Ottawa is counting on a goaltending turnaround against the high-powered Edmonton offense when the Senators host the Oilers on Monday.
The two teams are meeting for the third time in nine days, with the Oilers winning both previous contests. The first of those two victories was an 8-5 rout that marked the most goals Ottawa has conceded in a game this season.
Senators goalie Matt Murray was removed from that game after just 7:20 of play and three goals allowed on nine shots. It was the low point of a nightmarish start to the season that saw Murray post a .849 save percentage and 4.82 goals against average over his first seven outings.
Since that game against Edmonton, however, Murray seems to have righted the ship. The goaltender has a .943 save percentage over the Senators’ past two games — a 3-2 upset victory over the Canadiens on Thursday, and 2-1 loss in a rematch with Montreal on Saturday.
Ottawa forward Derek Stepan said he takes these performances against Montreal, one of the league’s better teams, as a positive sign.
“As a younger group and a group that is learning along the way here and gaining experience, I think a big thing is establishing an identity,” Stepan said. “Our last six periods, we’re starting to trend to the direction that we want, the way we want to play.”
The Oilers are looking to put their past two periods behind them. Edmonton held a 2-1 lead and a 17-3 shots advantage over the Calgary Flames through 20 minutes on Saturday yet ended up suffering a 6-4 loss.
“(The Flames) pushed back there in the second and our response wasn’t good enough,” defenseman Darnell Nurse said. “Then they got the upper hand, and we were chasing a little bit the rest of the game. We got a good start, but you’ve got to carry that into the second and third and find a way to put the nail in it.”
Connor McDavid (nine goals, 17 assists) and Leon Draisaitl (seven goals, 16 assists) are each on nine-game points streaks. McDavid is also on a run of seven consecutive games with at least two points.
Edmonton also has been getting offense from the blue line, as Nurse and Tyson Barrie each have 10 points in 13 games.
Oilers forward Gaetan Haas is questionable for Monday after missing Saturday’s game due to an undisclosed injury.
Considering Murray’s hot streak, he is the probable candidate to start on Monday. The Senators and Oilers play again on Tuesday, so backup Marcus Hogberg likely will be saved for the second game of the back-to-back.
Mike Smith could make his season debut during the two games in Ottawa, as the goalie has been at practice working his way back from injury. Mikko Koskinen has played in 12 of Edmonton’s 13 games with Smith absent, and the heavy workload is surely a factor in Koskinen struggling to a 3.55 GAA and .889 save percentage.
–Field Level Media