The Toronto Maple Leafs feel good about themselves as they begin a three-game run through Western Canada on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, who are happy to be playing anyone other than Arizona. Edmonton comes off consecutive losses to the Coyotes with Sunday’s 2-1 setback at home dropping them to an inexplicable 0-21-4 versus Arizona in the last 25 meetings, while Toronto snapped a three-game slide (0-2-1) with a 4-2 victory over Washington on Saturday.
“We’re right in the hunt now for a playoff position and these are some critical points coming up for us,” Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk told reporters. “We have to make sure we bank some.” The Oilers lead a crowded Pacific Division by one point over San Jose and Los Angeles, and two over Anaheim as it eyes a return to the playoffs for the first time since losing to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. Red-hot Edmonton captain Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, owns a five-game point streak (five goals, five assists) and leads the NHL in points (29) and assists (19) as he prepares to meet 2016 top overall selection Auston Matthews. Toronto, which is 1-5-4 on the road, won the first of two meetings this season 3-2 in overtime Nov. 1 on Nazem Kadri’s goal, stretching the home team’s winning streak to five in the series.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network (joined in progress), TSN4 (Toronto), Sportsnet West (Edmonton)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (9-8-4): Kadri, Matthews and van Riemsdyk share the team lead in goals with nine while van Riemsdyk and rookie Mitch Marner (first-round pick in 2015) each have a club-most 18 points. Matthews scored three times in the last two games (one against Washington) after recording two in 18 contests since bursting on the scene with four goals in his NHL debut. William Nylander (six goals, 15 points), Toronto’s top draft choice in 2014, missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury but practiced Monday and is expected back in the lineup Tuesday.
ABOUT THE OILERS (12-9-2): McDavid’s 10 goals lead the team while three players - Leon Draisaitl (17 points), Jordan Eberle (17) and Milan Lucic (16) - have seven. Edmonton’s scoring options run deeper as Patrick Maroon and Tyler Pitlick own six apiece this season, although Maroon hasn’t scored in eight games. Cam Talbot (11-8-2, 2.45 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) is expected to make his 11th consecutive start in goal.
1. Matthews (minus-1, six shots) and McDavid (minus-2, four) were kept off the scoresheet in their first meeting.
2. Marner shares the NHL rookie lead in points with Winnipeg F Patrik Laine and Marner’s 11 assists match Columbus D Zach Werenski and New York Rangers D Brady Skjei for most among first-year players.
3. The Oilers are 9-for-9 on the penalty kill over the last four games while the Maple Leafs scored a power-play goal in each of their last two contests.
PREDICTION: Oilers 3, Maple Leafs 2