The Edmonton Oilers are on their way to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season and there are quite a few players responsible for the turnaround, including two young forwards — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — residing in the top-16 in scoring. McDavid, currently pacing the league at 64 points entering Saturday and giving Sidney Crosby a run for his money when it comes to the best player in the league, is perhaps the biggest factor.
But one of the more underrated parts of their turnaround remains the play of starting goaltender Cam Talbot.
Not only because he has a .920 save percentage on the season (7th in the league among the 32 goalies that have appeared in at least 30 games), but also because of how often he has been able to play.
When he takes his spot between the pipes on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks he will be matching his career high (set a year ago in his first season with the Oilers) by making his 53rd start of the season. No other goalie in the league has started more than 49 games.
His backups, Jonas Gustavsson and Laurent Brossoit, have started just six games this season and combined for only an .890 save percentage.
A lot of the Oilers’ improvement this season defensively (and in the standings) has come from the fact they have a starting goaltender that has been able to play in almost every game this season and also give them a top-10 performance.
The Blackhawks will go with Corey Crawford.
Elsewhere on Saturday…
— Thomas Greiss, winner in three of his past five starts, gets the call for the New York Islanders as they look to keep pace in the Eastern Conference wild card race. He goes against New Jersey’s Cory Schneider.
— It will be Andrei Vasilevskiy against Kari Lehtonen in Dallas on Saturday in a game that might have been looked at as a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup before the start of the season. Now, it is just two disappointing teams desperately trying to stay in the playoff race.
— Devan Dubnyk looks to continue his Vezina Trophy worthy campaign on Saturday night when he gets back in the net against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators. The Predators are returning from their bye week.
— After Jacob Markstrom had a tough night on Thursday, taking the blame for the defeat, Ryan Miller draws back in for the Vancouver Canucks when they host the Calgary Flames. The Flames will counter with Brian Elliott.
— Peter Budaj is the likely starter for the Los Angeles Kings when they take on a Florida Panthers team that is starting to find its stride. The Panthers have yet to announce their starter.