The Edmonton Oilers could hold sole possession of first place in the North Division tonight when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. An Oilers victory coupled with a Maple Leafs loss against the Calgary Flames would do the trick. Edmonton is in search of their third win in a row.
This is the sixth of nine meetings this season between the Oilers and Jets, who are concluding a two-game miniseries. The sides split the first two miniseries between them this season, with the Oilers holding a 3-2-0 overall advantage thanks to Thursday night’s 2-1 victory.
Connor Hellebuyck gets the go for the Jets, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Quicker transition game. The Oilers were too slow out of the gate on Thursday night, and struggled to really get any kind of pressure going until the midway point of the hockey game. Against a team like the Jets, who have a lot of firepower and a weak defense, that isn’t a great way to go about things. The Oilers need to transition the puck quicker, and keep the Jets on their heels. That should allow Edmonton to create more chances and hold more zone time.
Winnipeg: Play physical. The Oilers have a lot of speed and skill among their forwards, but they have routinely struggled with teams willing to engage physically with them. The Jets have enough big bodies to make the night difficult for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They need to commit to that style in order to slow down Edmonton’s top dogs.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Josh Archibald looked nervous and out of place during his first few shifts on Thursday night alongside Dominik Kahun and Draisaitl. He settled in nicely, however, and provided a physical and speedy presence on the wing. He’ll get another shot on the second line tonight, and does have a history of producing offense when moved up the depth chart. Edmonton will need a depth piece like Archibald to step up tonight if they are to sweep this series.
Winnipeg: Nikolaj Ehlers is one of, if not the most, underrated players in the NHL. Ehlers has owned the Oilers so far this season, scoring seven points (3 g, 4 a) in five games. In his career, he has 17 points in 19 games against Edmonton. Ehlers has 31 points (15 g, 16 a) for the Jets this season, and creates problems throughout the lineup because he doesn’t always play on the top trio.
The Oilers will again be without Kailer Yamamoto, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Jujhar Khaira, who has missed two games with an upper body injury, is expected to return tonight. James Neal remains on the taxi squad, while either Devin Shore or Joakim Nygard will be scratched. Caleb Jones is scratched on defense.
Kyle Turris is close after a stint on the COVID-19 Protocol List, but is not yet ready for game action.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Josh Archibald
Tyler Ennis – Gaetan Haas – Zack Kassian
Joakim Nygard – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Ethan Bear
The Jets will again be down veteran defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who is on the IR dealing with a hand injury. Defenseman Sami Niku is scratched, while forward Bryan Little will not play this season with vertigo issues.
Winnipeg Jets Lines:
Paul Stastny – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perrault – Nate Thompson – Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Derek Forbort – Neal Pionk
Logan Stanley – Tucker Poolman
“We’ve put ourselves in a position right now to be able to fight for that No. 1 spot in the North (Division) and that’s exciting,” Mike Smith said earlier on Saturday. “We want to be one of the top teams in the League and to do that, you want to be at the top of your division. Our group’s done an unbelievable job of closing games out. It’s a lot easier to hold onto a lead than it is to come from behind. It’s something that has been talked about and guys recognize.”
If the Oilers are going to win tonight, they’ll have to work extra hard. The Jets are almost unbeatable when coming off a regulation loss this season. Winnipeg is 8-0-1 coming off of a regulation loss, including 1-0-0 against the Oilers. This will be a tough task for Edmonton.
Connor McDavid remains the hottest player in the NHL. McDavid has an eight-game point streak in which he has scored 18 points (6 g, 12 a). The NHL’s points leader with 58 points (20 g, 38 a), McDavid is also second in the league in goals with 20. He is just one behind Toronto’s Auston Matthews.