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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers at Canadiens

The Oilers take their four-game point streak to Montreal for a match with the Canadiens

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers visit the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday, in the fourth outing of their five-game road trip.

You can watch the game on Sportsnet West or listen on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED.

Read the Preview then check back after Thursday's avails for the Morning Skate Report.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game at MTL 01.09.20

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Wednesday's Oilers practice at Bell Centre, including a look at Kailer Yamamoto's contribution to the lineup and Mike Smith's return to form.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

MONTREAL, QC - Bonjour de La Belle Province.

Ça va bien - or, in English, it's all good - for the Oilers on their current road getaway, with the club entering Montreal on a four-game point streak.

The Orange & Blue have yet to experience a regulation blemish on the trip while the Canadiens have dropped seven straight, owning a 0-6-1 record during that time. 

By no means are the visitors overlooking their hosts aujourd'hui, however, as the Habs are expected to skate out with a desperate effort to overwrite the funk they have been on. That aspect of tonight's match hasn't eluded the Oilers dressing room.

"You recognize they're going to be a desperate team," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They've had a bit of a rough go lately. They're coming back home and they're going to be a real desperate team."

That's all outside noise for the Orange & Blue, who want to maintain the pace they have established early on in 2020.

"We have to continue to play the way we have," Tippett added. "We have to show up and play a really good, strong road game."

MAGIC MIKE

Netminder Mike Smith will keep hold of the crease for the Oilers in Thursday's affair, marking the fourth consecutive game he will start in the blue paint.

Smith expressed that he feels re-focused after a tough December that saw Edmonton go 5-8-1. After backstopping the squad with a .972 save percentage against the Boston Bruins, the keeper followed it up with a .889 percentage against the Maple Leafs. But no numbers were more important than the four points the goaltender collected for his club.

"It never ceases to amaze you that you're continuing to learn about yourself and the position, even at my age," Smith, the 37-year-old, said pre-game on Thursday. "You're always continuing to try to improve mentally and physically to keep playing at a high level in this League.

"It's been going well lately and I want to continue that tonight."

Tippett discussed the decision to stay with Smith.

"He's playing well, so we're going to try to ride the hot hand a little bit," the coach said. "He's a veteran guy. He's engaged in the game and he gives our group some life, so we're just trying to maximize every player and the goaltender is no different."

Smith is 9-9-3 on the season with a .897 save percentage and 3.05 goals-against average.

BIENVENUE

On Monday, Connor McDavid had the homecoming of a lifetime, scoring what could stand as the National Hockey League's Goal of the Year while also adding three assists to nab a four-point night in a 6-4 victory.

Donc, bienvenue dans ton maison, Alex Chiasson, who will play in his home province for the first and only time this season.

"I don't know if I got that (McDavid's individual effort goal)," Chiasson said with a sneer after practice. "But it's always special to come and play here. The atmosphere in this building is just different."

The winger sniped his fifth of the season in Toronto on Monday and in 18 career outings against the Habs, Chiasson has one goal and five assists for six total points. 

"Every time here doesn't get old," he said. "You skate on (the ice) and there's just a vibe that's hard to describe."

Chiasson tallied 22 goals and 38 points last season for the Oilers and has 14 points in 39 outings in '19-20.

"He works hard every day and he really buys into the team structure and what we're trying to do there," Tippett said of Chiasson. "He's got a little less power-play time this year with (James) Neal coming in that's affected his numbers a little bit. 

"For the most part, he's been a solid player for us."

LINEUP NOTES

The Oilers held an optional morning skate on Thursday, so lines were not apparent. Sam Gagner replaced Jujhar Khaira in Wednesday's line rushes but Tippett was quick to dismiss that on Thursday.

"Don't read too much into that," he said.

Lines from Wednesday's practice appeared to be:

Neal - McDavid - Kassian

Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl - Yamamoto

Gagner - Haas - Chiasson

Nygard - Sheahan - Archibald

Khaira, P. Russell

Defence:

Klefbom - Larsson

Nurse - Bear

K. Russell - Jones

Lagesson - Benning

Goal:

Smith

Koskinen

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Smith

PREVIEW

OILERS (23-17-5) vs. CANADIENS (18-19-7)

TV: 5:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the second and last game of the season between the Oilers and Canadiens.

When the two sides first engaged on Dec. 21, at Rogers Place, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl teamed up with a goal and assist each to lead Edmonton to a 4-3 win.

Former Oilers defender Jeff Petry put up a goal and two helpers in the losing effort while Carey Price stopped 22 of 26 shots on goal.

Price is 3-8-1 with a 3.70 GAA & .859 SV% in 12 career starts vs. the Oilers.

Oilers team scope:

The Oilers have bagged five out of a possible six points on their current five-game road swing, which brings the club to Montreal on a four-game point streak.

In their last outing, Oil Country was treated with a Goal of the Year bid by McDavid, who tallied his 24th of the campaign on an unbelievable individual rush in his hometown, leading the squad to a 6-4 victory with four points.

The Oilers are third in the Pacific Division with 51 points, three back of the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes.

Canadiens team scope:

The Canadiens are on a seven-game losing streak, going 0-6-1 during that span with their last win coming back on Dec. 23 of 2019.

The Habs are most recently coming off a 4-3 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings. Montreal failed to secure two points despite holding 2-0 and 3-2 leads.

"Our lineup is thin, so we're asking a lot of certain players and I think there's an element of fatigue setting in," Canadiens Head Coach Claude Julien said following the loss.

Montreal is sixth in the Atlantic Division with 43 points.

By the Numbers:

McDavid's 69 points this season are the most through the Oilers first 45 games of a season since 1987-88 when Wayne Gretzky had 86 points. ... McDavid is tied with Patrick Kane of Chicago for the League-lead in third-period points this season with 23, while Leon Draisaitl is second with 22. ... Shea Weber has 12 goals this season and 27 points in 40 career contests against EDM. ...

Recent signing Ilya Kovalchuk is set to play in his 900th career game, becoming the 10th player from the 2001 NHL Draft to play in 900 games. ... Habs goaltender Price is 67-65-17 since the start of 2017-18. He was 91-38-11 in his previous 3 seasons (2014-15 through 2016-17).

Injury Report:

OILERS - Matt Benning (concussion) is on IR.

CANADIENS - Brendan Gallagher (concussion) is on IR; Joel Armia (upper body) is on IR; Matthew Peca (leg) is on IR; Paul Byron (knee) is on IR; Jonathan Drouin (wrist) is on IR; Joel Teasdale (torn MCL, ACL) is on IR.

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

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