Oilers Gameday: @ Canadiens

The road is set for the Edmonton Oilers. The club is locked into the second seed in the Scotia North Division, and will play the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is likely to be next Thursday night, and the club has two more regular season games to play before fully turning their focus to the chase for their sixth Stanley Cup.

This afternoon, the Oilers play their penultimate game of the regular season as they visit the Montreal Canadiens in the ninth and final meeting between the sides. It’s also the final game of a two-game set in which Edmonton won the first game 4-3 in overtime on Monday night. The Oilers are 3-4-1 against the Canadiens this season, and 2-1-0 in their last three against the Habs.

Cayden Primeau gets the go for the Canadiens, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.

Keys To The Game:

Edmonton: Stay healthy. Seriously, this game means absolutely nothing for either team and the playoffs are eight days away. The main focus for the Oilers here needs to be staying healthy and playing their game. Don’t worry about wins and losses in these last two games. Just don’t sustain an injury that will hurt your chances against the Jets.

Montreal: Play a full 60 minutes. Like the Oilers, this game means nothing to the Canadiens. Montreal is locked into the fourth spot in the North Division and will face the Toronto Maple Leafs a week from tonight. The Habs, however, haven’t put a good 60 minute effort together in about three weeks. Win or lose, it would be a huge confidence boaster for Montreal to come out and play a strong game today.

Players To Watch:

Edmonton: Kyle Turris returns to the Edmonton lineup this afternoon with two more chances to impress before the playoffs. Turris signed with Edmonton in October with hopes of being the club’s third line center, but the deal has not worked out. Now, Turris has looked better on the wing, but has had trouble staying in the lineup. Today, he’ll get a chance inside the top-six to make something happen.

Montreal: Jake Evans has only played in five of Montreal’s previous eight games against Edmonton, but he’s been a factor. Evans has four points (2 g, 2 a) in those five games, and was the Habs most dangerous player on Monday night. The speedy youngster is likely to see an increased role this afternoon, and has presented challenges for Edmonton all season long. He’s going to have some kind of impact on this game if past performance is to be an indicator.

The Lines:

Head Coach Dave Tippett told reporters that the Oilers are dealing with some “bumps and bruises” and that there could be lineup changes for this afternoon’s game. With playoff positioning locked up, it’s also possible that Tippett looks to get some younger players into the lineup this afternoon.

Zack Kassian (lower body) and Slater Koekkoek (upper body) are both on LTIR and will not play. Kris Russell (lower body) is day-to-day and will not play again in the regular season, while Joakim Nygard (hand) is day-to-day. Kailer Yamamoto will not play today as he is dealing with a minor injury.

Edmonton Oilers Lines:

Dominik Kahun – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kyle Turris
James Neal – Ryan McLeod – Alex Chiasson
Devin Shore – Jujhar Khaira – Josh Archibald

Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Dmitry Kulikov – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear

Mike Smith

The Canadiens have a few big players out injured. Shutdown center Philip Danault (concussion), starting goaltender Carey Price (concussion) and veteran defenseman Shea Weber (upper body) are all unavailable for the Canadiens. Jonathan Drouin (personal) is away from the team, while Brendan Gallagher (thumb) is on IR.

The Canadiens have yet to announce their lineup for today’s game, and have recalled multiple players in anticipation of playing them. Thus, their lineup is subject to lots of change.

Montreal Canadiens Lines:

Joel Armia – Nick Suzuki – Cole Caufield
Tomas Tatar – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Corey Perry
Artturi Lehkonen – Jake Evans – Paul Byron
Alex Belzile- Michael Frolik – Jesse Ylonen

Brett Kulak – Ben Chiarot
Alexander Romanov – Xavier Ouellet
Erik Gustafsson – Jon Merrill

Cayden Primeau

Game Notes:

“There are some people that you’d like to say, ‘OK, do you want a game off?’ but nobody wants a game off,” Tippett recently told reporters. “They want to keep playing. We’ll manage it here the next couple of games and get through it, making sure everybody is as healthy as possible. We’ll get a day off and then a couple of good days of practice and get ready to go.”

An Oilers victory today will see them end the series against Montreal with a 4-4-1 record. If that is the case, the Oilers will only ‘lose’ the season series with one team in the North, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Edmonton went 3-5-1 against the Leafs this season. Their most successful series? The Oilers went 9-0-0 against the Ottawa Senators, who wrap their season up tonight against the Leafs.

The Oilers are feeling it right now. The club is 7-3-0 overall in their last ten games, and are 6-0-0 in their last six on the road. This is the second time this season that the Oilers have won six straight games on the road, and today they can get their first seven-game winning streak away from home in 34 years.