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Oilers at Canadiens preview

McDavid can be first this season to 70 points for Edmonton; Gallagher could return for Montreal

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

OILERS (23-17-5) at CANADIENS (18-19-7)

7 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, SNW, NHL.TV

 

The Game

Connor McDavid can become the first NHL player to reach 70 points this season when the Edmonton Oilers visit the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday.

The Oilers center leads the League in scoring with 69 points (24 goals, 45 assists) in 45 games. He twice won the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the top scorer in the NHL, in 2016-17 (100 points; 30 goals, 70 assists) and 2017-18 (108 points; 41 goals, 67 assists).

Edmonton seeks its third straight win and fifth in eight games (4-2-1) after going 1-5-1 in its previous seven games. Goalie Mike Smith will make his fourth consecutive start.

Brendan Gallagher could return to the Canadiens lineup after missing four games because of a concussion. The forward took rushes on the first line during the morning skate and will play if cleared by the Montreal medical staff.

The Canadiens, 0-6-1 in their past seven games, will try to avoid equaling their longest winless streak this season; they went 0-5-3 from Nov. 16-Dec. 1.

 

Players to watch

Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, who has 67 points (25 goals, 42 assists) this season, has six points (three goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak. 

Canadiens center Max Domi has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games. 

 

They said it

"You're looking at each game and how you think you're going to win, and who gives you the best chance to win. I like both our guys (goalies Mike Smith and Mikka Koskinen) but right now we're just riding [Smith] because he's been hot on this trip." -- Oilers coach Dave Tippett

"This is a group that, whatever we're going to go through, we're going to be resilient. We're going to search for results, search for answers, and at this point, we've just got to find it." -- Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher

 

Oilers projected lineup

James Neal -- Connor McDavid -- Zack Kassian

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Leon Draisaitl -- Kailer Yamamoto

Sam Gagner -- Gaetan Haas -- Alex Chiasson

Joakim Nygard -- Riley Sheahan -- Josh Archibald

Oscar Klefbom -- Adam Larsson

Darnell Nurse -- Ethan Bear

Caleb Jones -- Kris Russell

Mike Smith

Mikko Koskinen

Scratched: Patrick Russell, William Lagesson, Jujhar Khaira

Injured: Matt Benning (concussion)

 

Canadiens projected lineup

Tomas Tatar -- Phillip Danault -- Brendan Gallagher

Ilya Kovalchuk -- Max Domi -- Nick Suzuki

Artturi Lehkonen -- Jesperi Kotkaniemi -- Nick Cousins

Ryan Poehling -- Nate Thompson -- Jordan Weal

Marco Scandella -- Shea Weber

Brett Kulak -- Jeff Petry

Victor Mete -- Cale Fleury

Carey Price

Charlie Lindgren

Scratched: Dale Weise

Injured: Ben Chiarot (lower body), Paul Byron (upper body), Joel Armia (hand), Jonathan Drouin (wrist), Matthew Peca (knee)

 

Status report

Benning took part in the optional morning skate after practicing Wednesday, but the defenseman is not yet ready to return, Tippett said. … Chiarot, a defenseman, was injured during Montreal's 4-3 loss at the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

 

Stat pack

Nugent-Hopkins has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past four games. … Kovalchuk, who has three assists in two games since signing with Montreal on Friday, will play his 900th NHL game.

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