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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers at Maple Leafs

The Oilers continue their five-game jaunt in Toronto against the Maple Leafs

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday at Scotiabank Arena.

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 Monday's avails for the Morning Skate Report.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game at TOR 01.06.20

 

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Sunday's practice at Ford Performance Centre, including video and written pieces of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' well-deserved NHL All-Star nod.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

TORONTO, ON - From Beantown to the Big Smoke.

Reeling off Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, The Oilers enter Toronto hoping that the self-confidence they gained versus the B's gets carried over to the Six.

The Orange & Blue played a complete game at TD Garden and saw the dividends it can yield. Edmonton took a 2-1 lead into the third period against the Black & Gold and didn't fold when push came to shove in the final 20 minutes of play.

The hope, in the Oilers room, is that it can be replicated at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.

"It was really important because the last couple of games we thought we had played well in the games but not for a full 60 minutes," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said Monday morning.

"We put a full 60 together."

As a team, the Oilers felt they've begun returning to the form they had when the gates opened on the 2019-20 season and Edmonton stormed out to a 5-0-0 start. The contests only get more difficult as the season progresses but the key has been to continue striving for those three-period, 60-minute or more performances that had eluded them in December. 

"It can't be a one-off," Leon Draisaitl, who had two points on Saturday and shares the National Hockey League scoring lead with Connor McDavid, said. 

"It was a very solid game throughout the entire lineup. We're going to need that same effort again tonight."

ONTARIO MADE

Ontario is home for many Oilers players.

Competing in front of family and friends always causes the stakes to rise and members of the Orange & Blue are aware of it. 

Hamilton's own Darnell Nurse, who will visit his family on Tuesday, knows the feeling.

"Any time you get the opportunity to play close to home and close to family, it's always a little special," the defenceman, who tallied the game-winning goal on Saturday, said. 

"There's definitely a little bit of a buzz."

But once it comes time for puck drop, the surrounding hoopla subsides.

"Everyone is excited to see their family and what not while we're here but now it's just time to play hockey."

Like Nurse, Mike Smith, James Neal, Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner, Riley Sheahan and Connor McDavid all hail from different pockets of the province. 

The atmosphere generally intensifies - on the outside - for McDavid, who has become one of the faces of the game since entering the League in 2015-16.

That's not the case in reality.

"He's ice-cold, that guy," Nurse said of his good friend and leader McDavid.

"He just comes in, shows up and plays. I don't think he worries about the outside distractions too much and that's the way everyone's got to play."

Like Nurse said, Monday will be business as usual for No. 97, who comes into the game with six points in his past six outings.

"The spotlight's been on him for a very long time," Nurse continued. "I'm sure he wasn't as comfortable with it when he first got into the League. But that's the type of person he is, a very humble and hard-working person. He always keeps everything in perspective and keeps the team goal first in his mind."

McDavid was limited to a single assist at Scotiabank Arena last season. The Oilers lost that game by a score of 6-2 and also have last month's 4-1 setback to the Leafs in the back of their minds.

Stealing a win won't be easy, however, given Toronto's 15-4-1 record since Sheldon Keefe's been at the helm.

"They've been playing well and are a very skilled team," Draisaitl said. "It will be a great test for us. We'll have to make sure we're ready and hopefully, we can steal two points here."

NO REST FOR THE WICKED

For the third consecutive game, Mike Smith will get the start for the Oilers. 

The keeper believes he's slowly re-calibrated back to a performance level he's comfortable with and it's been noticed by his bench boss.

"He probably played his best game of the year for us last game," Tippett said. "We want him to carry on that momentum tonight."

Goaltender Mikko Koskinen was dealing with an illness previously but is healthy now. This decision is simply about staying with the hot hand.

"Smitty has, obviously, been such a good goalie in this League for such a long time," Nurse said. 

"You have so much trust in him back there. He makes such big saves in a timely manner. He holds us in games far past points where sometimes we should be. It's good to be able to get a couple of wins for him."

Smith is 8-9-3 in '19-20 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.

LINEUP NOTES

The Oilers administered the same forward lines at practice on Sunday but Oscar Klefbom did not skate, so the defence partnerships were not concrete.

The D pairings will be made apparent at Monday's warmups.

Lines at Sunday's practice were:

Neal - McDavid - Kassian
Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl - Yamamoto
Nygard - Haas - Chiasson
Khaira - Sheahan - Archibald

Smith
Koskinen

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | McDavid

PREVIEW

OILERS (22-17-5) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (24-14-5)

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

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's match is the second of two meetings between the Oilers and Maple Leafs this season.

Toronto invaded Rogers Place on Dec. 14, and routed Edmonton by a score of 4-1.

Alex Chiasson notched the lone marker for the Oilers in that contest while Alexander Kerfoot (1G, 1A), and Pierre Engvall (2A) collected two points apiece for TOR.

Connor McDavid has 11 points (4G, 7A) in eight all-time outings against the Maple Leafs.

Oilers team scope:

The Oilers felt a surge to their self-confidence when they became just the second squad in the National Hockey League to beat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in regulation with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

"For us to beat them in regulation, especially after we've been on a little bit of a slide, it should be a confidence boost for us," Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Sunday. 

"It shows what we can do when we put a full 60 together."

With the win, the club improved to 1-0-1 on the current five-game road trip, picking up three of a possible four points. The club is also 4-5-1 in their last 10, 12-9-2 on the road and sitting in the first Western Conference wild card.

"There are still parts of our game that we need to continue to work on but we've made some strides here in the last few and hopefully we can continue that," Head Coach Dave Tippett said.

Maple Leafs team scope:

The Maple Leafs have been one of the best team in the League of late, skating out to a 9-0-1 record in their last 10 and carrying a three-game winning streak into Monday's clash with the Oilers.

Under former head coach Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs were 9-10-4 but since hiring Sheldon Keefe, Toronto's gone 15-4-1 with a 4.10 goals per game average and 36.6 percent power play. That is the best record in the NHL since Nov. 21, 2019.

Toronto is 4-0-1 in their last five home games and are 11-4-5 at Scotiabank Arena this season. The team is second in the Atlantic Division with 53 points.

Auston Matthews leads the Leafs in goals and points with 28 and 51, respectively. Goaltender Frederik Anderson is 21-8-4 with a .916 save percentage and 2.67 goals-against average.

By the Numbers:

Leon Draisaitl owns an 18.5 percent shooting rate in 2019-20. ... Draisaitl also has 32 points (13G, 19A) in 23 road games this season, 2nd in the NHL. ... McDavid has 187 points (56 G, 131 A) in 131 career GP vs. Eastern Conference opponents. ... The Maple Leafs are 14-2-0 against the Oilers in their last 16 meetings and 7-0-0 in their last seven. ... Matthews has 21 home game goals this season. ... John Tavares has 311 goals since 2010-11, which is third most in the NHL. ... 

Injury Report:

OILERS - Matt Benning (concussion) is on IR.

MAPLE LEAFS - Jake Muzzin (fractured foot) is day-to-day; Ilya Mikheyev (wrist laceration) is on IR; Trevor Moore (concussion) is on IR; Andreas Johnsson (leg) is on IR

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

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