The trade lines were burning for the Montreal Canadiens last night, with GM Pierre Gauthier acquiring defenseman Paul Mara from Anaheim Ducks for a fifth round pick.
The trade was announced around 1:00 AM Eastern, so it took a few hours for the Twitterverse to light up.
Lost in the excitement—or disappointment as it were—of this relatively minor trade was the fact that the Canadiens play their first of three games on a critical road trip out West tonight.
Their first landing spot is Edmonton, where the cellar dweller Oilers await the Habs.
Montreal has not fared well out west in the last few years and with the Heritage Classic on Sunday in Calgary, the Habs will have their work cut out to focus on the task at hand.
With the Washington Capitals winning a wild one against the Ducks yesterday, they moved one point ahead of the Canadiens in the standings, pushing them back into sixth in the East.
With 69 points in the standings, however, a win by the Canadiens tonight would move them back into fifth, one point ahead of the Caps with 71 points.
The Bruins with 69 points—currently in first place in the Northeast division in virtue of their one game in hand—play the Isles tonight and a loss by the B's, coupled by a Habs win, would send the Canadiens into first place in the Northeast and third in the division.
Umm, ya, the playoff picture is complicated and changes by the day.
As for the Oilers, well, with 25 games to play and 42 points in the standings, they are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. Edmonton has only two wins in their last eight games and is a team that the Habs absolutely must beat.
That being said, the Habs have not fared well in Edmonton in recent years, losing three straight and seven out of the last eight games at Rexall Place.
Carey Price will be making his league-leading 52nd start of the season after coming off of a 3-2, 10-round shootout loss to the Sabres on Tuesday.
For the Oilers, the goaltending picture is murkier but Nikolai Khabibulin, who earned the Oil's first home win in a month against the Stars on Tuesday, should get the start.
If not, look for Devan Dubnyk, who made 36 saves for the win the last time these two teams faced off, to get the call.
Special Teams and Scoring
Just like their point totals, there is a huge mismatch in the special teams department.
Despite their recent struggles with the man-advantage, Montreal boasts the ninth overall power play at 19.1 percent and the sixth overall penalty kill at 84.6 percent.
Contrast that with the Oilers 30th ranked PP at 12.0 percent and 30th ranks PK at 75.4 percent, and you can see how the Habs should be able to easily control this facet of the game.
Neither team has a very potent offense, with the Habs holding the 25th spot at 2.6 goals per game to the Oilers’ 28th 2.5. But it's in the goals-against department that the Canadiens hold a clear advantage with a seventh overall 2.5 per game to the Oilers 29th 3.3.
Good thing for the Oilers that hockey games are played on the ice and not on paper, because this game looks like a total mismatch in every statistical department.
The young guns have been getting it done for the Habs lately, with David Desharnais producing seven points in his last seven games and Max Pacioretty with five points in his last four.
For the Oilers, it is Jordan Eberle who is bringing the heat with seven points in his last seven games.
New trade acquisition, Paul Mara, is expected to join the Canadiens in Edmonton tonight and should slot into the lineup with no word yet on who his playing partner will be.
"Team Clinic" is still in full effect for the Habs who will be without the services of Hal Gill and Spacek, to go along with longer term injuries to Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Michael Cammalleri.
Both Cammalleri and Gill accompanied the team on the trip, meaning that they should be back in the lineup soon with the former targeting a return for the Heritage Classic on Sunday.
For the Oil, they continue to be without the services of Ryan Whitney and Gilbert Brule, but are otherwise healthy.
Game time is 9:00 PM Eastern.
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