Once again, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves trying to avoid a sweep in their two-game miniseries with a divisional opponent. This time, the Oilers will look to avoid handing the Montreal Canadiens the first four points of their season. The good news? Edmonton responded quite nicely in this spot against the Vancouver Canucks last week.
Edmonton’s 5-1 loss to the Canadiens was their first regulation loss in six games (5-0-1) against Montreal, and the first since March 2017. It was an ugly effort that also included some terrific goaltending on Montreal’s end and some bad bounces against Edmonton.
Jake Allen will make his debut for the Canadiens tonight, while Mikko Koskinen gets the go for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Turn the effort up. The Canadiens dominated large portions of the game on Saturday night and looked like a vastly better team than the Oilers. I’m not sure about you, but I do not think that is an accurate reflection of the teams. Edmonton lost far too many puck battles and gave up positioning far too easily in the loss. They need to be tougher on pucks and in the defensive zone tonight.
Montreal: Keep clogging the neutral zone and the blueline. Montreal did this perfectly on Saturday night, and as a result they frustrated Edmonton’s top-six forward group. The Oilers couldn’t get anything going with speed through the neutral zone, and they failed to adapt their offensive attack. Yes, Carey Price was outstanding, but Edmonton’s offense was largely neutralized by a big, experienced defensive group. The blueprint for a Habs victory is clear.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: You want fire and effort? Zack Kassian should be your man. Kassian missed Saturday’s tilt for the birth of his second child, but he’ll draw back in tonight. Kassian hasn’t been the same player since he signed his extension last January, but there is pressure on him to perform and his team needs a spark. If he can’t come out throwing hits and attacking tonight, what’s the point?
Montreal: Nick Suzuki may just be the goods. He caught my eye multiple times on Saturday night with his playmaking ability, skills with the puck and offensive IQ. Montreal has long been looking for a center to emerge and be the guy. Could Suzuki be it? It looks like he has the tools.
To the surprise of no one, the Oilers will be making changes tonight. What is a surprise? Who is coming out. Both Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear will be scratched, while Kris Russell and William Lagesson each make their season debuts. Jujhar Khaira remains out up front, while Kassian draws back in and Tyler Ennis comes out.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Joakim Nygard – Kyle Turris – Jesse Puljujarvi
Josh Archibald – Devin Shore – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Slater Koekkoek
Kris Russell – Tyson Barrie
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
The Habs, no surprise, will roll with the same lineup as Saturday night with the lone exception of Allen drawing in for Price. Allen was acquired via trade this offseason from the St. Louis Blues. Alexander Romanov was loaned to the taxi squad yesterday, but will be available for this contest.
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
“He works hard in practice but he competes hard in front of the net and in the corners,” Tippett said of Lagesson, who will be making his season debut tonight. “If his puck game can continue to improve he could be a really good player. I watched all of his games when he played over in Europe this year, his puck movement and the ability to make some plays seems like it was very much improved. He’s played well and deserves a chance.”
Connor McDavid picked up an assist on Slater Koekkoek’s goal late in the game on Saturday night, but he was largely quiet in the loss. That’s usually a bad sign for whoever has to see McDavid next. He was held pointless on opening night and scored four points (3 g, 1 a) in game two. Will he turn in something impressive tonight?
You won’t want to take penalties against this Montreal team. Through two games, the Habs hold the best powerplay in the NHL with a 60% conversion rate. They have scored on three of their first five advantages this season, including once on Saturday. The Habs also scored a shorthanded goal in the win, the first one Edmonton has surrendered this season. Montreal’s PK is currently 71% early in the season.