Maple Leafs-Oilers Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are tied for the fewest points in the NHL. While Connor McDavid is giving the Oilers hope for a brighter future, the rebuilding Maple Leafs think their recent trade has them on the road to success.
The Maple Leafs could have two new faces in the lineup Thursday night when they go for an eighth win in nine meetings with the Oilers.
Toronto (19-24-9) has lost 11 of its last 14 games, a stretch that includes going 2-7-0 on the road after losing the first two of this season-high five-game trip.
The Maple Leafs fell 4-3 at Calgary on Tuesday hours after trading captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa in a nine-player deal that included defenseman Jared Cowen, left wing Colin Greening and 20-year-old prospect Tobias Lindberg joining Toronto.
The deal also gives the Leafs flexibility under the salary cap, fueling speculation that they'll be active in free agency over the next two summers.
"If you manage it right, and you draft right, and you develop right, you can be good for a long time. That's what we're in the process right now," coach Mike Babcock said.
Babcock is expected to at least have Greening available. He only played once for the Senators this season and has 87 points in 256 career games over six seasons.
Cowen isn't nearly as certain to make his team debut.
"He's had some problems with his hips and knees. Then we're going to decide what's best to get him going," Babcock said. "We obviously have to get his confidence back to get him playing the way he once did. The first thing is to get him healthy. We'll see whether he's going (Thursday) or in a few days.
"They're both guys with a new opportunity in a new organization, and we need help."
The Maple Leafs beat Edmonton 3-0 at home Nov. 30 and have totaled 33 goals in their last eight games in the series.
The Oilers (21-29-5), losers of six of eight, need help defensively as they've been outscored 15-3 during a three-game skid. They showed some improvement in Tuesday's 2-1 loss at New Jersey, but coach Todd McLellan was more concerned with them tying their season low of 20 shots.
"We have to push the needle forward," McLellan said.
McDavid has done his part with seven points in five games after missing 37 with a broken clavicle. He has 19 points in 18 games, getting nine over his last seven at home.
McDavid was a fan of the Maple Leafs growing up in a Toronto suburb, and he'll now face them for the first time.
Benoit Pouliot has six points in five games after combining with McDavid to assist on Jordan Eberle's goal against the Devils. He has 12 points over his last nine meetings with the Leafs, netting two goals in a 4-1 win March 16.
Cam Talbot has split his last two meetings with Toronto with a 4.56 goals-against average after winning the previous two starts by yielding two goals on 52 shots.
Talbot, though, has a 4.52 GAA while losing his only two decisions over the last three games.
"I have to play better," Talbot acknowledged after making 24 saves Tuesday.
Leo Komarov leads the Maple Leafs with 17 goals and 33 points, and he scored twice in the last matchup with the Oilers.