EDMONTON, AB - On the brink of facing a series-sweeping defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers are preparing to prevent their visitors from bringing out the broom at Rogers Place.
To do so, the club is looking to clean up parts of their game and polish others. In the miniseries so far, the Oilers have failed to find the back of the net on 61 shots, have gone cold on the power play with a 0-for-4 showing and are 2-for-5 on the penalty kill.
"Losing three times in a row is something we talked about and we don't want to do," defenceman Adam Larsson said pre-game. "We just have to get the job done today. We're still looking pretty good here but we got to play a lot better overall."
The Orange & Blue want to improve their transition game and make life more difficult for Toronto's goaltender - whoever it may be - by getting to the dirty areas in the offensive zone.
"Good breakouts and net-front battles," Larsson specified. "It's been a big factor in these two games so far, so that's something we have to step up."
THE REAL DEAL RETURNS
Forward James Neal is expected to enter the Oilers lineup after missing the last four games. The winger notched an assist in Edmonton's 7-1 win over the Calgary Flames in his last appearance and watched the past two encounters with Toronto from the sidelines.
"They were tight and they were checking us really hard," Neal said. "We weren't able to get to the net enough and I thought their goalies were seeing the shots a little too much."
The veteran has two goals and five points in 11 games this season and skated on the left side of the top line at Tuesday's practice, alongside Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi. The 33-year-old will look to provide the bench with some energy in Game 3.
"I'm talking a lot out there," Neal said. "Talking amongst teammates, bickering back-and-forth, having fun and enjoying the guys. I look forward to doing that."
A product of Ontario, Neal jumps into the fray with extra incentive to produce not only because he's facing his childhood team but also because his family is watching from back home.
"It's actually my dad's 65th birthday," he said. "Hopefully we get a big win for him tonight."
The Oilers did not hold a morning skate Wednesday but Head Coach Dave Tippett confirmed Mike Smith would start in goal.
"Smitty's played well," he said. "We're going with the guy who has played better here lately."
The bench boss did not confirm whether forward Dominik Kahun would be available for action. He did not participate in Tuesday's practice. "We still haven't got the official word from the trainers on that one," Tippett said.
Tippett did not confirm whether Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto would play together but the trio was a line at yesterday's skate.
The Oilers will also be without winger Alex Chiasson. He was suspended one game for an altercation with Toronto's Jimmy Vesey after the horn sounded on Monday.
"The game was over when it happened," Tippett said. "That's something the League doesn't like so we accept it and move on."
Keep it locked on EdmontonOilers.com for updates and roster moves during the day. Line combinations and pairings will be made available during warmups.
The Oilers won five straight before engaging in their current set with the Maple Leafs, dropping two of the three games thus far.
All 61 shots the Orange & Blue have thrown at goaltenders Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson have been stopped as the Oilers have been shutout twice and outscored 7-0 in the miniseries.
"If you're down 3-0 after the first in back-to-back games, that's a tough way to climb back," Leon Draisaitl said following Tuesday's practice. "Our start is key. Maybe get a lead, try to find a goal early and play with the lead."
Edmonton rests third in the North Division with 28 points, possessing a .583 points percentage through 24 games.
Maple Leafs Team Scope
The Maple Leafs have connected three straight wins and rank first in the National Hockey League overall with 36 points, five up on the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The visitors are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and 8-1-1 away from Scotiabank Arena in the 2020-21 season.
Mitch Marner is the Maple Leafs leader in assists with 23 and points with 33, sitting fourth in NHL scoring. Auston Matthews has been sidelined the past two games but remains the NHL's leading goalscorer with 18.
Wednesday's game marks the seventh of nine meetings between the Oilers and Maple Leafs in the 2020-21 campaign. Edmonton is 2-4-0 in the season series.
McDavid leads all Oilers in the season series with three goals and seven points in six outings. Draisaitl has four goals and six points while Tyson Barrie has three helpers.
William Nylander (4G, 3A) and Marner (2G, 5A) top the Maple Leafs against the Oilers. John Tavares (1G, 5A) follows and Auston Matthews has three markers in three outings.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers are 9th on the power play (25.9%) and 19th on the penalty kill (77.3%). ... EDM owns a minus-one goal-differential at Rogers Place, being outscored 45-44. ... The Oilers lead the League in home power-play goals with 14. ... The club tops the NHL in first-period goals with 29. ... EDM is 3rd in shots for with 740 but 21st in shot differential with a minus-27 margin. ...
The Maple Leafs are 2nd on the PP (31.9%) and 11th on the PK (80.6%). ... In 10 road games, Toronto has outscored opponents 36-24 for a plus-12 goal-differential. ... TOR is 12-2-1 when they score first. ... The team is 13-for-32 on the PP on the road with a 40.6 percent average.
OILERS - William Lagesson (undisclosed) is on IR; Slater Koekkoek (upper body) is on LTIR; Zack Kassian (hand) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on LTIR.
MAPLE LEAFS - Auston Matthews (wrist) is day-to-day; Frederik Andersen (lower body) is day-to-day; Wayne Simmonds (fractured wrist) is on IR.