The Edmonton Oilers look to continue their dominance over the Ottawa Senators when the two teams begin a three-game mini-series in Edmonton on Monday.
The Oilers are a perfect 4-0-0 against the Senators this season. Considering this recent form, the upcoming three-game set represents a big opening for Edmonton to further solidify itself into a North Division playoff spot.
Following three consecutive losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers got back on track with a 3-2 home victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Edmonton trailed by a 2-1 margin with 14 minutes remaining before Kailer Yamamoto and Connor McDavid scored third-period goals to put the Oilers ahead.
In search of an offensive spark partway through Saturday’s game, Oilers coach Dave Tippett put McDavid, Yamamoto and Leon Draisaitl on the same line, with immediate results. The trio skated together at Sunday’s practice, indicating that the Oilers could again turn to the uber-pairing of McDavid and Draisaitl, though Tippett is cautious of weakening the team’s overall scoring depth.
“It’s a give and take of the balance throughout your lineup,” Tippett said. “Both Connor and Leon, they’re players that can drive their own line. But when you put two of them together, they’re an awful powerful force too, so we just have to make sure we’re using it at the right times.”
McDavid recorded a goal and two assists against the Flames, ending an uncharacteristic three-game points drought. Yamamoto also had a goal and an assist for just his second multi-point game of the season.
The Senators are also coming off a victory over the Flames, a 4-3 shootout win on Sunday. Ottawa won despite being whistled for 10 penalties that resulted in eight Calgary power plays. The Senators’ penalty-kill unit performed well in limiting the Flames to a single goal from those eight chances with the extra attacker.
An improved penalty kill was one of the few gradual positives from Ottawa’s four previous games against the Oilers. After allowing four power-play goals in an 8-5 loss to Edmonton on Jan. 31, the Senators were a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill in their following three meetings with the Oilers.
Those four losses to Edmonton came during Ottawa’s nightmarish 2-12-1 start to the season, but the Senators have quietly posted a 7-5-0 record over their last 12 games. Forward Austin Watson feels his team is adapting to this season’s unique challenge of facing the same six divisional opponents on a regular basis.
“For a team with not a ton of experience when it comes to important games late in the season and playoff series, it’s a great opportunity for our group,” Watson said prior to Sunday’s game. “Having played a team two or three times, make those adjustments and go through some of the momentum swings that happen throughout a game or throughout a series, it’s just a really good learning experience for all the guys in the room.”
Since starting goalie Matt Murray was between the pipes on Sunday, backup Joey Daccord will likely get the nod for Monday’s game. Daccord has a 2.51 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in three appearances for the Senators this season, stepping into the backup role with Marcus Hogberg on the injured reserve.
Mike Smith is Edmonton’s probable starter. Smith stopped 34 of 36 shots on Saturday to improve his record to 7-2-0 in 11 games (10 starts) this season.
–Field Level Media