Youth will be served as Maple Leafs face Oilers
OILERS (21-39-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (22-33-12)
Last 10 --
Edmonton 3-6-1; Toronto 4-5-1
Season series --
This is the second and final meeting between the teams this season. The Oilers won, 3-1, in Edmonton on Dec. 30 when Patrick O'Sullivan scored twice to end a seven-game Oilers' losing streak. This will be the first time Pat Quinn, the former Maple Leafs coach and general manager, coaches the Oilers in Toronto.
Big story --
These two squads that are in last place in their respective conferences are young, rebuilding teams. The Maple Leafs are the youngest team in the NHL, averaging 26.7 years. The Oilers, averaging 27.0 years, are third-youngest. Toronto coach Ron Wilson has called on his young players to be "spoilers" the rest of the season and they have responded with recent wins over playoff contenders Boston, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. The Oilers have been decimated by injuries this season in goal, on defense and among the forwards.
Leading scorer Dustin Penner had 19 goals and 38 points in his first 36 games but only five goals and 10 points in the next 30 games. He has complained of fatigue and the team had him tested for an illness. He's not sick, tests showed. Now, it's believed that reducing his minutes will help him rebound. He looked good playing on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule in the loss to the Canadiens Thursday night. Six years after the Oilers drafted him with the 14th pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Devan Dubnyk is 0-7-0 in 11 games with Edmonton this year.
Maple Leafs --
Maple Leafs fans are frustrated by a fifth-straight year out of the playoffs and no Stanley Cup since 1967 but to an outsider, there's reason to believe with two solid goaltenders, an impressive defensive corps and young forwards that are beginning to mesh. The lines of Tyler Bozak
centering Phil Kessel
and Luca Caputi
, and Mikhail Grabovski
centering Viktor Stalberg and Nikolai Kulemin
played very well in the 4-3 overtime win Thursday against Tampa Bay. And Nazem Kadri
will bring his skill to the team next year.
Who's hot --
Toronto's Kessel has four points, including two game-winning goals, in four games. Twenty-two games into his NHL career, Bozak is winning 56 percent of his faceoffs. Kulemin has two goals and five points in five games. … Oilers center Shawn Horcoff has seven points in seven games. Right wing Brule has six points in seven games. Goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers is 2-1-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in his last three games.
Injury report --
Edmonton defenseman Ryan Whitney left Thursday's game after being hit on the knee with a shot. His status is unknown. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is sidelined indefinitely with a bad back. Right wing Alex Hemsky is out for the season after shoulder surgery. Defenseman Sheldon Souray is out for the season with a broken hand. O'Sullivan is day-to-day with a hand injury. Defenseman Ladislav Smid and left wing Ethan Moreau are day-to-day with a neck injuries. Forward Ryan Jones is out for the season with a knee injury. Forward Ryan Stone is day-to-day with a knee injury. Left wing Jean-Francois Jacques is out for the season with a back injury.
Toronto left wing Fredrik Sjostrom
is day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Defensemen Mike Komisarek
and Mike Van Ryn
are out for the season. Komisarek had shoulder surgery and Van Ryn had knee surgery.
Stat pack --
Edmonton allows the most goals, 3.36, per game in the NHL. They are second worst in 5-on-5 play. The power play ranks 20th and the penalty kill is 27th. This is to be expected when a team loses its goalie, two top defensemen and two of the top-six forwards plus the captain to injury.
Puck Drop --
"We didn't call up a beer league team and tell them: 'Go have a gas in the NHL.' We think they can help us in the future and this is their audition time." – Wilson, putting Toronto's final 15 games in context.