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Oilers visit slumping Devils in search of third straight

by Mike G. Morreale

OILERS (20-33-6) at DEVILS (23-21-13)


Last 10: Edmonton 5-4-1; New Jersey 4-3-3

Season series: This is the second and final game between the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers rallied from a three-goal deficit Oct. 8 at Rexall Place to earn a 5-4 shootout win; Jordan Eberle and David Perron scored the only goals in the tiebreaker.

Big story: In an effort to spark the offense and generate more goals, New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer did a little line shuffling this week during practice. DeBoer removed center Travis Zajac from the top line and had Andrei Loktionov as the middle man between team scoring leaders Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus. Zajac was the second-line center between Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner.

Jagr leads the Devils with 17 goals and 48 points in 57 games. Zajac has 20 assists and 29 points with the 41-year-old Jagr on his right. The Devils are 26th in the NHL at 2.33 goals per game, but have averaged 1.83 goals per game over the past six (2-2-2).

"I know Jags likes consistent linemates," DeBoer said. "Some guys prefer that. Some guys don't mind change. I know he's said before that he likes to play with the same guys. At the same time, that only works if you're getting consistent production, and we haven't gotten enough there recently."

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton will close out a four-game road trip against the Devils. The Oilers have won two straight and five of their past six games.

Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, has been playing much better of late. As a result, coach Dallas Eakins promoted the second-year right wing to the top line with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and left wing Taylor Hall. Yakupov scored his first goal in five games with 1:38 remaining in the third period Thursday to give Edmonton a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"It was a good play by our guys down low to protect the puck. All I had to do was find space in the middle. I just had to find a spot," Yakupov said. "I think that was our top game this season. We played good. We need to do it to have a good time before the [Olympic] break."

Ben Scrivens made 34 saves to notch his third win in his past four starts.

Devils: Expect the Devils to be on their toes if they have a one-goal lead late in the game against the Oilers. New Jersey yielded a late goal for a third straight game Monday in an eventual 2-1 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center. As was the case in the previous two games, the Devils gave up the tying goal when the Avalanche had their goalie pulled for an extra attacker. They managed a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars last Thursday, but weren't as fortunate against the Nashville Predators and Colorado.

"It's frustrating," DeBoer said. "It seems that's kind of what we're dealing with right now. It hasn't been an issue all year and then all the sudden the last three games we've had an issue in the last minute. We have to find a way to get a second and third goal. If you let anybody hang around in this league long enough, bad things happen, and that's the story lately."

Cory Schneider is expected to start his fifth straight game in goal. Schneider is 6-2-4 with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage in his past 12 starts. He ranks second in the NHL with a 1.91 GAA and sixth in the League with a .925 save percentage.

Who's hot: Hall has one goal and 10 points over the past nine games for Edmonton. … Zajac has two goals and eight points in the past seven games for New Jersey.

Injury report: Oilers defenseman Philip Larsen (illness) is on injured reserve. … Devils defensemen Anton Volchenkov (lower body) has resumed practicing with the team and is questionable.

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