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Oilers set to conclude road trip vs. Canadiens

by Arpon Basu /

OILERS (2-6-1) at CANADIENS (5-3-0)


Season series: The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Oct. 10. Peter Budaj made 27 saves for the win, while P.K. Subban led the way offensively for Montreal with three assists. Ryan Smyth scored the lone Edmonton goal. This will be the final time these teams play against each other in 2013-14.

Big story: The Canadiens and Oilers are both depleted by injuries, with Montreal losing Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust and Edmonton forward Taylor Hall was lost to a knee injury Saturday. It was announced Tuesday that Hall is expected to miss four weeks.

Team scope:

Oilers: The Oilers have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, sitting 29th in goals against per game (4.0) prior to Monday night’s games.

A big part of that has been goaltending, with Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera combining to post an .875 save percentage.

While getting additional defensive support would help the situation, Edmonton could also use some more time in the offensive zone far away from its own net.

The Oilers have some potent forwards, but they sat 23rd in the NHL in shots on goal per game (27.7) and 13th in goals for per game (2.78) prior to Monday's games.

Losing Hall for an extended period of time doesn’t help in that area and Jordan Eberle also missed his second straight practice Monday nursing an undisclosed ailment in what was described as a precautionary move. With Sam Gagner also missing, losing Eberle would be a tough break for a team needing some good luck to get out of an early season funk.

“You can argue [Eberle's] been our best forward and a big part of our team," said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said after practice Monday, according to the team website. “Just running practice without him isn't for the faint-hearted. We'll cross our fingers that he's good for [Saturday] but we've got to be careful with that too. We don't want to rush him and make it turn into something bigger.”

Canadiens: Montreal found out Monday that Prust would be gone for four weeks and Briere is out indefinitely with a concussion. They join an injury list that also includes Max Pacioretty, George Parros, Douglas Murray, Davis Drewiske and Alexei Emelin.

The Canadiens’ depth up front is one of their biggest strengths, but now it appears as though the kid line of Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk will be relied upon more than ever to carry the offensive load for the team. It is something they’ve done quite well through eight games, combining for 10 goals and 11 assists between them.

But opposing coaches should be focusing all of their attention on the Eller line with the loss of Pacioretty and Briere weakening the other offensive lines.

Gallagher, for one, isn't sweating it.

“We’re a young line, but we’re trying to go out there and have fun,” Galllagher said. “There’s a lot for us to learn, we have a great group of veteran players to look at, learn from and use as role models. That’s where our mindset is every day.”

Who’s hot: For the Oilers, Eberle has three goals and three assists in his last five games, and C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and an assist in his last game. Dubnyk made 35 saves on 36 shots in his last outing, his best start of the season…Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban had a six-game point streak snapped Saturday, but he still has two goals and eight assists in his last seven games.

Injury report: The Oilers are missing Hall (knee), Gagner (jaw), LW Steve MacIntyre (knee), LW Ryan Smyth (undisclosed), D Corey Potter (back) and LW Jesse Joensuu (back …The Canadiens will be without forwards Briere (concussion), Prust (shoulder), Pacioretty (hamstring) and Parros (concussion) and defensemen Emelin (knee), Drewiske (shoulder) and Murray (upper body).

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