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Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Jets: New Faces

Dmitry Kulikov makes his Oilers debut tonight, while Ryan McLeod skates in his first National Hockey League game. McLeod wore #70 in training camp last season, but Kulikov will wear it tonight and McLeod will skate with #71.

— How well do you know your Oilers history? Kulikov will become the second player to wear #70 in a regular season game. Can you name the first without looking it up?

— McLeod, if he plays, will join Petr Sykora and Lubomir Visnovsky as players who’ve worn #71. Sykora played the 2006/2007 season with Edmonton and scored 22-31-53, while Visnovsky played 107 games in 2008-2010 and registered 18 goals and 63 points. McLeod had a great season in Bakersfield producing 14-14-28 in 28 games before being recalled last week. He was 50% in the faceoff dot this season, and according to Jay Woodcroft he was 54% in his previous eight games prior to getting recalled. Tippett said when he plays he will start him at centre.

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Jujhar Khaira is out for the Oilers, while Adam Lowry is day-to-day after taking an unintentional headshot from Alex Galchenyuk on Thursday. Paul Maurice matched Lowry’s line against Connor McDavid a lot in Edmonton’s 3-0 victory nine days ago, but the Jets offensive guys didn’t play as much and it seemed to get Mark Schiefele, Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers out of a rhythm. Maurice wanted Lowry’s line out against McDavid because of how much he’d crushed Winnipeg’s top line in the first six games.

— McDavid has dominated Schiefele. In 67 minutes at 5×5 McDavid has outshot, 48-23, and outscored, 8-1, Schiefele this season. McDavid has outscored Blake Wheeler 8-0.

— Schiefele was benched in the second period of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. You don’t see a coach bench his #1 centre very often, but Paul Maurice felt it was necessary. He sat out the final 13 minutes of the second and first four minutes in the third.

“We have some things that we value as a group,” said Maurice after Saturday’s loss. “Mark’s a real competitive guy and that gets the best of him sometimes, I think. We just need to adhere to our core values.”

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— I won’t be surprised to see Maurice show confidence in his leading scorer and match up him up against McDavid tonight. He will want the challenge of facing the NHL’s leading scorer and we’ll see if Schiefele and his line can play better tonight than they have in the first seven meetings.

— McDavid has outscored Lowry 4-1, but Lowry has outshot him 22-14. The Jets haven’t found a way to shutdown McDavid thus far. He has 4-11-15 in seven games.  McDavid’s quest for 100 points is still realistic. After back-to-back three point games against Montreal he enters tonight with 77 points. He needs 23 point in the final 11 games.

—The Jets have suddenly lost three in a row. Edmonton blanked them 3-0, and Toronto beat them 5-3 and 4-1. Schiefele was benched on Saturday and reigning Vezina trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck was pulled after three goals on Thursday. He felt he should have been allowed to continue. Maurice wasn’t afraid to send a message to his group.

“I liked the emotion on our bench. I liked our third period,” said Maurice. “Connor (Hellebuyck) got pulled the other night, he’s clearly one of our leaders. And that doesn’t sit well with those guys.

“We just have to adhere to those things. Now is the time to make sure we get it right. Now is the time to dial in those parts of our game, especially when you lose three in a row, this is the perfect time to handle your problems, to deal with it when you’re going into the stretch.”

The team notices more when star players get called out than when you don’t play the fourth line or third D pair. Will they play angry tonight? We’ll see.

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— Edmonton is 5-2 against Winnipeg this season and if they split these next two games or win both, their chances of finishing second in the North will be quite good. Edmonton enters tonight one point behind the Jets with two games in hand. At worse they need a split of these two games to leave Winnipeg one point back with two games in hand. Catching Toronto for first seems unlikely, and these two teams seem destined for a first-round playoff match. Buckle up.

Mike Smith tweaked something in practice on Saturday, but he was on the ice yesterday and Dave Tippett said he is good to go. They could give him extra rest and wait to play him until Wednesday, but if it was just a tweak, which happens, then he likely goes tonight. Jesse Puljujarvi didn’t skate the past two days. He isn’t feeling well (not COVID), but Tippett expects him to play tonight.

*Answer to the #70 question… Curtis Hamilton.

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