The Edmonton Oilers played one of their most complete games of the season on Saturday night, controlling the full 60 minutes in a 3-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Tonight, the club returns home for a brief two-game homestand with just 13 games remaining in the regular season. The Oilers are still firmly in the hunt for home ice in the First Round of the playoffs, and will look to take another step towards that tonight.
The Oilers play host to the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since January and for just the third time this season. It is the sixth of nine meetings between the teams, who will complete this two-game miniseries on Wednesday night at Rogers Place. The series concludes with a pair of games in Quebec in May.
Carey Price gets the go for the Canadiens, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Better five-on-five play. The Oilers broke a nasty trend on Saturday night when they were actually the better of the two teams at five-on-five. This matchup, however, will be a real test. In five prior meetings, the Canadiens have dominated at five-on-five, holding a 71.4% goal share, a 60.5% advantage in shot share and getting 58.5% of the expected goals (h/t @OilersPain on Twitter). Edmonton simply has to be better in this area to give themselves a chance.
Montreal: Keep using your size. You saw the five-on-five numbers above, the Habs have done everything right in this season series. Montreal has a lethal combination of size, speed and skill that gives just about every team issues. The Oilers can’t match that size, and as a result have a harder time dealing with the Habs. If Montreal can control the game in the neutral zone with their size, slowing down the Oilers, they’ll be in good shape yet again.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Connor McDavid is the NHL’s MVP so far this season, there isn’t much debate there. He hasn’t played like it against the Canadiens, however. McDavid leads the NHL with 71 points (23 g, 48 a) this season, but has just two assists in five games against the Canadiens. He’s also a -5 in those games. He’s due for a big night against Montreal. No better time than the present.
Montreal: Tomas Tatar is having a helluva contract year. He’s also having a helluva year against the Oilers. Tatar has scored four goals in five games against Edmonton this season, tied for first in points among Canadiens in the season series. A potential target for Edmonton in free agency this summer, it’s worth watching the two-way forward tonight. He could be auditioning for a contract and he’s almost guaranteed to have some kind of impact.
The Oilers are expected to go with the exact same lineup that blanked the Jets on Saturday. That means forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss his fourth straight game with an injury. Nugent-Hopkins could practice with the main group tomorrow, and could be an option on Wednesday. Patrick Russell, Kyle Turris, William Lagesson and Alex Stalock remain the healthy scratches.
Both Dmitry Kulikov and Ryan McLeod are currently on the COVID-19 Protocol List as they serve travel quarantines. Kulikov is expected to skate on Thursday.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Gaetan Haas – Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Joakim Nygard – Devin Shore – Zack Kassian
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
Brendan Gallagher, who has been a thorn in Edmonton’s side all season, is currently on IR with a broken thumb. Deadline acquisitions Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson are also unavailable as they serve their quarantine.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Josh Anderson
Tyler Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Jonathan Drouin – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Paul Byron
Artturi Lehkonen – Eric Staal – Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson – Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov – Brett Kulak
“We haven’t really played our A-Game against them yet,” Leon Draisaitl told reporters Monday morning of the season series. “That’s on us more than it is on them. They’ve also done a good job of staying above us and limiting our chances off the rush and in-zone. It’s going to be a good challenge tonight. We’re obviously looking to get them back.”
For the Oilers, this game is a big one in the North Division standings. A victory would put the Oilers just a point behind the Jets for second place with a game in hand. It would also put them five points back of the Maple Leafs for the Divisional crown. A win would also open the gap between Edmonton and Montreal a little more. A win puts the Oilers nine points ahead of Montreal. A loss? The Habs are within five points.
How good has Edmonton been on the powerplay this season? The Oilers have four of the top five powerplay producers in the entire North Division. McDavid leads the way with 27 points (8 g, 19 a), while Draisaitl (25 points), Tyson Barrie (18 points) and Nugent-Hopkins (16 points) round out the top four. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau is fifth with 16 points.