Oilers look to pick on Senators' leaky defense
Each coming off a lopsided defeat, the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators will look to get on track when they meet in Canada's capital on Thursday.
Edmonton is looking for a quick recovery after a 6-2 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The defeat snapped a streak of four straight games (2-0-2) with at least one point for the Oilers.
With the team lagging on the fringes of the Western Conference wild-card race, the Oilers have little margin for error over their remaining 19 games. There might not be a more ideal opportunity for points, however, than a trip to Ottawa, as the Senators are languishing at the bottom of the NHL standings.
A 7-2 setback to the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday marked the Senators' fifth straight defeat and their 12th loss in their past 15 games. Now that Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene have all been traded, Ottawa coach Guy Boucher doesn't want his remaining roster to feel pressured to replace the production of that trio.
"In the absence of some guys that were pillars now, you don't try to become the same pillars that were there before," Boucher said after the Tuesday game. "You've got to be yourself at your best. Wanting to do too much sometimes translates exactly into that."
One of the Senators' new faces made an immediate impact on Tuesday, as Oscar Lindberg scored his first goal in an Ottawa jersey. Lindberg was acquired on Monday as part of the trade package from the Vegas Golden Knights for Stone.
Goalie Craig Anderson has started two of Ottawa's past three games, and he could start again Thursday given Anders Nilsson's recent struggles. Nilsson was pulled on Tuesday after allowing six goals on 24 shots, dropping his save percentage to just .849 over his last 286 minutes of action.
The defensively lacking Senators are last in the league in shots allowed and next to last in goals allowed, giving the Oilers a chance to get their offense rolling. Edmonton has scored only 39 goals over its past 16 games, a stretch that has been the club post a 3-9-4 record.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to generate much of the Oilers' attack, with Draisaitl on a particular hot streak. After scoring against Toronto on Wednesday, Draisaitl has 15 goals and six assists over his past 15 games.
Draisaitl's success has been bittersweet, however, since the Oilers haven't been winning.
"They've been going in for me, but it's not about me. It's a team sport," Draisaitl said following the Wednesday defeat. "I want to win hockey games, and I want to make the playoffs. I'd rather give some of my goals up than having them and not making the playoffs."
Goalie Mikko Koskinen has started Edmonton's past eight games, though a change could come on Thursday. Koskinen was pulled in the second period Wednesday after allowing four goals on 16 shots, leading to Anthony Stolarz making his Oilers debut in a relief outing. Stolarz stopped 18 of the 20 shots he faced.
While the quick hook could keep Koskinen fresh for the Senators, Stolarz also could also receive his first start since being acquired in a trade from the Flyers on Feb. 15. Stolarz posted a 4-3-3 record, a 3.33 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 12 games (10 starts) for Philadelphia this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019