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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers at Canadiens 05.12.21

The Oilers complete a two-game set against the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday at the Bell Centre

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

Oilers pre-game coverage is presented by SkipTheDishes

The Edmonton Oilers play their final road game of the 2020-21 regular season Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

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

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game at MTL 05.11.21

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from the Oilers during their final road swing of the regular season in Montreal.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

MONTREAL, QC - Two games.

That's all that is left in the Edmonton Oilers regular season schedule as the club inches closer and closer to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Edmonton's mission the past two months has been to optimize their performance leading into the post-season and with a 12-4-1 showing since April, the Orange & Blue have hit their stride. 

Goaltender Mike Smith got the night off in Monday's 4-3 overtime win over Montreal, allowing Mikko Koskinen to start in goal while third-stringer Alex Stalock backed him up. 

Smith is using these last pair of regular-season outings to be best prepared for when the puck drops on playoffs. 

"It was nice to get a breather and take a couple of days off from on-ice activity. Get some treatment done, some work on the body and then rest the mind of a little bit," Smith said following Tuesday's practice.

"The main thing is we're balancing rest, work and just getting ready for Game 1 of the playoffs."

While Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse have led the way for the team upfront, 39-year-old Smith has been the backbone from the blue paint with a 20-6-2 record. 

The vocal netminder with a fiery passion is helping inexperienced Oilers get into the proper frame of mind in these last matches.

"It's crazy to say but I can remember as a 24-year-old being in my first year in the League and guys telling me, 'Enjoy it now, it goes by quick.' Now, I'm the old goat and trying to say the same things to these younger players," Smith, owning an 11-13 post-season record, said.

Video: RAW | Mike Smith 05.11.21

"Seasons go by so quickly and chances to win are few and far between. Our mentality as a group here is we have as good of a chance as anybody else to win. We're super excited to play important games."

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound guardian has logged much of the workload in goal, getting the much-needed day of rest. The same could be said about McDavid, Draisaitl and other leaders, who have charged the Oilers to second-place in the North Division.

"There are some people that you'd like to say, 'OK, do you want a game off?' but nobody wants a game off," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They want to keep playing." 

Edmonton will wrap up their series with Montreal Wednesday then play one final home game at Rogers Place against the Vancouver Canucks to officially end the 2020-21 regular season. Round 1 for the Oilers could begin next Wednesday or Thursday.

"We'll manage it here the next couple of games and get through it, making sure everybody is as healthy as possible. We'll get a day off and then a couple of good days of practice and get ready to go," Tippett added.

LINEUP NOTES

Tippett said the Oilers are dealing with a few bumps and bruises, so there could be changes to the lineup for the rematch with the Canadiens. 

Stay tuned to Tippett's pre-game media availability at 1:00 PM MT on Wednesday for any news regarding line combinations, defence pairings or starting goalies.

PREVIEW

OILERS (34-18-2) at CANADIENS (24-21-10)

TV: 3:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West

Oilers Team Scope

The Oilers are on a two-game winning streak after topping the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Monday. The club is 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and have locked up second place in the North Division. 

Connor McDavid (33G, 69A) notched an assist and the overtime winner against the Canadiens, running his National Hockey League scoring lead up to 102 points. Leon Draisaitl (30G, 51A) potted a pair of assists in the win and rests second in scoring with 81 points.

Tyson Barrie is second in defencemen scoring with eight goals and 46 points in 54 outings and Darnell Nurse (16G, 20A) has the second-most goals among defenders this year with 16.

Canadiens Team Scope

After securing a point in Monday's overtime loss to the Oilers, the Canadiens clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. Wednesday's tilt will mark the conclusion of the Canadiens' regular season.

Forward Tyler Toffoli has 28 goals and 44 points this season to head the Canadiens in the scoring department. Rearguard Jeff Petry is second in with 12 goals and 42 points. Goaltender Jake Allen is 11-12-5 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Video: RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 05.11.21

Head-to-Head:

Wednesday's game marks the ninth and last meeting between the Oilers and Canadiens in '20-21. Edmonton is 3-4-1 in the season series, being outscored 23-18. 

McDavid heads all skaters in the series with three goals, seven assists and 10 points over eight games. Draisaitl has five assists and Jesse Puljujarvi has also chipped in with two goals and two helpers.

Netminder Smith is 2-1-1 when backstopping Edmonton versus Montreal, facing 124 shots and making 116 saves for a 1.99 GAA and .935 S%.

With a three-point performance on Monday, Artturi Lehknen took over the team lead in scoring against the Oilers with four goals and three assists. Tomas Tatar (4G, 2A) and Petry (2G, 4A) and Paul Byron (1G, 5A) all have six points. 

Goaltender Allen is 2-2-1 versus Edmonton this year with a 2.98 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

By the Numbers:

The Oilers have the top-ranked power play in the NHL (27.4%) and 11th penalty kill (82.1%). ... The team is 7th in goals for per game, averaging 3.30. ... McDavid is 1st in points per game (1.89), even-strength points (67), power-play points (35), and 2nd in game-winning goals (11). ... McDavid and Draisaitl are the only two players in the NHL with over 30 goals and 50 assists this season. ... 

The Canadiens are 19th on the PP (19.3%) and 18th on the PK (79.3%). ... The club is 17th in the League in goals for per game, averaging 2.82. ... Montreal allows 2.93 goals against per outing (13th). ... MTL is 6th in shots per game, registering 31.2. ... 

Injury Report:

OILERS - Gaetan Haas (foot) is day-to-day; Kris Russell (lower body) is day-to-day; Joakim Nygard (hand) is day-to-day; Zack Kassian (lower body) is on LTIR; Slater Koekkoek (upper body) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on LTIR. 

CANADIENS - Phillip Danault (concussion) is day-to-day; Shea Weber (upper body) is day-to-day; Paul Byron (lower body) is day-to-day; Carey Price (concussion) is day-to-day; Jonathan Drouin (personal) is on IR; Brendan Gallagher (thumb) is on IR.

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