The Edmonton Oilers laid an egg six days ago when they limped into Montreal for an unexpected back-to-back tilt with the Habs. The Oilers managed just 17 shots and never really tested Carey Price in a 4-0 defeat. Tonight, the Oilers return east after a big 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday night looking for revenge.
This is the fifth of nine meetings this season between the Oilers and Canadiens, and the third of five in Quebec. The Oilers are 1-1-0 in Montreal this season, blanking the Canadiens 3-0 on February 11th before dropping a 4-0 decision last Tuesday.
Carey Price gets the go for the Canadiens, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Use your speed. The Canadiens have done a masterful job of using their size and physical ability to slow the Oilers down in three of the prior four meetings. Yes, Edmonton was playing with tired legs, but give the Canadiens credit. Edmonton has to do a better job of creating speed through the neutral zone and gaining the offensive zone with entry. It’s the best way to get the big, veteran defensemen of the Canadiens on their heels. It’s the best way to create offense.
Montreal: Clog it up. The Canadiens have figured out how to slow the Oilers down, and more importantly slow down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They’ve done an excellent job at preventing the Oilers from sustained zone time all series long. Just keep forcing them to dump and chase, and use your size in battles. It’s clearly worked, tired legs or not.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Caleb Jones only played 8:31 on Friday night in Edmonton’s win over the Flames. That said, he’ll remain in the lineup tonight as Dave Tippett tries to get him up and running. The Oilers are hoping that Jones can assist their transition game, which William Lagesson had struggled with. Edmonton will need Jones’ savvy puck play tonight.
Montreal: Eric Staal will center the Canadiens second line tonight and will make his debut after being acquired via trade from the Buffalo Sabres late in March. Staal gives Montreal more experience, size and skill down the middle. While he struggled with the Sabres, Staal isn’t far off a strong run with the Minnesota Wild. How does he fit with his new team?
The Oilers will run with the same lines as they did on Friday night against the Flames. That means William Lagesson is scratched on defense, while Kyle Turris and Patrick Russell sit up front. James Neal, Tyler Ennis and Evan Bouchard remain on the taxi squad.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald – Gaetan Haas – Zack Kassian
Devin Shore – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
The Canadiens will be without forward Joel Armia tonight. Armia is still dealing with COVID-19 and remains on the league’s Protocol List. Defenseman Ben Chiarot (hand) is also unavailable for the Canadiens.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin – Eric Staal – Tyler Toffoli
Corey Perry – Nick Suzuki – Josh Anderson
Paul Byron – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Edmundson – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov – Victor Mete
“We really didn’t play very well,” Dave Tippett said about the club’s last trip to Montreal. “Not a lot of juice in our game last time we were in here last week. It’s good to come back and hopefully, we’ll recognize that we have to be a lot better if we expect to win.”
How good has Mike Smith been this season? Better than anyone, even the most positive Oilers fan, could have imagined. Smith is 13-3-1 this season with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 save percentage. He’s also got two shutouts, one of which came against these Canadiens. Smith, without doubt, has won the starting job as the team enters the playoff stretch drive.
The Oilers, at 23-14-1, sit second in the North Division with 47 points. The Canadiens, meanwhile, are 16-9-9 for 41 points and currently sit in fourth in the division. Point percentage is a little tighter. The Oilers have a .618 point percentage, while the Canadiens hold a mark of .603. Tonight’s game is massive, especially if you can get it done in regulation.