Oilers-Canadiens Preview

BY foxsports • February 5, 2016

The return of Connor McDavid has momentarily revitalized the Edmonton Oilers' offense.

Issues on both ends of the ice continue to plague the reeling Montreal Canadiens.

Looking for a third straight victory since the All-Star break, the Oilers can also continue their success in this series by extending the Canadiens' longest regulation home skid in 14 seasons Saturday.

Two days after returning from a 37-game absence to record a goal with two assists in a 5-1 win over Columbus, McDavid had two more assists as Edmonton (21-26-5) equaled its highest-scoring game of the season with Thursday's 7-2 rout of Ottawa. The 2015 top overall pick has six goals and 11 assists in 15 games.

"Connor is a big part of it, but it takes a group to win," Oilers coach Todd McLellan told the NHL's official website. "It doesn't matter how good you are."

The Oilers averaged 2.2 goals and converted 14 percent of their power-play chances while McDavid missed almost three months with a broken clavicle. They're 5 for 6 with the man advantage in the last two games, and forward Jordan Eberle has three goals with two assists while playing on McDavid's line this week.

''The thing that impresses me most about (McDavid's) game is he always makes the simple play,'' Eberle said.

Though Edmonton remains at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, McDavid's presence has provided some hope. He had two assists in a 4-3 win over Montreal (24-24-4) on Oct. 29.

"If you look at the standings it's pretty simple, we need to win some hockey games if you want to make a push at something," said Eberle. "This is a start."

The only other time Edmonton claimed back-to-back road victories was Oct. 17 and 18. The Oilers have won four straight overall and on the road against Montreal, where they've earned at least one point in the last eight visits.

The same club that opened 9-0-0, the Canadiens have dropped four straight while mired in a 5-20-1 rut. They continue to hear it from a frustrated fan base that's watched them lose five consecutive at home in regulation for the first time since a seven-game slide in 2000-01.

"We feel bad for them,'' said forward Dale Weise, who snapped a nine-game goal drought in Wednesday's 4-2 home loss to Buffalo. ''The fans pay a lot of money to come and watch games and we respect them if they want to boo or not.''

The Canadiens averaged 3.4 goals during a 19-4-3 start, but 1.9 in the last 26.

Carey Price, meanwhile, continues to deal with a leg injury that's kept him out since Nov 25. Montreal has yielded an average of 3.1 goals in 29 games since Price went down, and at least four in all but one of the last eight. Its last three opponents went 5 for 10 on the power play.

"The message relayed from up top to us players is that we have to stick together in times like this," captain Max Pacioretty told the Canadiens' official website.

Pacioretty leads all Montreal forwards with 37 points, but his assist Wednesday snapped a five-game point drought.

Grinding forward Zack Kassian, who has a goal with an assist in two games, faces the Canadiens for the first time since they traded him to Edmonton on Dec. 28. Kassian was suspended and placed in Stage 2 of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and the NHLPA after he was injured in a car accident in Montreal prior to the start of this season.

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