NBCSN Wednesday Night Preview

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Michael Finewax
·9 min read
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There are two games on the NBCSN schedule Wednesday as they go north of the border with Edmonton in Ottawa to play the Senators while Montreal travels to Toronto to face the first place Maple Leafs.

Editor’s Note: The Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators face off Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 5:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

EDMONTON AT OTTAWA

The Edmonton Oilers have two superstar forwards in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, one very good one in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and little else up front. They cannot even complete two top lines. They hope that Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi are able to fill out two spots in the next year (if not sooner) but that is it at this time for quality forwards.

Of course, McDavid and Draisaitl take care of most of their offense as McDavid leads the NHL with 64 points and Draisaitl is second, seven points in arrears of McDavid. The two are a joy to watch and it is too bad that there are not more pieces at forward to help out the dynamic duo.

James Neal has been a major disappointment and hasn’t played in three weeks while Gaetan Haas, who centers the third line, has only a pair of goals and an assist.

The blueline is headed by Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie. Nurse has to get some Norris consideration as he leads all defensemen with 13 goals. He has chipped in with 15 assists and is a plus-18. Where he loses some value is on the power play as he has only a goal and four assists with the man-advantage.

Tyson Barrie, his defense partner, has been a power play specialist with 14 of his 32 points coming with the man-advantage. He is not close to Nurse with his defensive play but is a stud offensively.

Mike Smith has turned the goaltending situation in Edmonton around. He is 13-3-2 with a 2.41 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage. The Oilers are 10-11-0 when Smith is not between the pipes and are currently third in the North Division, one point behind Winnipeg and seven behind Toronto with all three teams having played 39 games. That being said, Mikko Koskinen will get the start and he is 9-11-0 with a 3.15 GAA and a .902 save percentage.

The Senators are last in the North with a 13-22-4 record but they have been more than competitive of late, going 4-2-3 in their last nine.

The Senators are a young team, led by Brady Tkachuk who is tied for the team lead with 12 goals and 23 points. The 21-year-old leads the NHL in shots on goal with 155 and plays the game the old-style way, with plenty of grit.

The Senators have lots of good, young players in addition to Tkachuk as Tim Stutzle was the third overall pick in 2020 (having Alex Trebek announce your name at the Draft has to be an exciting moment that Stutzle will remember for the rest of his life) and is a pleasure to watch with his offensive flair, while Drake Batherson and Josh Norris also provide Ottawa with a promising future.

The Senators were smart to bring in a veteran presence with Evgenii Dadonov, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan, but the first two are now playing on the fourth line while Stepan is gone for the season after suffering a torn labrum in his dislocated shoulder.

The blueline is headed up by Thomas Chabot who is tied with Tkachuk and Batherson for the team lead in points with 23. Mike Reilly has 17 assists but has yet to score, while Nikita Zaitsev has been serviceable for the Senators. Ottawa has some good, young defensemen in the pipeline as they are high on Erik Brannstrom and fifth-overall pick in 2020, Jake Sanderson.

Ottawa has had trouble in goal as the injured Matt Murray was not doing the job before he got hurt. He was the Senators big acquisition in the off-season in a trade from Pittsburgh but a 7-12-1 record with a 3.84 goals-against-average and a .880 save percentage, just doesn’t do it. Marcus Hogberg, the backup at the start of the campaign is 2-5-0 with a 4.34 GAA and a .859 save percentage and he was recalled on Tuesday from the minors as he completed his rehab assignment, going 1-1 with Belleville of the AHL with a 1-51 GAA and a .950 save percentage. He could be in goal for Ottawa although Anton Forsberg (1-1-1 with a 3.28 GAA after stopping 115-of-125 shots on goal in only three games) deserves to be in net against the high-flying Oilers. Coach D.J. Smith announced Wednesday morning that Hogberg will indeed get the start.

By the way, the Senators are the only NHL team not to be shut out this season.

Probable Edmonton Lineup

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Connor McDavid-Jesse Puljujarvi

Dominik Kahun-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto

Josh Archibald-Kyle Turris-Zack Kassian

Devin Shore-Jujhar Khaira-Alex Chiasson

Darnell Nurse-Tyson Barrie

Kris Russell-Adam Larsson

Caleb Jones-Ethan Bear

Mike Smith

Mikko Koskinen

Probable Ottawa Lineup

Brady Tkachuk-Josh Norris-Nick Paul

Tim Stuetzle-Chris Tierney-Drake Batherson

Ryan Dzingel-Clark Bishop-Connor Brown

Alex Formenton-Artem Anisimov-Evgenii Dadonov

Thomas Chabot-Nikita Zaitsev

Mike Reilly-Artem Zub

Braydon Coburn-Josh Brown

Anton Forsberg

Marcus Hogberg

MONTREAL AT TORONTO

Editor’s Note: The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 7:30 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

This is a classic battle of the two storied Canadian teams in the NHL. It’s the hockey equivalent of the Red Sox vs. the Yankees and fans of both teams get goose bumps in anticipation of a Toronto-Montreal battle.

The Canadiens are hurting coming into Wednesday’s game as goaltender Carey Price, who seemed to be hurt in Monday’s win over Edmonton, did not make the trip to Toronto and Brendan Gallagher will be out a while as he suffered a broken thumb when teammate Alexander Romanov’s shot went off his thumb.

Those are a couple of big losses for the Habs but they still have a very good top-six with Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi as their top line with Jonathan Drouin, newcomer Eric Staal and Tyler Toffoli making up the rest of the top-six.

The Canadiens should get the bulk of their scoring from the Toffoli line as he has a team-leading 19 goals in 32 games. The free-agent signing from the Canucks has been a wonderful addition. Josh Anderson has 14 goals and gives Montreal some scoring from the bottom-six.

The defense is led offensively by Jeff Petry who is third among defensemen in goals with 11 in the NHL. Joel Edmundson has a plus-30 rating which is the best in the NHL. Shea Weber is still a force on the blueline and cannot be discounted.

Jake Allen should get the start against the Maple Leafs with Price on the shelf. Allen is having a fine season as Price’s backup, going 5-3-4 with a 2.23 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.

The Canadiens are in fourth place, eight up on Vancouver and Calgary and 12 behind the front-running Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs have elite scorers in Auston Matthews who leads the NHL in goals with 27, Mitch Marner, who has 47 points in 39 games, one better than Matthews as well as John Tavares and William Nylander.

But the heart and soul of the team are their two big grinders, Zach Hyman and Wayne Simmonds. The Maple Leafs play a lot better when Hyman and Simmonds are healthy and wreaking havoc in the corners and in front of the net. Veteran Jason Spezza is having a strong season with nine goals and 21 points as he has been providing scoring from the bottom-six.

The problem in the past for Toronto was their lack of commitment on the blueline as they just didn’t have enough toughness to win when the going got tough, like in the playoffs. They have been unable to make it out of the first round since 2004.

But they went out in the off-season and picked up T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian and when they were added to Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl, all of a sudden, Toronto was tough to play against.

Morgan Rielly is their offensive leader on the blueline. He had a 20-goal, 72-point season in 2018-19 but outside of that season, he has never scored in the double-digits and has only one other season with more than 36 points. He has four goals and 27 points this season so he is on his way towards his third-best season in his eight-year NHL career.

Jack Campbell has been outstanding this season, tying a Toronto record for most consecutive wins with nine. He is a perfect 9-0-0 with a 1.53 goals-against-average and a .944 save percentage. He has given up more than two goals only twice and both times he gave up only three. He will try and break Felix Potvin’s record (along with Jacques Plante and John Ross Roach) for most consecutive wins by a Leafs goalie, if he gets the start and if he does, he will tie Carey Price for the most wins to start the season without a loss.

Probable Montreal Lineup

Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Jonathan Drouin-Eric Staal-Tyler Toffoli

Corey Perry-Nick Suzuki-Josh Anderson

Paul Byron-Jake Evans-Artturi Lehkonen

Joel Edmundson-Shea Weber

Brett Kulak-Jeff Petry

Alexander Romanov-Victor Mete

Jake Allen

Charlie Lindgren

Probable Toronto Lineup

Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner

Alex Galchenyuk-John Tavares-William Nylander

Joe Thornton-Alexander Kerfoot-Jason Spezza

Ilya Mikheyev-Pierre Engvall-Wayne Simmonds

Morgan Rielly-T.J. Brodie

Jake Muzzin-Justin Holl

Travis Dermott-Zach Bogosian

Jack Campbell

Michael Hutchinson