Oilers-Canadiens matchup could be potential playoff preview

NHL Hockey

With a place in the Stanley Cup playoffs now secured, the Montreal Canadiens end their regular season against a potential postseason opponent when they host the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

The Canadiens (24-21-10, 58 points) clinched their playoff berth in somewhat backhanded fashion on Monday, dropping a 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton. The single point was enough, however, to send the Habs to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme was proud of his team for overcoming such obstacles as multiple injuries, a nine-day COVID-19 hiatus in March and a compressed late-season schedule.

“What we’ve been through is something really special. … The margin between winning and losing is so thin that you need to be mentally challenging yourself to be on top every night,” Ducharme said.

Wednesday will mark the Habs’ 25th game in 44 days, so it wouldn’t be surprising if some regulars were held out of the lineup in order to stay fresh for the playoffs. The Canadiens have already been playing without Carey Price, captain Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault, who are all expected back for the start of the playoffs.

Running a second-string lineup against Edmonton, however, runs the risk of sending the Habs into the playoffs on an extended winless streak. Montreal is 0-3-1 over its last four games.

The Oilers (34-18-2, 70 points) are on a much bigger roll heading into the playoffs, going 11-4-0 in their last 15 games. Edmonton has clinched the second seed in the North Division.

Connor McDavid scored the overtime winner on Monday. McDavid also earned an assist on Dominik Kahun’s second-period goal, giving the Oilers captain six consecutive games with at least two points.

“You could definitely get a sense of (the Canadiens’) desperation,” McDavid said. “But that’s a great thing for us, to be able to play a team like this with their desperation, with their intensity level tonight. That’s how it’s going to be moving forward, so it was a good test for us, and good for us to keep our playoff mindset going.”

Both McDavid (five goals, 13 assists) and Leon Draisaitl (six goals, eight assists) are on six-game multi-point streaks. Draisaitl had two assists on Monday, including the setup for McDavid’s overtime score.

Edmonton’s two superstars continue to fill the scoresheet at a pace that would be impressive in a normal-length season, let alone this season’s 56-game schedule. McDavid leads the NHL with 102 points (33 goals, 69 points) in 54 games, while Draisaitl is second in scoring with 81 points (30 goals, 51 assists).

The Oilers conclude their regular season against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Forward Gaetan Haas is questionable after missing the Oilers’ last five games with a foot injury.

Mikko Koskinen stopped 25 of 28 shots for Edmonton on Monday. Starting goaltender Mike Smith is likely to see action in at least one of the Oilers’ last two games, and Alex Stalock has yet to play since being claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Wild on March 1.

Jake Allen has played in 17 of Montreal’s last 20 games. If Allen is rested, 21-year-old goalie Cayden Primeau would get the call for his sixth career NHL start.

The Canadiens are 5-2-1 against the Oilers this season.

–Field Level Media

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