The Edmonton Oilers’ recent four-game road trip couldn’t have gone any better. The club went 3-1-0, and in their lone loss they outplayed the Calgary Flames. In addition, the Oilers played arguably their most complete game of the season on Thursday night when they beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0. Tonight, they return home to Rogers Place for a key two-game series with the Winnipeg Jets.
The Oilers will meet the Jets for the third of nine meetings this season. It’s the first meeting at Rogers Place, and the first of two this week. The sides will meet back in Edmonton on Wednesday night. The teams split a series in Winnipeg back in January, with the Oilers winning a wild 4-3 game on the 24th before the Jets scored a comeback 6-4 victory on the 26th.
Connor Hellebuyck gets the go for the Jets, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Don’t let the Jets get to work down low. When Winnipeg took over the game in the third period on January 26th, they did so by completely hemming the Oilers in their own zone. The Jets were strong on pucks, set things up from down low, and got the Oilers chasing. If they are able to physically dominate again tonight, the Oilers will be in trouble. Edmonton has to be harder on pucks and has to move the puck up ice quicker. The Jets defense is not a strength.
Winnipeg: Slow the game down. Yes, the Jets have enough speed and skill to when a fast-pace game if need be, but they also have the horses to win a power game. Edmonton, especially with James Neal and Zack Kassian out of the lineup, does not. If the Jets can slow this down, limit Edmonton’s transition game and make life difficult in the neutral zone, they should be okay here.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Connor McDavid leads the Oilers in points with 28 and goals with nine this season. He was also pretty quiet in each of the team’s three wins on the road trip. McDavid doesn’t stay quiet for long, and with three days off behind him, I’d expect a spirited effort tonight. Judging by recent performance and rest, McDavid is due for a big night.
Winnipeg: Andrew Copp isn’t the name you normally would think of when you think of dangerous forwards for the Jets. He’s been lethal against the Oilers this season, however. Copp torched them in January, scoring five points (2 g, 3 a) in the two-game set. I’ll be interested to see if the Oilers can limit the damage against from the Jets secondary scorers, who did a lot of work last month.
After clearing waivers on Sunday, the Oilers placed James Neal on the taxi squad on Monday. Devin Shore was recalled, and is likely to be in the lineup. Jesse Puljujarvi, who missed Thursday’s game with a COVID-19 scare, will return while Ethan Bear remains out injured. Both Bear and Gaetan Haas are close, but not quite ready. Kris Russell and Caleb Jones are scratched on defense.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Devin Shore – Kyle Turris – Alex Chiasson
Tyler Ennis – Jujhar Khaira – Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
Slater Koekkoek – Evan Bouchard
Pierre-Luc Dubois, acquired earlier this season in a blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, is day-to-day with a lower body injury and unlikely to play tonight. Bryan Little, meanwhile, is on IR and unlikely to play at all this season.
Winnipeg Jets Lines:
Andrew Copp – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor – Paul Stastny – Nikolaj Ehlers
Mathieu Perrault – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
Kristian Vesalainen – Jansen Harkins – Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey – Tucker Poolman
Derek Forbort – Neal Pionk
Nathan Beaulieu – Dylan DeMelo
“All I know is we’ve won six of the last seven and we’re looking to continue that,” Leon Draisaitl said pre-game on Monday. “We’ve been playing a lot better structurally and all over the ice defensively. A lot of times that leads to more offence. Tonight is a good test for us and we’re looking to keep that going.”
If you like offense, this is the kind of game you’ll want to watch. In their two games earlier this season the Oilers and Jets combined for 17 goals, an average of 8.5 per game. In the past eleven meetings? The team that has claimed victory has scored four or more goals nine times.
Will tonight be a milestone night for McDavid? The Oilers captain sits at 497 career points, three shy of the 500 mark. During his outstanding career, McDavid has scored 171 goals and 326 assists. All of this has come in just 367 career games. McDavid is currently 8th in franchise history in points scored. In 7th? Doug Weight, who scored 577 points with the Oilers.