine meetings between the teams. Edmonton swept the season series with a pair of regulation victories in 2019-20.
Carey Price starts for the Canadiens, while Mikko Koskinen gets the nod for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Get off to a fast start. The Canadiens want to play a low event game and want to make it a physical, slower style of hockey. That doesn’t benefit the Oilers in any way, shape or form. The Oilers are at their best when the game is a little more open and they can control it with their speed and skill. Getting off to a fast start and testing Carey Price early will be key.
Montreal: Be physical at the blueline. The Oilers love gaining the offensive zone with speed and setting things up off the rush, especially the top two lines. Where they struggle is when teams are able to slow them down entering the zone and make them adjust their entries. The Canadiens have the personnel defensively to do that. Can they? That’ll be the key for them.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Kyle Turris was not good in his debut on Wednesday night, but looked better in Thursday’s matchup. Turris should prove to be an upgrade over Riley Sheahan at five-on-five, and should give the Oilers a little more pop offensively. As he gets more comfortable, I believe he’ll get better. Tonight should be another step in the right direction for him.
Montreal: Of all the additions the Canadiens made this off-season, Tyler Toffoli is the one that sticks out the most. A proven top-six scorer on the wing, Toffoli gives the Canadiens more depth than they have had in years. He’s a player currently on the third line who can be a complete matchup nightmare for teams like Edmonton who have issues with their bottom-six forwards.
Mike Smith was placed on LTIR on Friday and will miss “weeks”. As a result, Koskinen is the starter moving forward and Stuart Skinner will serve as the backup. Tyler Benson was assigned to Bakersfield on Thursday, while Evan Bouchard was loaned to the taxi squad.
William Lagesson and Kris Russell are expected to be the scratches on defense. Tyler Ennis, who was injured and did not play Thursday, skated Friday and is expected to return to the lineup in place of Josh Archibald. Khaira comes out, while Shore slides to center and Joakim Nygard makes his season debut.
In addition, James Neal and Gaetan Haas are no longer out of commission due to COVID-19. Both remain on the IR but are closing in on returns.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Tyler Ennis – Kyle Turris – Jesse Puljujarvi
Joakim Nygard – Drew Shore – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
Slater Koekkoek – Tyson Barrie
The Canadiens made a number of moves this off-season. They traded center Max Domi to Columbus for Josh Anderson, then proceeded to sign Toffoli as well. Defensively, the club traded for the rights to Joel Edmundson, signing him to a contract. They also brought over D Alexander Romanov from the KHL and acquired G Jake Allen from St. Louis.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin – Nick Suzuki – Josh Anderson
Tyler Toffoli – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Joel Armia
Artturi Lehkonen – Jake Evans – Paul Byron
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson – Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak – Alexander Romanov
“There’s a lot of chemistry there between the three of them,” Tyson Barrie said regarding the ‘Big Three’ of McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. “You’ve got three incredibly talented, intelligent people. They had a lot of success last year and I feel pretty fortunate to be able to step in and be a part of that.”
The Oilers have enjoyed some success in the series against Montreal. In their last six games against Montreal, the Oilers are 5-0-1. They won their lone meeting at Rogers Place on December 21st, 2019 by a final score of 4-3. After falling behind 2-0 in Montreal on January 9th, the Oilers battled back to win 4-2 and sweep the season series. Montreal has not won a game in this series in regulation since March 12th, 2017.
After going 0-for-4 on the powerplay on Wednesday, Edmonton enters the weekend with some strong special teams numbers. They are 25% on the powerplay (2-for-8) after scoring twice on Thursday. The penalty kill? A perfect 7-for-7 to start.