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Devils-Oilers a battle of teams in need of a spark

by Mike G. Morreale
OILERS (4-8-2) at DEVILS (4-10-2)
Last 10:
Edmonton 2-6-2; New Jersey 3-6-1
Season series -- This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. Edmonton has won the previous two matchups, including a 2-0 verdict in Edmonton on March 7, 2010, when Jeff Deslauriers stopped 22 shots to notch the shutout.
Big story -- Both clubs are currently sitting in last place in their respective conferences and could certainly use an inspiring performance to get untracked. The Devils have lost four of their last five games but are still only five points out of the eighth spot in the East. The Oilers, who have also lost five of their last six, sit 15th in the West and six points out of the eighth and final playoff slot.
Team Scope:
Oilers -- The Oilers are heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule as seven of their next 11 take place on the road in a span of 21 days. On Thursday, the club was humbled by the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, 6-2. The Wings opened a 5-0 lead before Edmonton finally received third-period goals by Dustin Penner and Theo Peckham. Edmonton has been outscored 13-3 in its last two losses. Despite the loss, it was a homecoming of sorts for Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall. The No. 1 pick in the June draft played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, who play just across the Detroit River.
Devils -- The hot topic following the team's 5-4 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday wasn't Jason Arnott's two-goal performance, the inspiring effort by captain Jamie Langenbrunner or even the commendable NHL debut of wing Mattias Tedenby; rather, the whiff by Ilya Kovalchuk in the fourth round of the shootout. With a chance to extend the shootout to a fifth round, Kovalchuk never even got a shot on rookie Jhonas Enroth after losing the puck between the circles during his approach. Kovalchuk, who was booed at the end of the game, totaled 18:52 of ice time against the Sabres, generating three shots on 22 shifts. He's now gone seven games without a goal and has just three all season.
"The puck rolled off my stick. That's it," Kovalchuk admitted after the game.
Who's hot --
Arnott has 3 goals in his last three games and leads the team with 6 goals. … Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert is tied for 10th in the League with 36 blocked shots.
Injury report --
Edmonton center Shawn Horcoff remains day-to-day with a bruised thigh. … For the Devils, goalie Martin Brodeur (bruised elbow) practiced Thursday and remains questionable, as is defenseman Matt Corrente (broken left hand). Langenbrunner (upper body) missed practice on Thursday and is day-to-day. Forwards Zach Parise (knee surgery) and Jacob Josefson (left thumb surgery) and defenseman Mark Fraser (broken right hand) are out.
Stat pack -- Hall and fellow Edmonton rookies Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi all have at least one goal to go along with a multi-point game this season. Eberle is currently tied for third among rookies with 9 points (4 goals). Hall (3 goals) and Paajarvi (2 goals) are tied for eighth with 6 points apiece.
Puck drop --
Following the loss to Buffalo on Wednesday, Devils coach John MacLean told the media that he wasn't happy with his team's lackadaisical effort to open the second period that allowed the Sabres to score two quick goals and take the lead. It prompted the first-year coach to call a timeout to settle the group down and, perhaps, offer a reality check.
He said his emotional display was probably the angriest he's been on the bench in a game this season.
"Probably that you've seen, publicly," he said. "I don't regret showing (my emotion). (Afterwards) they got going again. You can do it once in a while and we got a goal quickly after that, so it's a reminder sometimes. There were a few expletives. I went through this as a player a few times myself and it's not easy, but you stay with the program and work. We have to get out of this ourselves and we will."

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