OILERS (7-12-4) at CANADIENS (15-8-1)
TV: RDS (HD), TSN (HD)
Montreal 7-3-0; Edmonton 3-5-2
First of two meetings on the 2010-11 schedule, with Montreal traveling to Edmonton for a Feb. 17 game. Both of last season's matchups were won by the home team and decided by a single goal, with Nikolai Khabibulin
stopping 33 shots as the Oilers won 3-2 on Oct. 10, 2009, and Andrei Kostitsyn
scoring in the fifth round of a shootout to give the Canadiens a 5-4 victory on March 11, 2010.
Martin Gerber is back in the NHL and making the most of his opportunity in Edmonton. Gerber, who has played on three teams that went to the Stanley Cup Final (Anaheim in 2003, Carolina in 2006 and Ottawa in 2007), started the season in the AHL and was recalled after Khabibulin injured his groin. He helped the Oilers edge the Avalanche in his debut with the team last week, then stopped 22 of 23 shots against one of his former clubs in a win Monday over the Senators. Gerber is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.
One critical save by Gerber and a subsequent Edmonton goal opened the floodgates and led to a 4-1 win Monday. With the Oilers trailing 1-0 late in the second period, Gerber stopped Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson on a shorthanded breakaway. Tom Gilbert
then scored a power-play goal with 1:21 left in the second, and the Oilers erupted for three more in the third, with Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule
and Taylor Hall
lighting the lamp.
"It's definitely nice to have this one," said Gerber, who backed up Ray Emery during the Senators' march to the 2007 Final and played 57 games for the team the following season. "It's always emotional to play somewhere you've been around for a while and it was really great to see the guys out there compete and, for most of the game, we had a good game."
It's been two weeks since Montreal has been able to string consecutive wins together, which they'll have a chance to do Wednesday. The Canadiens had a four-game winning streak in mid-November and have alternated losses and wins over the last six games. Their new captain, Brian Gionta
, stood front and center in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Sabres. He assisted on Kostitsyn's power-play goal to open the scoring and added two tallies of his own.
"We played pretty hard tonight," said Carey Price
, who stopped 34 shots. "We all wanted to bounce back from (Friday) night's game (a 3-0 loss in Atlanta) and I thought everybody came out with the right mentality and played hard the whole game."
Cogliano, Brule and Hall all have goals in each of the Oilers' past two victories. … Kostitsyn has goals and multi-point efforts in each of the Canadiens' past two victories. Price has won three of his last four starts, allowing one goal or less each time.
Khabibulin is on injured reserve for Edmonton and forward Ales Hemsky
, who also has a groin injury, is day-to-day. … Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov
injured his knee and is out indefinitely.
The Oilers have two of the top-five rookie scoring leaders, with Jordan Eberle
(4-11-15) second and Hall (6-6-12) tied for fifth. … Special teams have contributed heavily to the Canadiens winning six of their last seven at the Bell Centre. Their power play has gone 9-for-31 and they've killed off 27 of the 29 shorthanded situations they've faced.
For each team, this begins a stretch of three games in four nights. Edmonton travels to Toronto for a game Thursday before returning home to face St. Louis on Saturday, while Montreal heads on the road and plays in New Jersey on Thursday before coming back home for a Saturday game against San Jose.