The Edmonton Oilers can do something no one expected on Thursday night. The Oilers can sweep a nine-game season series from the Ottawa Senators. Edmonton is 6-2-2 in their last ten games, and a win tonight in the series finale over Ottawa would inch them closer to a top-three spot in the North Division.
The Oilers visit Ottawa for the ninth and final meeting between the teams on the season. It is also the fourth and final meeting at Canadian Tire Centre, where the teams battled yesterday afternoon. The Oilers are 8-0-0 in the season series, and the only team the Senators have yet to get a point from this season.
Anton Forsberg gets the go for the Senators, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: A more balanced attack is needed. Sure, watching Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl do their thing on Wednesday afternoon was fun, but it is not a sustainable way to win hockey games. The Oilers need more than one line capable of tilting the ice and scoring. Against a weak Ottawa team, you’d like to see more from the second, third and fourth lines. Balance is needed against a Senators team that battles hard.
Ottawa: Be ready to go. Honestly, one could make the case that the Senators were the better team in the final forty minutes of Wednesday’s game. At worst, one could argue that the Senators held their own and had a chance to get the win. The first period, in which the Senators trailed 1-0, is what killed them. They weren’t ready to go, and allowed 17 shots on goal. Ottawa has to be ready at the opening puck drop to give themselves a chance.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Jesse Puljujarvi continues to make plays, continues to be in the right spot and continues to come close to breaking out. He hit another goal post on Wednesday, and it feels like Puljujarvi is one bounce away from a real hot stretch of hockey. Alongside McDavid and Draisaitl, the formula is there for a big night for the big Finn.
Ottawa: Erik Gudbranson didn’t play on Wednesday, but will return to the Ottawa lineup tonight. Gudbranson is a big, veteran defenseman with the ability to shutdown the opposition’s most dangerous forwards. Is that the role DJ Smith uses him in tonight? In addition, the Oilers have been linked to Gudbranson in trade talks in recent weeks. Perhaps an audition?
Head Coach Dave Tippett admitted on Thursday morning that the Oilers are dealing with some injury issues and are monitoring the situation in advance of this game. As a result, the lineup is still to be determined. The expectation is that no changes are made, meaning Alex Stalock, William Lagesson, Patrick Russell and Gaetan Haas will be scratched. Tyler Ennis, James Neal and Evan Bouchard remain on the taxi squad.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
Alex Chiasson – Kyle Turris – Zack Kassian
Devin Shore – Jujhar Khaira – Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
The Senators have a number of players on IR and unable to play in tonight’s game. G Joey Daccord (lower body), F Colin White (upper body), F Austin Watson (hand) and F Michael Haley (groin) remain on IR. Matt Murray (upper body) is day-to-day, while Gudbranson returns after missing Wednesday’s game. Brayden Coburn and Josh Brown both come out of the lineup.
Ottawa Senators Lines:
Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Nick Paul
Tim Stutzle – Chris Tierney – Drake Batherson
Ryan Dzingel – Clark Bishop – Connor Brown
Mike Amadio – Artem Anisimov – Evgenii Dadonov
Thomas Chabot – Nikita Zaitsev
Mike Reilly – Artem Zub
Erik Brannstrom – Erik Gudbranson
“That team over there that we’re playing tonight, they work hard,” Zack Kassian said Thursday morning ahead of the rematch. “We have to match that work ethic and we feel if we do that, more times than not, we’ll like the outcome of the game.”
Some good news for the Oilers on the injury front. No, Slater Koekkoek won’t play tonight and he won’t play at any point in April. That said, the veteran defenseman could be good to go for the First Round of the playoffs. Koekkoek is recovering from a broken collarbone and is slated to meet with doctors in the next 48 hours to see where he stands.
Leon Draisaitl is on a historic run against the Senators. In eight meetings this season, Draisaitl has 21 points (10 g, 11 a) against Ottawa. That is the most the Senators have ever allowed in a single season. His ten goals are also the most the Senators have had scored on them by a single player in a single season in franchise history. There is dominance, and then there is this.