The Northwest leading Edmonton Oilers are in Montreal tonight fresh off their first loss since October 20th, which snapped a six game winning streak. The last time the Oil won six in a row was March of 2002. Unsurprisingly, the Oilers have been led by the ‘Kids & the Hall line’, made up of rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and young guns Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
Before the season, everyone expected Edmonton to be an entertaining club, but there is not a soul who expected that, a month into the season, the Oilers would be the best defensive club in the league, allowing only a miniscule 22 goals. The next best defensive group are the Rangers, who have conceded 29 goals.
The other major factor in the Oilers early season success has been the stellar play of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who currently leads the league in goals against average and save percentage amongst goalies that have played six or more games. In addition, he has yet to lose a game in regulation this season.
Montreal just had their four game winning streak snapped by the Rangers on Saturday night thanks in large part to their undisciplined play. Many conspiracy theorists would have you believe there is a league wide bias in favour of the Rangers or a plot against the Habs.
Despite these theories, the fact of the matter is the Canadiens have been undisciplined and lazy far to many times this year, which has them ranked near the bottom of the league in times short handed.
Carey Price has quickly turned his slow start around and has helped lift the Habs out of the Eastern Conference basement. Price now has his goals against average below 2.6 and his save percentage above .900. He just needs to improve the most important stat: wins.
Scott Gomez returned to practice yesterday, albeit in a non contact jersey, which leads one to believe he will not return to the line up tonight. However, it appears he will accompany the team out west for the other two contests this week.
Andrei Kostitsyn left practice early yesterday and might not play tonight. His absence could open the door for Alexei Emelin to return to the line up for the first time in a couple of weeks.
HW’s Victory Keys
Draw more than you take: Edmonton is top ten in the league in power play goals and you know these young Canadian kids will be wired and excited to play in Montreal.
Take the lead into intermission: The Canadiens have yet to lose a game this year when taking a lead to either the 1st or 2nd intermission.
Hope: Hope that the young Oilers players spent too much time enjoying the Montreal night life over the last couple of days and are a little under the weather.
1.The last four times these teams have played in Montreal the game has once gone to overtime and twice a shootout.
2. Michael Cammalleri has 11 goals and 11 assists in 21 career games against the Oilers.
3. The defence the Oilers will dress tonight have an average height of about 6 foot 3 and almost 210lbs. Will be interesting to see how The Canadiens deal with that size.
Puck drop is at 7:30 PM and the game can be viewed on RDS, TSN-Habs and Sportsnet West.