NEWARK, NJ - The Oilers meet the New Jersey Devils tonight to wrap up a four-game road trip looking to bounce back after a pair of lopsided losses on the weekend in Montreal and Brooklyn.
"We've been quite pleased with the progress in a number of different areas for most of the year," Oilers head coach Todd McLellan began. "We've had setbacks where we didn't perform well but we've always been able to recover and try to keep the progress going forward as a team and an organization.
"I think it really took a stiff blow over the last couple of games and that's very disappointing. I saw some very uncharacteristic things in our team, individually and collectively over the last two games that need to be fixed."
In an effort to shake things up, McLellan switched around three of the team's four lines. Forward units at the morning skate were:
But the bench boss added that changing the lines alone certainly won't be enough to turn things around.
"We can shuffle lines, we can call players out, we can do whatever we want but the group as a whole has to pull up their socks a little bit here and peform. So we'll be looking for that."
McLellan talked about looking for leaders within the group; something they've been doing since the start of the season when the decision was made to not go with a captain for 2015-16. Games like tonight are when that leadership is needed more than ever.
"At the beginning of the year, when the captaincy change was made we talked about some of the moments where we'd be watching as an organization. When it wasn't so sunny, when it was rainy and stormy -- I think we used those terms," he said. "Well it's doing that right now and we're watching. We're watching closely to see who can lead, who can perform, lift their level of play up and make things right and who can drag everybody else into the fight with them and make sure it's done correctly. Over the last few nights we haven't done that."
SCHULTZ, REINHART OUT
The team is making two swaps on defence with Griffin Reinhart and Justin Schultz out.
"He needs to watch a game and reflect on his play and what his impact is both offensively and defensively," McLellan stated.
The defence pairings for tonight will be:
Sekera-Fayne Davidson-Gryba Nurse-Clendening
PAKARINEN JOINS HALL AND DRAISAITL
One of the roster moves up front sees Iiro Pakarinen joining Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl on one of the scoring lines.
"Iiro's been a bit of a workhorse for us," said McLellan. "I think he stirs the drink on whatever line he's on. Straight lines, physical, does some of the grunt work, not overly concerned about his ability to work and his commitment level to doing things right so I like him there tonight."
Pakarinen was looking forward to the opportunity but said he wouldn't change the way he plays as a result of who he's skating with.
"It doesn't matter who I'm playing with. I've just tried to play my simple game," he said. "Every night, bring my defensive game and play hard to give my everything every shift."
While it's a given Pakarinen will play responsible defensively, he acknowledged he has more of an offensive opportunity tonight playing with the likes of Hall and Draisaitl.
"I have a pretty good shot and I only have three or four goals this year so I have to find free spots on the ice and score a couple goals maybe tonight."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (21-28-5) at DEVILS (26-21-7)
TV: MSG, SNOL, TVAS, NHL.TV
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-1 at Rexall Place on Nov. 20 behind a combined six points from Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall. They each had one goal and two assists. Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson made 19 saves. Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, who might start Tuesday, allowed four goals on 26 shots. The Oilers scored three goals in the third period.
Oilers team scope: A road trip that started with a promising 7-2 win against the Ottawa Senators hasn't gone well recently. The Oilers are coming off a season-worst 8-1 loss to the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Sunday. That came on the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The Oilers did not practice Monday. "We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and we came in here and responded in a very inappropriate way and that's very disappointing," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "I counted on our group to have good leadership and show up and play hard. [The Islanders] got drilled in Detroit [Saturday] night. I think we both lost 5-1. It shows where one team is and how far one team has to go."
Devils team scope: New Jersey has hit a rough patch in what has otherwise been a surprisingly good season. The Devils have dropped three in a row (0-1-2), including a 2-1 loss against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday. They struggled to connect passes on breakouts and couldn't handle the Rangers' forecheck in general. They also didn't get a power play, which coach John Hynes said was indicative of how hard they played. The Devils will be celebrating former goalie Martin Brodeur by retiring his No. 30 prior to the game, but Hynes isn't looking to what should be an emotional ceremony for energy. "I think it's a special thing for Marty, but what has to give the team energy is we're in a competitive situation here within the League and [Monday night] we didn't give ourselves a chance to win a hockey game and that cost us," Hynes said. "The biggest motivation should be we have an opportunity to get back at it [Tuesday] to be able to get ourselves two points and get our game going. That should be motivation enough."