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At the Rink: Devils at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider will make his 20th consecutive start Friday, against the Edmonton Oilers, setting a New Jersey record for starts from the beginning of the season.

Goalie Martin Brodeur started the first 19 games of the 2001-2002 season. Brodeur holds the Devils record for consecutive starts with 44, set at the end of the 1995-96 season.

"I knew I was going to play a lot and they haven't disappointed," Schneider said. "This is what I've worked for and I've wanted. It's exciting. It's fun to play games. I'm not really thinking about it, but if I had sat out a game or two would it make that much of a difference? It's a record, but for me it's not that important right now."

Schneider took over the starting role from the departed Brodeur and has been in goal for all but 63:42 for the Devils this season.

"I've never been through something like this before so it's a learning experience," Schneider said. "I'm figuring it out and trying to get my work in on my technique and my fundamentals because it's a lot harder to get the practice time that I'm used to having in my entire career. I'm learning as I go here."

The Devils play Edmonton coming off a 3-1 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in the first of a four-game Western Canada road trip.

Schneider is 8-8-2 with a 2.72 goals against average and .910 save percentage.

"When we came into the season I wanted to make a conscious effort of letting Cory know he was going to be the starter and then give him the ability and the schedule in order to embrace that," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's the first time that he's had that. We knew that there were going to be some bumps along the way. We hoped there wouldn't be but we expected there would be some. We're trying to work through some of those bumps and he's played excellent for us."

In his first three full seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, Schneider shared the goaltending duties with Roberto Luongo. Last season Schneider, 28, played alongside Brodeur.

"To be honest I didn't anticipate that we would go with him maybe this long," DeBoer said. "But I think the way the schedule is laid out and how the games have gone, I think there were a couple of times there where I considered going to a backup. But because of the way he played I wanted to go back with him. Or if we had a tough outing as a team or he had a tough outing, I wanted to go back with him. It just worked out that way."

The Oilers will counter with goaltender Viktor Fasth in an attempt to snap a four-game losing streak. Fasth has not started since giving up three first-period goals and being pulled Nov. 11 in a 3-2 loss against the Nashville Predators.

The Oilers also made changes to their forward combinations, dropping left wing Taylor Hall from the top unit to play with rookie center Leon Draisaitl and right wing Teddy Purcell.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will center the Oilers' top line, with left wing Benoit Pouliot and right wing Jordan Eberle.

"It's a little different mix. We think we're in a spot where Nugent-Hopkins can carry a line," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "We know that Taylor can carry a line too. We feel Taylor can certainly make the players around him better and Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle do that as well."

Here are the projected lineups:

DEVILS

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Martin Havlat - Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Michael Ryder

Dainius Zubrus - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - Marek Zidlicky

Adam Larsson - Seth Helgeson

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Peter Harrold, Damien Brunner, Jordin Tootoo

Injured: Ryane Clowe (concussion), Jon Merrill (arm), Bryce Salvador (lower body)

OILERS

Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Teddy Purcell

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Nail Yakupov

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Steven Pinizzotto

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Martin Marincin - Justin Schultz

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Keith Aulie, Jesse Joensuu

Injured: None

Status report: Fayne will face his former team for the first time since signing with the Oilers this summer. Fayne spent his first four seasons with New Jersey. ... Pinizzotto had a goal, an assist and a fight in his season debut with the Oilers on Wednesday.

Who's hot: Jagr has 39 points in 32 career games against the Oilers. … Schultz has a three-game point streak, with assists in each of his past three games.

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