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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers at Leafs

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers



News, notes and more from Oilers practice on Thursday.





TORONTO, ON - Get to .500 on this road trip. That is the Oilers goal tonight as they close out their five-game trip away from Edmonton.

The Oilers lost in Washington, Carolina in regulation but managed to take Detroit to overtime and beat Pittsburgh in a shootout. The next challenge will be Toronto.

“It would put a win in the win column, which is obviously real important and a goal of ours every night,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “To come home at .500 on a pretty tough road trip, considering we didn’t win the first two, would be an accomplishment that we would be please with. We wouldn’t have a parade, but we’d be pleased with it. I think it’s something we can grow on. Our road record isn’t terrible. We’ve played some good games, we just haven’t had a timely goal or a timely prevent of a goal to give us more wins than losses.”

“.500 on the road with some tough teams would be a really good showing for us,” said Taylor Hall. “It’s a good chance for us. Toronto is a team that has been playing really well lately, especially their special teams. It’s going to be a good challenge for us. With .500 in our sights, we’ve got to grab that.”

The Oilers hope to take lessons learned from their 3-2 win in Pittsburgh on Saturday night and transition them into another victory.

“It was definitely a nice win to get. I thought we played really good early in the game and they’re a good team,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “They showed some pushback. I thought in the third we had some chances to end it, and in overtime. Luckily, we got it done in the shootout so that was nice.”

“I think for us, moving forward from Pittsburgh and the other night, it was a big win for us, especially to get one in extra minutes there for sure,” said Brandon Davidson. “We’ve lost a few of those in a row so it was good to get on top of that and come in here. They’re a struggling team, but we’ve had our fair share of that as well. We’ve got to stay on top of it tonight and make sure that we bring our game and play the right way and take care of that.”

Davidson says McLellan has coached the Oilers to be more detail-oriented on this road trip, which has helped with results.

“Details plays a huge role in it. That’s something he’s preached,” the blueliner said. “I think guys are just taking it upon themselves now that we’ve came together as a collective group. We know we have to get on a little bit of a run here and get some points together. I think guys know how important it is and as long as we can keep moving in that direction and keep taking what Todd is giving us, we’ll be fine.”

The Oilers will draw a potentially favourable matchup in net, with the Maple Leafs giving Garret Sparks his first NHL start.

“I think it’s definitely something that we can use, but not something that we can take lightly,” said Davidson. “I don’t think we can step off the gas pedal by any means. Any calibre of player who comes up here definitely has earned it or deserves to be here. With all the emotion that comes into play, he’ll be on his game as well.”

Sparks has a 1.90 GAA and .938 save percentage in 11 AHL games this season for the Toronto Marlies.

Anders Nilsson will man the net for Edmonton tonight. The rest of the lineup at morning skate was as follows:




The lineup is subject to change, as McLellan says they are monitoring some bumps and bruises with players.

-- Chris Wescott,




OILERS (8-14-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (7-11-5)

TV: TVA Sports, SN

Season series:
The Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs split the season series in 2014-15 with each team winning at home. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 5-1 on Feb. 7; Edmonton won 4-1 on Mar. 16. Right wing Jordan Eberle led the Oilers with a goal and two assists. Center Peter Holland led the Maple Leafs with a goal and an assist.

Oilers team scope:
Rookie forward Connor McDavid is expected to rejoin his teammates in Toronto. He broke his collarbone on Nov. 3 and has been rehabbing in Toronto. General manager Peter Chiarelli told the Oilers website that McDavid, who was expected to miss 8-12 weeks, is ahead of schedule. Chiarelli, however, refused to commit to a timetable as to when McDavid will be ready to play. The Oilers had the day off after a 3-2 shootout win at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. The game against the Maple Leafs is the finale of a five-game road trip for the Oilers (1-2-1). Defenseman Justin Schultz returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing 14 games with a back injury. He was paired with Brandon Davidson. Forward Jujhar Khaira, 21, made his NHL debut with the Oilers on Saturday. He played on the fourth line with left wing Matt Hendricks and center Anton Lander. Khaira was recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League after Nail Yakupov sprained his ankle last Wednesday.

Maple Leafs scope:
Toronto coach Mike Babcock told the Maple Leafs website that goalie Garret Sparks, 22, will make his NHL debut on Monday and forward Joffrey Lupul will not play because of an undisclosed injury. Lupul, who is tied for the team lead with Leo Komarov with eight goals, did not skate on Sunday. With James Reimer out because of a lower-body injury and Jonathan Bernier struggling (0-8-1), the Maple Leafs will turn to Sparks, who is 8-2-1 with a 1.90 goals against average and a .938 save percentage with Toronto of the AHL this season. "We've got to find a way to win a game," Babcock said. "Is he ready for the opportunity? We're going to find out." Bernier faced 23 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Reimer did practice Sunday, but he's not ready to play. "You have to be able to do your job to your fullest and right now it's a little restricted," Reimer told the Maple Leafs website. "I can't quite do everything I need to do to be successful."

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