DEVILS (38-22-3) at OILERS (20-38-6)
New Jersey 3-6-1; Edmonton 3-7-0
This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. Edmonton won the most recent matchup, 2-1 in New Jersey on Nov. 9, 2008, getting second-period goals from Sheldon Souray and Ales Hemsky
. Jeff Deslauriers stopped 37 shots for the win in his third NHL appearance.
While the Devils are gearing up for the playoffs and the Oilers are building toward next season, the home team still figures to be dangerous in this one. Edmonton has a number of new faces in the lineup and younger players trying to solidify NHL jobs, and is coming off a shootout victory over a Minnesota squad in desperate need of points. Deslauriers, when he gets help from the five guys in front of him, is capable of putting on a show in net.
This is the finale of a four-game road trip for New Jersey that began in Carolina prior to the Olympic break and continued afterward with games against San Jose and Calgary. The Devils have been scuffling, hanging on for a 4-3 victory over the Sharks before losing 5-3 to the Flames and former coach Brent Sutter. Zach Parise
opened the scoring Friday, but Calgary answered with five straight before Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk
added late tallies.
"It's the confidence of the guys. We allow one goal and it seems we have a hard time stopping the bleeding for whatever reason," goalie Martin Brodeur
told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We definitely have to be better down the stretch and when we get into the playoffs. We're leaving points on the table here."
He won't turn 30 until September, but Mike Comrie is a grizzled veteran as far as many of his current Edmonton teammates are concerned. He led like one Friday night, scoring the Oilers' only goal in regulation and adding another in the sixth-round of the shootout to key a 2-1 win over the Wild. Deslauriers stopped 28 shots as Edmonton became the last team in the League to reach 20 victories for the season.
"It's always fun when you win, you kind of smile again," Comrie said. "We played hard and finally we changed the tune and got a win. It's a lot more fun winning."
Kovalchuk had a slow start after coming to New Jersey, but now has three goals and three assists during a four-game points streak. Parise has five goals and three assists during a five-game points streak. Travis Zajac
has three goals and six assists during a six-game points streak. Jamie Langenbrunner has a goal and five assists during a four-game points streak.
Comrie has goals in consecutive games for Edmonton and a three-game points streak. Gilbert Brule
had his three-game points streak snapped Friday but did score a goal in the shootout.
The Devils are awaiting the return of defenseman Paul Martin from a broken arm.
The Oilers lost another player when it was announced defenseman Ladislav Smid
will undergo neck surgery and be lost for the season. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin
(back), defenseman Souray (hand) and forwards Hemsky (shoulder), Ryan Stone (knee) and Jean-Francois Jacques (back) are all on injured reserve. Forwards Ethan Moreau (neck) and Ryan Jones
(knee) are day-to-day.
Parise became the first New Jersey player to record four straight 30-goal seasons with his pair against Calgary. … Dustin Penner's assist against Chicago on Wednesday gave the Edmonton forward a career-high 48 points, also tops on the team.
Kovalchuk has given the Devils a new facet to their game, and the Oilers are well aware of the attention they'll have to pay him.
"You have to take away his time and space, have a good stick," said defenseman Ryan Whitney
, acquired from the Ducks at the trade deadline. "Once you let him get wheeling you're in trouble. You really want to pressure him, be tough on him."