Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes: Canadiens at Oilers — Game Four

A two-game losing streak has a much different feel this season, as in many cases it could mean you just lost both games in a two-game mini-series. No team in the North division has lost both games of a series yet, and the Edmonton Oilers will try and avoid that tonight.

Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburgh Anaheim (one in OT) and Los Angeles (both in OT) have lost both games of a series thus far, so it is inevitable that some teams in the North will as well, but digging an early hole in the standings is not a recipe for a playoff appearance in my eyes. A loss tonight and the Oilers drop to 1-3 and then head to Toronto and Winnipeg.

Losing game one of a series makes game two much more important. The build up to these mini-series games is awesome. I hope the NHL is wise enough to have some of these next season. Instead of a four-game road trip to San Jose, Anaheim, Arizona and Los Angeles, why not have one where the Oilers plays San Jose twice and Arizona twice, and another where they play the Kings and Ducks twice? Same amount of games, but less travel, ad more animosity, especially with fans in the stands. You can’t do it for every series like this year, but at least 25% of the games, maybe a bit more, could be two-game mini-series.

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— APB alert, APB alert for any Oilers forward not named Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Kailer Yamamoto. Zack Kassian and Dominik Kahun each have an assist, but so far only McDavid, RNH and Yamamoto have a goal. Draisaitl has five assists and has outscored the opposition 5-1 at 5×5. But the rest of the team has been invisible offensively. It is only three games, but they need to reverse this trend immediately. Not scoring is one thing, but the issue is compounded when they are allowing goals.

Jesse Puljujarvi and Kyle Turris have been outscored 4-0 at 5×5. In two games, Tyler Ennis has been outscored 3-0. Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira are 0-2, while Devin Shore is 0-1, Josh Archibald is 1-3 and Kassian is 1-2. The only bottom six forward in a positive light is Joakim Nygard at 1-0. He was on the ice for Slater Koekkoek’s late game against Montreal. Look for Dave Tippett to juggle his lineup today. Tyler Ennis hasn’t registered a shot on goal in his two games thus far. I bet he comes out up front.

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— Usually, Tippett would be able to try different combinations during the preseason, but that luxury wasn’t available this year. So he will have to change up now. Kassian will be back in the lineup, and I’d play him with RNH and McDavid. James Neal and Gaetan Haas are getting closer, but likely not ready tonight. Neal will be available on the road trip, and Haas might be as well. Both would be welcome additions.

—The one positive for the Oilers has been their 5×5 goal production from their blueline. They have three goals from D-men. Only 12 D-men in the entire NHL have scored a goal at 5×5 this season, and three of them are Oilers. Washington and Florida have two D-men while Buffalo, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Vancouver have one. The Oilers were 25th in 5×5 goals by D-men last season, so this is a welcome surprise early on.

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— The Canadiens signed Jake Allen so Carey Price wouldn’t have to play as many games, but after his stellar performance on Saturday and only playing two games in the first five days of the season, I could see them playing him again tonight. They play three games in Vancouver on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, but then they have four days off until they host Calgary on the 28th. I could see playing Price tonight and then Thursday and Saturday in Vancouver. Or they rest him tonight, and he plays Wednesday and Saturday against Vancouver. I’d play him now as he will be well rested and try to bank points.

— The Canadiens have a very relaxed schedule to start. They play eight games in January and 12 in February. Price can play six of the eight this month and then eight next month and be well rested. Because their schedule is crazy after that: They play 34 games in a span of 63 games between March 2nd and May 3rd. That is when they will want to use Allen more, but if I was Claude Julien I’d play Price tonight and twice in Vancouver. He was excellent on Saturday so keep him in rhythm.

Edmonton Oilers recall Patrick Russell from taxi squad

— Oilers have played three games and each has been very different. In game one they were a disaster defensively, giving up way too many great looks to Vancouver. In game two, they tightened up and controlled the game. Game three against Montreal, they were a step behind all game. In his post-game presser, McDavid mentioned Montreal played like the more rested team. The Oilers played their third game in four nights. Fatigue might have been a factor, but that is something teams will have to deal with and fight through more this season. They will have to find ways to win games, even when their opponent is more rested. If they don’t it will be difficult to make the playoffs with this condensed schedule.

— The Oilers did put a claim in for Aaron Dell. Troy Grosenick is driving to Edmonton, but he stopped at the Montana border. If the Oilers successfully land Dell, then they will likely put Grosenick back on waivers, otherwise he wouldn’t have stopped at the border. The Oilers will find out at 10 a.m. MT if they landed Dell. If they do, then he will remain in Toronto and join the Oilers when they fly there tomorrow. Because he is already in Toronto, he might be able to join the team right away and not have to isolate. The league is looking into it. Usually, a player would need to isolate for seven days after travelling to a new team, but in this case he might not. It will depend on COVID protocols.

— I could see Kris Russell draw in for Caleb Jones tonight as Tippett adjusts his lineup. Kassian will also draw back in as well. **Edit…Turns out William Lagesson is also in and Ethan Bear comes out.***

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