The visiting Edmonton Oilers will be eager to gain some revenge when they play for the first time in a week on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The last time the teams met was in Edmonton over Feb. 27 to March 3 when the Maple Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 in a three-game sweep.
The Oilers have not played since March 20 — a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets — after their three games this week against the host Montreal Canadiens were postponed because of COVID-19 protocols.
The first game was postponed one hour before game time Monday because of a positive COVID-19 test on the Canadiens. Two other Oilers-Canadiens games — Wednesday and Friday — also were postponed.
“It’s not a normal season. There are going to be challenges,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “You have to deal with them. Last time we were in here, we lost Jesse Puljujarvi for the day with a false positive, and Mikko Koskinen couldn’t play because he had gone for a walk with him. You have to roll with the punches, and that’s exactly where it’s at.”
“This is the world we’re living in right now,” said Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, who is having a strong season with 10 goals and 15 assists. “With all this uncertainty and all the different things going on this season, it’s easy to sit back and complain about everything you have to go through, but you just have to sit back and embrace it. It’s a different challenge that we’ll all look back at later in our careers and say, ‘We played a 56-game season in a pandemic.'”
The Maple Leafs have not been busy recently, either, because of a scheduling quirk. Their 3-2 overtime road victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday came after four days off in the schedule. They split two games March 19-20 with the visiting Calgary Flames after another span of four days between games.
The Maple Leafs have won two in row after losing six of seven games in the stretch that immediately followed the sweep in Edmonton.
The Oilers have won seven of nine games since being swept by the Maple Leafs.
Toronto’s top scorers have been struggling. Auston Matthews has three goals in 12 games and none in the past five games, Mitch Marner has two in 11 games, John Tavares one in seven and William Nylander two in nine. The power play has not scored in its past 15 opportunities, including 0-for-3 Thursday night.
“Our top guys are fighting it around the net,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “It isn’t going in for them. We need to get those goals from other guys.”
Matthews did make a fine defensive play that helped set up Justin Holl’s overtime winner on Thursday.
“I don’t really even like to comment much on overtime,” Keefe said. “I think it’s just such chaos. (Matthews’ play) was certainly a big play, and he’s tired at that point in time. I thought through 60 minutes he also had the puck a lot, had some chances and, again, here today he’s around the net, had some backside looks.
“Again, the puck’s just not going in for him, but I like that he’s just staying with it and he’s not sacrificing other areas of his game while he’s searching for that goal.”
–Field Level Media