The Boston Bruins (37-11-12, 86 points) kick off their Western Canadian road trip tonight in Edmonton when they battle the Pacific Division leading Oilers (32-21-6, 70 points). This is the second and final meeting between the teams, who first met at TD Garden on January 4th. The Oilers took that game 4-1.
Puck drop is at 8:30 pm on NESN, Sportsnet and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Bruins Searching For Revenge
The Bruins struck first on January 4th, but surrendered four consecutive goals and lost in regulation for just the second time at TD Garden. They’ll be looking to flip the script tonight against an Oilers team that has six players out from that game a month ago.
“They played well against us in our building,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I don’t know if we had our A-game, but credit to them too. They did a lot of things well and we didn’t get to our game, so that’ll be our challenge tomorrow. We’re playing better hockey now as a group; we’re healthy, fortunately.”
The Oilers, as mentioned, don’t have that same level of health. Forwards Connor McDavid (quad), Joakim Nygard (hand), James Neal (foot) and defensemen Kris Russell (concussion) and Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) are all out. Zack Kassian is serving the third game of a seven-game suspension.
Still, Cassidy believes the Oilers are a dangerous team with plenty of weapons. After all, NHL points leader Leon Draisaitl will be in the lineup. The Bruins know they need to be ready.
“Obviously, the Oilers have all of their weapons – not all their weapons, but they have enough weapons every night. I know McDavid’s out and [Zack] Kassian, good players for them. They seem to have survived that, and that’s the mark of a good team. A team that plays with a lot of structure, they can plug guys in and still get points. So, that’ll be our challenge,” Cassidy continued on Tuesday.
Playoff Race Heats Up
Both the Bruins and Oilers will enter tonight in first place in their respective divisions. The Bruins sit one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Oilers are tied with the Vegas Golden Knights. It is a tight race that will force both teams to play with some desperation this evening at Rogers Place.
“Obviously, they’re in a tight playoff race, that division is pretty tight right now,” Edmonton native Jake DeBrusk said. “A lot of jockeying. [We] definitely expect a desperate team looking to get two points and we understand that we have a team kind of doing the same thing on our side too.”
The Bruins haven’t clinched a playoff spot, but they have a cushion of 18 points on the Florida Panthers. They’ve all but locked up their spot in the dance. The Oilers, who haven’t made it since 2017, aren’t in the same boat. Edmonton holds just a three point cushion on Winnipeg. Edmonton has played two less games.
“It seems like this time of year, the games kind of get amped up,” DeBrusk continued. “It’s for seeding, anything to get those two points. We understand that no matter who they have in the lineup they’re going to give the best they got.”
We are now just five days away from the annual NHL trade deadline. Both the Bruins and Oilers are expected to be buyers. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy reported earlier this morning that the Bruins are “going for it” and are considered the frontrunners for Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri.
“He’s made no secret he’s going for it,” a well-connected NHL source said of Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney to Murphy. Murphy also reported that the club could be willing to move forwards Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman in deals, while John Moore, Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton have also had their names tossed around.
Stay tuned to Boston Hockey Now for all of the latest trade speculation. It’s here where you first heard about Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman, Josh Anderson, Kreider and Palmieri.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
Bruins lines are subject to change and are based off of this morning’s skate in Edmonton. Rask will start, per Cassidy. He has not played against the Oilers since November 26th, 2017. Edmonton won that game at TD Garden 4-2. John Moore, Par Lindholm and Anton Blidh are the healthy scratches for the Bruins. Connor Clifton (lower-body) is nearing a return but is not on the road trip with the club.
Edmonton Oilers Lines
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Tyler Benson – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Sam Gagner – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Jujhar Khaira – Colby Cave – Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
William Lagesson – Matt Benning
Oilers lines are subject to change. Smith is the expected starter after defeating Carolina on Sunday. Kassian (suspension), Nygard (hand), Russell (concussion), McDavid (quad), Neal (foot) and Klefbom (shoulder) are all injured. Markus Granlund was assigned today AHL Bakersfield this morning. That leaves the Oilers with only 12 forwards on the roster. The club recalled defenseman Evan Bouchard this afternoon. He will not play tonight.