The Edmonton Oilers were beaten and battered by the Toronto Maple Leafs in late February and into early March at Rogers Place. Edmonton dropped all three games in the miniseries, getting outscored 13-1 in the process. Overall, the Oilers are just 2-5-0 against the Maple Leafs on the season. Tonight, they can change that.
The Oilers pay just their third visit to Toronto tonight as they meet the Maple Leafs for the eighth time this season. This opens a two-game set which will conclude with the season-series finale on Monday night, also in Toronto. The Oilers are 7-2-0 in their last nine games, while the Maple Leafs won on Thursday over the Ottawa Senators.
Jack Campbell gets the go for the Maple Leafs, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Start early tonight. The Oilers fell behind in the first period of all three losses against the Maple Leafs in their previous series, and sagged after giving up the first goal. It’s imperative that the Oilers, especially with their fresh legs, come out swinging here. Get the Maple Leafs on their heels and gain some confidence. That’s half the battle against this Toronto team.
Toronto: Spread the wealth. Both teams have exceptional top-end talent, but the Maple Leafs are the deeper team. Toronto has enough forward depth and talent to create mismatches at all times for the Oilers. If they can spread things around and create those problems, they’ll have no issue creating chances and goals against this Edmonton group.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Connor McDavid had zero points in the last three meetings between these teams. Since then? McDavid has points in nine straight games, leading the NHL with 60 points. It’s his first-ever Saturday night in Toronto as a professional hockey player, and his team is determined to send a message. This is a spot where he almost always steps up and has an impact.
Toronto: Zach Hyman isn’t a star player, but he’s a very good player and will be playing a depth role tonight. He has the size, speed and skill capable of making a difference wherever he is in a lineup. Hyman will tonight lineup in Toronto’s bottom-six, and could create matchup problems for the Oilers as a result.
Kyle Turris was activated to the roster earlier this week, but isn’t ready to play and will be scratched. Kailer Yamamoto is expected to return after missing each of the last two games, while Tyler Ennis and Caleb Jones are set to be scratched on defense. James Neal remains on the taxi squad and will not play tonight.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald – Gaetan Haas – Zack Kassian
Devin Shore – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Ethan Bear
The Maple Leafs will be without goaltender Frederik Andersen, who is set to miss both games of the series with a lower body injury. Wayne Simmonds, who missed the last series between the teams, is back in action.
Toronto Maple Leafs Lines:
Joe Thornton – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
William Nylander – John Tavares – Wayne Simmonds
Ilya Mikheyev – Pierre Engvall – Zach Hyman
Alex Galchenyuk – Alexander Kerfoot – Jason Spezza
Morgan Reilly – T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Travis Dermott – Zach Bogosian
“They played some amazing hockey and we played below where we should have been. The combination of those two things didn’t add up well for us,” Connor McDavid said Saturday morning. “We have to show, not only to them but to ourselves, that we can play with these guys and beat these guys.”
The Oilers have been road warriors this season. Edmonton is 9-5-0 in 14 games away from Rogers Place this season, and is 1-1-0 in Toronto. The Oilers also won their last road game, defeating the Calgary Flames 7-3 on March 17th.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Oilers on special teams. Their powerplay has been lethal, converting on 27% of chances. That’s good for 5th in the NHL. The penalty kill? Not nearly as good. They’ve killed off just 76% of penalties taken this season. That’s good for just 23rd in the NHL. It’s a big step backwards and a sore spot for Edmonton.