[sny-box]New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers, 9:30 pmRexall Place – Edmonton, AlbertaTV: MSG+ Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am
The Devils head out west to begin their five-game road trip. Up first is the 0-0-2 Edmonton Oilers. Both teams are in search of their first win of the season, so something has to give tonight. While the Oilers are not a great defensive team, they have a tremendous amount of speed on offense. Give them space through the neutral zone and they will make you pay.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns for the Oilers tonight and Jason LaBarbera will be in goal, after Devan Dubnyk played the first two games of the season.
Here are the Devils lines for tonight, as reported by Tom Gulitti of the Record.
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
1. Scoring first is key - The Oilers have given up a ton of goals in their first two games. The fact is, they're not a great defensive team. Throw in the fact that their backup goalie, Jason LaBarbera is making his first start of the season and it should be a recipe for success. Scoring first would go a long way towards the confidence of the Devils as they continue to feel out these lines. Couple in the fact that the crowd in Edmonton can get pretty rowdy, an early tally by New Jersey would do a lot to silence the crowd as well.
2. Stronger play in the neutral zone is paramount - When the Devils have been beaten for goals this year, they have come as a result of breakdowns in neutral ice. Certainly, working in all of the new players has something to do with it, but at some point the team needs to backcheck more efficiently and limit chances. The Islanders torched the Devils with their speed through neutral ice on Friday and the Oilers are a team with similar amounts of speed.
3. Play Eastern Conference hockey. These two clubs haven't met since January 11th 2012. The contrast in styles is stark. The Oilers are content to push play forward and use their speed to create turnovers and odd-man rushes. As for the Devils, it's still about working the puck in deep and using their forecheck to their advantage. The Oilers are not a very physical team, so if the Devils are able to establish their forecheck early and possess the puck, they should find some success. Though New Jersey has some weapons, the last thing they want to do is get caught up in an end-to-end game that would play into Edmonton's favor.
4. How will the new lines work for New Jersey? Patrik Elias is centering Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr to start the night. Putting Jagr on this line seems like an attempt to get him going. A goal for #68 would go a long way towards getting his confidence up after struggling on Friday night. The line of Clowe, Loktionov and Brunner should be a nice mix of speed and size.
Prediction: Devils 4, Oilers 2
The pressure is mounting for the Devils to get their first win. Another loss, with a showdown tomorrow night against the Canucks, would force New Jersey into what would almost be a must-win situation in Vancouver. A big W tonight would alleviate some of the pressure and also help to lessen much of the burden on Cory Schneider's start in his return to British Columbia.
As long as the Devils are able to establish their forecheck, they should be able to work the puck around and find some holes in the Oilers defense. Look for the Oilers to come out strong at first, with the return of Nugent-Hopkins to the lineup. In the end, the Devils physical style will be too much and they'll skate to their first win of the season.
We'll have our Instant Insight article up after the conclusion of tonight's game.