EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers are up for another challenge from the Eastern Conference, hosting the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall Place on Monday.
Edmonton (3-4-1) defeated three Eastern Conference teams for their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 26-29, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals 3-2, and the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3.
The Canadiens (7-1-0) are the top team in the Eastern Conference and off to their best start since the 1961-62 season.
"We're trying to play better than we have in the last couple of years and build ourselves into a better team, and I think every game is a bit of a measuring stick for us considering where we are coming from," Oilers captain Andrew Ference said. "We haven't overlooked the teams that are close to the bottom, and without a doubt, we're getting up for the teams that are close to the top. It's a great test for us, they are difficult games, but every game in this league is."
The Oilers are trying to get back to.500 after starting the season on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1). Their game Monday is the fifth of a seven-game homestand.
"They [Canadiens] are as good a team in the League of transitioning the puck," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "We have to do two things well. We have to manage the puck well and if there is a turnover or a bobbled puck, we have to react very quickly to get back on the right side of it.
"The other thing that is impressive with Montreal is their tenacity in the red zone [front of the net]. When pucks go to the net, they're not a huge team, but they're like a bunch of wild dogs after a piece of meat in there. They're in there scrapping for those pucks and it's impressive because they're fearless with their size. It just goes to show you, you don't have to be big to play the game. You just have to have a little bit of courage and a little bit of confidence."
Montreal is coming off a perfect four-game homestand, which included victories against the Boston Bruins and the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers.
The game against the Oilers is the first of a three-game Western Canada road trip. The Canadiens play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
"We want to keep it rolling," Canadiens right wing Rene Bourque said. "We played well at home. We have a tough three games here, three games in four days and four games in seven. It's a lot of travel and you definitely don't want to take anyone lightly. The Oilers have played well these last three games at home and we have to be ready to play when the puck drops."
Goaltender Dustin Tokarski, 25, will start for the Canadiens. Goalie Carey Price has a 1-5-1 lifetime record against Edmonton and is expected to start against the Flames.
"There are a lot of things in consideration when we want to play our young kids," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "So that's a new role [backup] for him [Tokarski]. He used to play a lot in junior and the American Hockey League. The one thing is that every time we ask him to perform he has performed. It's a new role, he has to adjust, he played really well in the one game he played, and in back-to-back games, we like to use both goalies. We took things into consideration and we decided to go with Dustin [Monday]."
With Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth recovering from a groin injury, Ben Scrivens will make his fifth consecutive start.
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
Rene Bourque – Lars Eller – Dale Weise
Brandon Prust – Manny Malhotra – Travis Moen
Alexei Emelin – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Tom Gilbert
Nathan Beaulieu – Mike Weaver
Scratched: Michael Bournival, Jiri Sekac, Jarred Tinordi
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
David Perron - Leon Draisaitl – Teddy Purcell
Benoit Pouliot - Mark Arcobello - Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu
Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry
Martin Marincin – Mark Fayne
Nikita Nikitin – Justin Schultz
Scratched: Will Acton, Brad Hunt
Injured: Viktor Fasth (groin), Luke Gazdic (shoulder)
Status report: Beaulieu will play in place of Tinordi on the Canadiens third defensive pairing. Draisaitl will be playing his ninth game for the Oilers. Nikitin did not take part in the morning skate, but is expected to play.
Who's hot: Nugent-Hopkins has three goals in his past three games … Plekanec leads the Canadiens in scoring with five goals and four assists in eight games this season.