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New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers
7 p.m. TV: SportsNet. Radio 630 CHED
Five Keys to Game:
1. Stopping the bleeding
Since a 5-0 start the Oilers are .500 (5-5-2), predictable because the early hot run comes in a league that preaches parity. They’ve won once in regulation time in their last nine games going back to Oct. 20 in Winnipeg with their strong 4-1 win in Columbus Oct. 30. Give them credit for scratching out points with their shootout loss against the Jets, an OT loss against Arizona and their extra-time wins over Washington and Pittsburgh. They’re 10-5-2 so nowhere close to panic in the streets.
2. Where’s Nuge?
They need their longest-serving player Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to drive a second line and take some heat off Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but RNH has struggled — rare for a guy who’s quietly gone about his business and averaged 50 points a year the last five seasons. He’s ply scored once, a PP goal against Philadelphia Oct. 16. He has four ES points on the season. He’s shooting (42 shots) but nothing’s going in and, yes, he feels the pressure to help out the big dogs.
3. Let Good Times Roll
Draisaitl and McDavid have scored 44 per cent of the team’s goals (21 of 48). Draisaitl, who has points in all but two games (1-0 shootout loss to the Jets, 3-0 L in Minnesota), has 13 points over his last six games. He’s second in NHL scoring with 29 points, 21 at even-strength. McDavid has scored in the game’s first three minutes the last two nights. He’s coming off a seven-shot night against the Blues, the most he’s had all season.
4. Pounding pucks at net
The Devils are giving up 3.5 goals a game and while young Mackenzie Blackwood seems to be coming on, veteran Cory Schneider hasn’t won a game and has a 4.71 average and .847 save percentage. Schneider’s play is mystifying. He’s only 33 but since 2016-2017, he’s had goal averages of 2.82, 2.93, 3.06 and this year’s rough start. In a 4-3 league where scoring is up, the Devils aren’t getting the consistent saves they need.
5. More speed in lineup
Josh Archibald (foot) is ready to return and Joakim Nygard (ribs) is close. Both add foot speed to the forward group, Archibald in the bottom six, Nygard possibly on left-wing on the second line when he’s cleared for game action. The Oilers aren’t a slow team but in a very fast league, it never hurts to have guys who add that. Archibald can help the PK which has dropped to 13th and Nygard on the rush. Archibald has to get going five-on-five though. No points in his first eight games before breaking his foot in Winnipeg.
Taylor Hall vs Team That Drafted Him No. 1
This will Hall’s 200th game for the Devils after he was traded for Adam Larsson. He has 196 points in that time. Hall, who turns 28 next Thursday, went into Thursday’s game in Calgary riding a six-game point streak and leads the Devils with 13 points in 13 games. He’s still the driver for the Devils, one of the NHL’s best left-wingers, but he’s having trouble scoring with only two goals. The bigger story is whether the Devils will be able to keep him before he hits unrestricted free-agency next July 1. They’ve tried to build around him by trading for P.K. Subban, signing Wayne Simmonds and picking centre Jack Hughes with the first pick of this past draft.
Oilers: PP 13-48, 27.1 per cent, second PK 45-54, 83.3 per cent, 13th
Devils: PP 7-50, 14 per cent, 23rd PK 34-45 75.5 per cent, 25th
Oilers: Joakim Nygard (ribs), Adam Larsson (broken fibula)
Devils: Connor Carrick (broken finger), Jesper Bratt (upper body)
Game Day Lines
Leon Draisaitl-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian
James Neal-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Alex Chiasson
Jujhar Khaira-Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald
Markus Granlund-Gaetan Haas-Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse-Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom-Joel Persson
Kris Russell-Matt Benning
Taylor Hall-Nico Hischier-Kyle Palmieri
Pavel Zacha-Jack Hughes-Nikita Gusev
Jesper Boqvist-Travis Zajac-Blake Coleman
Miles Wood-Kevin Rooney-Wayne Simmonds
Damon Severson-P.K. Subban
Andy Greene-Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher-Matt Tennyson
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019