Richard Bachman will reportedly get the start in goal for the Oilers according to Ryan Dittrick via Twitter. Gene Principe was the first to note that Dubnyk left the ice first but that could signal his ankle is still bothering him and given the way Bachman performed in LA, it’s hard to fathom not giving him the start tonight.
As mentioned, Gagner will skate on the team’s top line to start the game, pushing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down to the second line and Mark Arcobello to the wing. This is a much debated topic with most Oiler fans wanting Gagner on the wing and Arcobello staying up the middle given his strong performance on the faceoff dot and playing responsibly in his own end. Keep in mind that Gagner is playing with a full face shield and his jaw is no doubt still tender. Having him play the wing would expose him to more rough play along the boards and in the corner so putting him up the middle makes sense, at least for now.
Ryan Smyth skated on the third line this morning but word on Twitter is that Ryan Jones will resume his spot alongside Boyd Gordon and Ales Hemsky, who did not skate at this morning’s optional practice.
The Maple Leafs are coming off an emotional 4-1 win over the high flying Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, silencing many critics who still aren’t sold that this club is for real.
Phil Kessel is one player who the Oilers must slow down tonight. The former Bruin has been a scoring machine lately potting 5 goals in his last 3 games.
Aside from slowing down Kessel, the Oilers will have to deal with the 3rd best power play in the league (26.7%) in Toronto and 8th best on the road (23.8%).
Speaking of special teams, last season the Oilers top man advantage had Gagner, Eberle and Yakupov on their first unit. With the trio skating together tonight they should be given ample opportunities on the PP to try and rekindle the Oilers struggling special teams.
But they may not have many opportunities given the Leafs are tied for 22nd in penalty minutes across the league. They play a disciplined game and even when they are penalized they boast the 9th best road penalty kill in the league at 87.0%. Interestingly enough, the Oilers have the 7th best PP at home with a success rate of 25.0%.