There isn’t a bad time to catch the Oilers (4-7-1), owners of the NHL’s longest playoff drought of eight seasons, but the Bruins (8-6) seem fortunate to meet Edmonton in its usual state of disarray on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden.
The Oilers’ leading goal scorer, Taylor Hall (six goals, four assists), the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, is out with a knee injury while former Bruin and current Edmonton captain Andrew Ference is serving a three-game suspension for an illegal hit against Vancouver’s Zack Kassian. Boston, meanwhile, is playing its best hockey of the season, having won its last three games and four out of its last five. The Oilers began a five-game road trip with a 4-1 loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday and they seem destined for another lottery pick. They are currently in last place in the Western Conference. Ironically enough, Edmonton practiced at BU’s Agganis Arena on Wednesday, which is the temporary address of star freshman forward Jack Eichel, who was just named the Hockey East rookie of the month and is regarded as a possible No. 1 pick in next year’s NHL draft.
Thursday’s game is the third in a four-game homestand for the B’s and nine of their 12 contests this month will be at TD Garden. Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Panthers got the Bruins to the .500 mark (4-4) at home this season.
Without question, the B’s hottest player is Brad Marchand as he has four goals (including the OT winner vs. Florida) and two assists in his last five games.
“I feel good about his game,” Boston head coach Claude Julien said about Marchand. “It was a matter of time, his game has really come along.”
With David Krejci out the last two games with a hip injury, Marchand’s line has needed to carry the load a bit more. Tuesday was an indication that they can handle it since Patrice Bergeron scored the other goal for the Bruins, with Marchand and Reilly Smith providing the assists.
“It was a big step forward for us,” Marchand said. “We were able to make plays and hold onto the puck. Our legs seemed to be under us.”
Boston’s power play is average (15th in the NHL) on the whole, but its home/road power play splits are remarkable. The Bruins are 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) at the Garden and 2-for-19 (10.5 percent ) on the road.