Is tonight the night that the Edmonton Oilers actually play a full 60 minutes? That remains to be seen, but the club will have no shortage of motivation following a putrid 6-4 loss at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. It was a game Edmonton led 3-1, and 3-2 heading into the third period. The Oilers are now 3-5-0 and in danger of falling into the ‘second division’ in the North. They need to win games and they need to do it now.
Tonight, it will be the third of nine meetings on the season between the Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s their third meeting in eight days, and the first of the season in Alberta. The sides will play two, with the second game of this set coming on Saturday night. The Oilers and Maple Leafs split their set last week in Toronto, with the Oilers winning the opening game 3-1.
Frederik Andersen will start again for the Maple Leafs, while Mikko Koskinen starts for the Oilers. They each started both games in the series a week ago.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Please, for the love of all things holy, play 60 minutes! I’m going to continue harping on this until the Oilers actually do it. Far too often, the Oilers will play two good periods but will shoot themselves in the foot in the one period they decide to slag. In each of the last two games, it has been in the third period. It cost them once, and should have cost them twice. They need to be locked in tonight from start to finish if they want to topple the Leafs.
Toronto: Keep the pressure on. The Leafs did an outstanding job of preventing the Oilers from scoring chances last week in their two-game set. The Leafs spent a lot of time pressuring the Oilers in the offensive zone, thus creating ample chances. The Oilers have had trouble transitioning from offense to defense so far this season. Keep applying that pressure and it could be an easy night for the Maple Leafs.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Joakim Nygard returns to the lineup tonight and will inject both speed and skill into Edmonton’s bottom-six forward group. To my eye, Nygard has been the most effective winger in a bottom-six role. Tonight, he’ll try and stabilize the fourth line with Devin Shore and Josh Archibald. His game is effective, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on him tonight.
Toronto: Ilya Mikheyev isn’t a star player by any means, but he caught my eye in a good way during the meetings between the teams last week. He’s strong on the forecheck, is quick, and has some skill in his game. I’ll be interested to see how he looks in a top-six role for the Leafs with Joe Thornton again missing.
Dave Tippett continues to shuffle the chairs on the deck for the Oilers. Today, the club reassigned Patrick Russell and Jujhar Khaira to the taxi squad, recalling Joakim Nygard and Devin Shore to take their spots. In addition, the team will scratch veteran defenseman Kris Russell, who joins William Lagesson in the pressbox
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
James Neal – Kyle Turris – Zack Kassian
Joakim Nygard – Devin Shore – Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
Slater Koekkoek – Tyson Barrie
The Maple Leafs will be without veteran Joe Thornton, who suffered a fractured rib against the Oilers last Wednesday. Goalie Jack Campbell, lower-body, is also out for the Leafs. Nick Robertson (knee) is on IR.
Toronto Maple Leafs Lines:
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – William Nylander
Jimmy Vesey – Alexander Kerfoot – Wayne Simmonds
Alexander Barabanov – Jason Spezza – Travis Boyd
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Travis Dermott – Zach Bogosian
“We’re looking for some stability down there,” Dave Tippett said about yet another change to his bottom-six forward group. “We’re looking for people to come in, take those jobs and just secure them. That mix hasn’t presented itself yet. We need to find some chemistry.”
The Oilers could have reinforcements coming in goal soon. Goaltender Troy Grosenick, claimed off waivers 12 days ago, will join the team for practice tomorrow. He could be activated in advance of the Oilers’ meeting with the Leafs on Saturday night. Edmonton also plays Sunday against Ottawa, which is a logical spot for a start. Koskinen has played all eight games so far, while veteran Mike Smith is still “a ways away” from a return.
The Oilers and the Ottawa Senators are the only teams in the North Division that have yet to win consecutive games. Currently, Edmonton sits in 5th place and outside of the playoffs, trailing the Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks. Edmonton hasn’t won consecutive games since March, 2020. They are way overdue for a winning streak of some kind.