Oilers-Canadiens Preview

With Scott Gomez providing the offensive punch, the surging

Montreal Canadiens are making a push for a third straight playoff

berth.

Gomez and the Canadiens look to match a season high with their

fourth consecutive win when they host the NHL-worst Edmonton Oilers

on Thursday night.

In his first season with the Canadiens, Gomez is well on his way

to eclipsing his point total from a disappointing 2008-09 season.

He has recorded five goals and 10 assists in his last 11 games,

giving him 50 points – eight shy of what he had last season.

Gomez’s surge helped Montreal win seven of those contests, and

the Canadiens have won four of five to move into seventh place in

the Eastern Conference, two points back of sixth-place

Philadelphia.

Second on the team in points and assists (38), Gomez recorded

two goals and six assists in the last four games.

“I think it comes down to having most of our guys back healthy

so we’re beginning to find out what this group is really capable

of,” Gomez told Montreal’s official Web site. “I can also tell you

this is a really tight bunch of guys.”

Gomez had a goal and two assists in a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay

on Monday.

The Canadiens are in position to match their longest winning

streak of the season for a second time. They won four in a row from

Oct. 20-26 and from Dec. 19-26.

Gomez has eight assists in eight meetings with the Oilers

(21-39-6), including one in a 3-2 road loss Oct. 10. The Canadiens

have won four of five meetings at the Bell Centre, taking the most

recent matchup there 4-3 in overtime March 10, 2009.

The Oilers, who have a league-low 48 points, fell 4-1 to Ottawa

on Tuesday after winning their previous two games. Edmonton was

outshot 39-19 and coach Pat Quinn wasn’t happy with the effort.

“Playing like that is what got us in trouble lots of other

nights,” Quinn said. “We had a lot of turnovers, and when you are a

chaser you never establish the forecheck and spend lots of time in

your own zone.

“When your forwards play the way ours did it puts a lot of

pressure on your goaltender and defense. We didn’t win any battles.

It would be hard to give any one of our forwards a good grade.”

Quinn could be without one of his top forwards Thursday, as

Patrick O’Sullivan’s status is uncertain. The left wing exited

Tuesday’s game in the opening period with a hand injury.

O’Sullivan is fourth on the team with 31 points, but managed one

in the last 12 games. He scored the winner against Montreal in

October.