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PREVIEW: Oilers at Canadiens

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
TV: Sportsnet West (HD)

RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 5:38 p.m. MT



The Oilers will be without forwards Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth in their lineup tonight when they take the ice in Montreal to battle the Canadiens. Edmonton General Manager Craig MacTavish confirmed that the prognosis on Hall was that he would miss about four weeks, while Smyth will sit out a week.

The loss of Hall is especially hard to take as he is currently tied for the team-high in scoring and has been is big part of the team.

"It is what it is," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "It's never good to lose one of your top players, a guy who eats up a ton of minutes. Who's a danger every time he goes on the ice. Are we going to miss him? Absolutely, of course we are. He's a big part of this hockey club and when we do have success, he's right in the middle of it. He's usually one of the catalysts but he's not here. We'll look for him when he's healed and ready but it's time for other people to grasp opportunity."

"We've got a lot of skill in this room and a lot of guys that are going to be able to step up," said forward Jordan Eberle. "That being said, I don't think one guy can fill that. It has to be a collective group."

Edmonton traded forward Mike Brown last night to the San Jose Sharks for a 4th round pick in 2014 and have recalled forwards Ben Eager and Tyler Pitlick from the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League.


Montreal is a city and team with a lot of history and a well-known, passionate fan base. For the Oilers, it is going to be an intense and fun experience.

"I've played here before," said Eager who will play tonight after being recalled this morning. "It's an intense building. The fans are great. There's so much history with this organization. It's nice to be playing and it's easy to get up for games like this."

Eager, who has played in many of the more lauded arenas in the NHL, says the Bell Centre in Montreal is towards the top of his list.

"It's right up there. It's one of the top-five buildings in the league for sure. The fans are into it, every second of the game. Like I said, it's easy to get up for it and hopefully all the boys will be ready to tonight."


Oilers forward Tyler Pitlick, a former 2nd round pick by the team in 2010, will make his NHL debut tonight in Montreal. Pitlick has played in seven games for OKC, scoring a goal and adding two assists.

Pitlick is excited about the opportunity in front of him, tonight.

"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity," said the rookie. "It's really exciting. I've been waiting for this for a long time and I'm just going to enjoy it."

Pitlick's journey to his first NHL game began with a strong training camp this off-season.

"I think I just had a good camp. Then I went down in Oklahoma City and continued with it and was just consistent every night and was playing well."

Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins expects the young forward to bring energy to his lineup tonight.

"Energy," said Eakins. "I'm hoping Tyler can pick up where he left off. I had a lot of time for him in training camp and I had seen him play a little bit in Oklahoma City when I was coaching the Marlies. He was really moving his feet, he was being physical and he was getting pucks to the net and that's what we need out of him. It's a real simple recipe."


The Oilers will try to build off of their first road win of the season and carry their momentum into tonight's game against Montreal.

"Last game was a big game for us," said Eberle. "We needed that win but I think the biggest thing is we've got to turn the page and we need this win tonight. I think if we lose, it goes back to square one and how we're feeling. We need to keep this ball rolling, get a win and that would be big ups for us."

-- Chris Wescott,


OILERS (2-6-1) at CANADIENS (5-3-0)


Season series: The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Oct. 10. Peter Budaj made 27 saves for the win, while P.K. Subban led the way offensively for Montreal with three assists. Ryan Smyth scored the lone Edmonton goal. This will be the final time these teams play against each other in 2013-14.

Big story: The Canadiens and Oilers are both depleted by injuries, with Montreal losing Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust and Edmonton forward Taylor Hall was lost to a knee injury Saturday. Ryan Smyth has also returned to Edmonton with an injury.

Team scope:

Oilers: The Oilers have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, sitting 29th in goals against per game (4.0) prior to Monday night’s games.

A big part of that has been goaltending, with Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera combining to post an .857 save percentage.

While getting additional defensive support would help the situation, Edmonton could also use some more time in the offensive zone far away from its own net.

The Oilers have some potent forwards, but they sat 23rd in the NHL in shots on goal per game (27.7) and 13th in goals for per game (2.78) prior to Monday's games.

Losing Hall for any extended period of time won’t help in that area and Jordan Eberle also missed his second straight practice Monday nursing an undisclosed ailment in what was described as a precautionary move. With Sam Gagner also missing, losing Eberle would be a tough break for a team needing some good luck to get out of an early season funk.

“You can argue [Eberle's] been our best forward and a big part of our team," said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said after practice Monday, according to the team website. “Just running practice without him isn't for the feint hearted. We'll cross our fingers that he's good for [Saturday] but we've got to be careful with that too. We don't want to rush him and make it turn into something bigger.”

Canadiens: Montreal found out Monday that Prust would be gone for four weeks and Briere is out indefinitely with a concussion. They join an injury list that also includes Max Pacioretty, George Parros, Douglas Murray, Davis Drewiske and Alexei Emelin.

The Canadiens’ depth up front is one of their biggest strengths, but now it appears as though the kid line of Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk will be relied upon more than ever to carry the offensive load for the team. It is something they’ve done quite well through eight games, combining for 10 goals and 11 assists between them.

But opposing coaches should be focusing all of their attention on the Eller line with the loss of Pacioretty and Briere weakening the other offensive lines.

Gallagher, for one, isn't sweating it.

“We’re a young line, but we’re trying to go out there and have fun,” Galllagher said. “There’s a lot for us to learn, we have a great group of veteran players to look at, learn from and use as role models. That’s where our mindset is every day.”

Who’s hot: For the Oilers, Eberle has three goals and three assists in his last five games, and C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and an assist in his last game. Dubnyk made 35 saves on 36 shots in his last outing, his best start of the season…Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban had a six-game point streak snapped Saturday, but he still has two goals and eight assists in his last seven games.

Injury report: The Oilers are missing Hall (knee), Gagner (jaw), LW Steve MacIntyre (knee), LW Ryan Smyth (undisclosed), D Corey Potter (back) and LW Jesse Joensuu (back …The Canadiens will be without forwards Briere (concussion), Prust (shoulder), Pacioretty (hamstring) and Parros (concussion) and defensemen Emelin (knee), Drewiske (shoulder) and Murray (upper body).

-- Garpon Basu - Staff Writer

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