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Canadian rivals meet as Oilers host Habs

by Tal Pinchevsky
CANADIENS (25-32-10) at OILERS (26-34-6)


Last 10:
Montreal 2-7-1; Edmonton 4-6-0

Season Series: This is the second and final meeting this season between the two Canadian franchises. They last played Nov. 8 in Montreal, where Ryan Jones started the scoring and Ryan Smyth closed the game out with an empty-net goal. In the end, Montreal lost 3-1 despite outshooting the Oilers 29-14.

Big Story: There is very little subtext to this matchup between these historic Canadian franchises. Both teams are effectively playing for next season and are firmly placed at the bottom of their respective divisions. Montreal has lost nine of its last 11 and Edmonton has dropped three of its last four, meaning both teams will be motivated primarily by pride.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Having dropped seven of their last eight, the last month has been a tough one for les Habitants. After going 0-3-0 on a difficult southeastern road swing to close out February, Montreal split two home games against Minnesota and Toronto before embarking on their annual Western Canadian road trip, which started Tuesday night in Calgary.

Against the Flames, Montreal found itself playing from behind as Calgary got first-period goals from David Moss and Jarome Iginla. Montreal would fight back, ultimately tying the game 2-2 in the second period before allowing three unanswered goals from Calgary, including a second from Iginla. Trailing 5-2 in the third period, the Habs refused to roll over, getting goals from Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty, his second of the game. Montreal would come on late, outshooting the Flames 10-6 in the final period but getting no closer than 5-4.

"It was a game in which we did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things at the same time," Eller said. "When you score four goals and when you throw pucks at the net and you do that stuff, we get the results. At the same time, we did a lot of things that weren't good enough in our own end that gave it away."

Oilers: After winning three of four late last month, including a resounding 6-1 win over provincial rival Calgary on Feb. 21, the Oilers showed flashes of the talented, young team some people were touting entering the season. But Edmonton fell back to earth quickly, losing three straight before closing out a modest two-game California trip Tuesday night in San Jose.

Against the Sharks, Jordan Eberle needed just 10 seconds to open the scoring with his team-leading 30th goal of the season. But this wouldn't be a cakewalk against the four-time defending Pacific Division champs. Barely three minutes after Eberle's tally, Jim Vandermeer notched his first of the season, tying the game. Ryane Clowe and Ryan Smyth traded second-period goals and the third period would solve nothing despite San Jose holding a 12-6 shot advantage. The game would go to a shootout, where Sam Gagner provided the only scoring and Devan Dubnyk was perfect, giving the Oilers a 3-2 win.

Who's Hot:
Pacioretty has been scorching of late for the Habs, notching 3 goals and 5 points on his current three-game point streak. David Desharnais has seven points in his last five games. … For the Oilers, Eberle has goals in five of his last eight games.

Injury Report:
Montreal's Andrei Markov has been cleared for contact, but he remains on IR alongside Mike Blunden (knee surgery), Brian Gionta (bicep surgery), Mathieu Darche (upper body), and Travis Moen (upper body). Scott Gomez, Raphael Diaz, and Aaron Palushaj are also all likely out with various ailments. … The Oilers are icing a healthy lineup.

Stat Pack: The annual trip to Western Canada has not been a pleasant one for the Canadiens in recent years. In the previous three seasons, they've gone a combined 1-8-0 on the road against Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver -- including 0-3-0 in Edmonton, while being outscored 14-5.

Puck Drop: Despite their losing records, both Montreal and Edmonton feature talented young scorers on their roster. If the 21-year-old Eberle can exceed the 32-goal mark, it will be the highest total for an Oiler since Smyth had 36 in 2005-06. Meanwhile, Pacioretty's pair Tuesday night gave him 28 goals for the season. Two more and the 23-year-old will be Montreal's first 30-goal scorer since Alex Kovalev had 35 in 2007-08.

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