How to watch
A day after the Montreal Canadiens brought in Martin St. Louis to replace Dominique Ducharme, the Edmonton Oilers made a coaching change of their own, parting ways with Dave Tippett to have Jay Woodcroft come in to lead an underperforming group.
Both coaches have enjoyed decent success with their new teams. St. Louis has six wins in 10 games, Woodcroft seven in 11, and they’ve also each witnessed five-game winning streaks. Unfortunately for the Oilers’ bench boss, his team has another parallel with the team from Montreal: injuries to key players.
One of the main changes the Oilers’ new coach made was aligning his best players down the middle of the ice to build outward from. Connor McDavid kept his spot on the top line, Leon Draisaitl centred the second line, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had been playing as a winger under Tippett, took up his natural spot on line number three to give the team a very good base at the forward position. On February 26, Nugent-Hopkins went out of the lineup with a shoulder injury, removing that depth element. This happened a week after Jesse Puljujarvi, who is having his best NHL season to date, was ruled out for a month of action.
Following the 5-0 start to his tenure, Woodcroft has only earned two wins in the past six games with his depleted lineup, and the Oilers are in danger of falling out of a playoff position once again.
Tale of the Tape
|46.1% (25th)||Scoring-chances-for %||50.0% (15th)|
|2.36 (31st)||Goals per game||3.25 (9th)|
|3.82 (32nd)||Goals against per game||3.18 (23rd)|
|12.6% (31st)||PP%||26.3% (3rd)|
|73.5% (31st)||PK%||76.3% (26th)|
The Canadiens’ own injury list keeps adding names. On Thursday we saw Jake Evans leave the ice multiple times after a series of hits to his head, first a shoulder from Brett Ritchie and then two high sticks. He didn’t return to the game after the last contact, and though the team hasn’t officially ruled him out, it has been announced that Mathieu Perreault will be drawing back into the lineup tonight, perhaps in Evans’s place.
There was also a surprising announcement that Andrew Hammond had been placed on Injured Reserve despite playing the full 60-plus minutes of the overtime win in Calgary. It may have been the weakest game of his brief time in Montreal, but it was his third win in three starts as he outduelled Jacob Markstrom for the extra point.
Tonight the net belongs to Samuel Montembeault, who wasn’t fortunate enough to claim two points from a rough start on Tuesday, despite the impressive showing from the Canadiens to come all the way back from one four-goal deficit and the valiant effort to play until the final whistle after being dealt another. Now that he’s been handed the reins once again as the team’s starter, he’ll want to make up for that performance.
While neither team will be icing anything close to its best roster, the entertainment value still promises to be high. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that in the period since the coaching changes, McDavid leads the league in points with 18 in 11 games. A bit further down the order, but still very commendable given the team and personal struggles earlier this year, is Cole Caufield, who has 12 points in 10 games.
The two teams are also quite poor on the penalty kill, and the Canadiens have finally started to see a bit of success on their power play after a long dry spell, so there could be some fireworks on special teams. Caufield has helped to set up his regular linemates for the two man-advantage goals in the past two games and will likely be featured on the scoring line if the Habs can extend that run to three.