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PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Canadiens

In today's Boston Pizza Preview, the Oilers face the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers play the fourth game of their eight-game home stand tonight when the Montreal Canadiens come to town. It's an early start, with the puck dropping at 5:00 p.m. MDT and it will seem even earlier after the clocks moved ahead overnight. 

You can watch the game across Canada on Sportsnet or listen via 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network. 

Read the full game preview below plus our Morning Skate Report, videos, lineup updates and more. 

Video: OILERS TODAY | EDM vs. MTL Pre

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Saturday's Oilers practice and media availability.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers host another Eastern Conference opponent in the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at Rogers Place. Edmonton clawed out a point in a cinematic game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and will look to nab two from the Habs.

After relieving Head Coach Michel Therrien of his duties on February 14, and appointing Claude Julien to the position, Montreal has gone 7-3-0.

"They've been on a roll up until the last game in Calgary," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "I've never had the experience that Claude's having right now of coming in and taking a team over mid-January or February and trying to put your stamp on the team systematically. There are still some very similar traits to their systematic game."

The Canadiens were on a six-game winning streak before they were burned by the scorching Calgary Flames 5-0 on Thursday.

"I think he's probably pushing buttons a little bit different in the locker room, making small adjustments as they evolve but it's hard to re-create a system at this time of the year," said McLellan.

Regardless, McLellan knows the game will present a challenge.

"They're a very good hockey club, we'll have our hands full," he said.

DESHARNAIS FACES FORMER SQUAD

Only 12 days after being traded from the Canadiens, David Desharnais will face his former team. The newest Oiler registered 250 points in 435 games with the club but his tenure didn't end on the best of terms.
 
"It ended pretty bad for me," said Desharnais. "It was my dream come true to play in the NHL and playing for the Montreal Canadiens. They gave me a great chance and I'm really thankful for that. Now I've got to move on."
 
Desharnais has fit well with Edmonton's lineup right away, contributing a goal and assist in the three games he's played.

Said Desharnais about making an impact so early with the Oilers: "I think playing with big guys helps me a lot."
 
PLAYING DESPERATE

Down 2-0 after the first period Friday night against the Penguins, the Oilers did anything but throw in the towel against their powerhouse opponents. Instead, they pushed the pace in the final two periods and overtime, nearly defeating the defending Stanley Cup champions.

It was desperate hockey. Edmonton will look to continue harnessing that desperation level versus the Habs and in their final 15 games of the regular season.

"It's one of those intangible things that you can't really put your finger on," said Eric Gryba, who could potentially slot back into the Oilers lineup against the Canadiens on Sunday. 

"Last night we played desperate hockey and this time of year, you need that. It's obviously a strong character trait of our team if we can continue to do that."

All season, the Oil have proven that they don't wilt in games, no matter the score or situation.

"We obviously have showed it at certain throughout the season," said Gryba. "A lot more consistently than last year. It's something we know we have in our game we just have to continue to tap into it."

The Oilers lineup will become clear come warmups.

-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (35-23-9) vs. CANADIENS (38-22-8)

TV: 5:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game marks the second and final meeting between the Oilers and Canadiens this season and the lone game in Edmonton. The last time these teams met in Edmonton was on Oct. 29, 2015, when the Oilers defeated the Canadiens 4-3. 

The last time these teams met was on February 5th in Montreal, when the Oilers edged the Canadiens by a score of 1-0 in a shootout. Talbot made 22 saves for the shutout including stopping all three shooters in the shootout; Leon Draisaitl scored the shootout deciding goal.

Oilers team scope:

With 79 points, the Oilers sit fourth in the Pacific Division, one point behind Calgary and Anaheim for second. The Oilers occupy the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference, four points up on the second wildcard team, St. Louis.

The Oilers rank among the NHL leaders in the following categories:

79 points (35-23-9) - 11th in the NHL
2,087 shots on goal - 6th in the NHL
31.1 shots per game - 8th in the NHL
21.4% power play efficiency - 7th in the NHL
1,681 hits - 5th in the NHL

On Friday against Pittsburgh:

Connor McDavid led the team in ice-time (26:53), a season and career high, while also leading the team with nine shots on net, also a season and career high. ... Defenceman Kris Russell returned to action after missing two games, leading the team with four blocked shots and three takeaways. ... The Oilers won 34 of 45 faceoffs (76%), with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leading the team with eight faceoff wins in ten faceoffs (80%). ... The Oilers had 42 shots on net, the eighth time in 2016-17 that the Oilers have reached 40+ shots on net.

Former Canadiens forward David Desharnais has played three games with the Oilers. He has a goal and an assist. On Friday against the Penguins, he won seven of eight draws for an 88% success rate in the dot. 

Canadiens team scope:

Montreal has been red hot as of late, having won six of their last seven games but they lost their last one on Thursday by a score of 5-0 in Calgary. Al Montoya played between the pipes with Carey Price under the weather. It's expected Price will get the nod tonight against the Oilers, a team he's historically struggled against. 

In eight career games against the Oilers, Price has a 1-6-1 record with a 3.75 goals-against average and .856 save percentage. 

Former Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson has been with the Canadiens for four games, but has only dressed for one of them. He registered no points and a -1 rating in 14:40 of icetime in that one game with two shots on goal. Davidson had one assist in 28 games this season for the Oilers and last season had four goals and 11 points in 51 games for Edmonton. Tonight he could face his former team for the first time if healthy enough to dress. 

Another former Oilers blueliner, Jeff Petry, is having an excellent season in Montreal. Petry has a career-high eight goals and 27 points in 66 games. He's averaging 22:10 of icetime per game. 

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