EDMONTON, AB - Connor McDavid. Jack Hughes. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Taylor Hall. Nico Hischier.
Make no mistake, tonight's game between the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils will not be short of talent.
Potentially five of the last 10 first-overall picks in the NHL could take to the ice at Rogers Place tonight in the final game of a three-game home stand for the Oilers.
"This is a highly-skilled team that we're facing tonight; a team that can make you pay if you open the game up too much," defenceman Darnell Nurse said.
Hall's pedigree is known to Oil Country as a former Oiler of six seasons. But 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes has recorded nine points in his last eight games - displaying his quick speed and hands on the opening goal in last night's clash with the Calgary Flames.
"You watch games around the league and obviously he had a pretty good goal last night," Nurse said. "A guy drafted in the position that he was in, and having seen him play in New Jersey, he's such a dynamic player offensively."
"He's shifty and is very creative, so he's a guy that you have to be aware of at all times on the ice. Obviously, you don't get drafted first overall for no reason. He's a player that can make a difference and someone you always have to keep your eye on."
The Devils surface in Edmonton after a 5-2 defeat against the Flames in the first game of their back-to-back set last night, but the focus in the Oilers dressing room is earning the two points merit over what Head Coach Dave Tippett saw in the club's earlier meeting with the Devils - a 4-3 shootout victory back on October 10 in New Jersey.
"I'd like to see us play a full 60 minutes, play well, try to take some of the mistakes out of our game and try to take out some of the offensive-zone penalties," Tippett said.
The Devils have the worst road penalty-kill percentage (59.1 percent) in the NHL this season, going up against Edmonton's second-ranked overall power play (27.1%).
"We're gearing a lot for how we have to play, but you recognize your opponent. They have some skill, they have some team speed, and you have to make sure you're ready for your opponent. I'm looking for us to have a real solid game."
Josh Archibald and Riley Sheahan's return from injury come at a timely moment for Tippett, who's hoping the veterans can jumpstart the club on a line with Jujhar Khaira.
"They're stabilizing players in your lineup, so hopefully they give us a little juice tonight," the bench boss said. "Good, veteran NHL guys who know how to play the situation they're in who are very accepting of the role that we've got them in.
"The penalty-killing is something they want to jump into, but they want to be a hard line to play against. They relish the opportunity to play against good players, try to nullify good players, and they're all still talking about trying to create some offence for us."
Archibald's speed is much needed in the club's forward corps, and Sheahan's presence as a strong and able centre can help bring some of that stability to a shutdown line capable of handling heavy minutes against a talented Devils lineup.
"I know they're excited and we're excited to have them back," forward Zack Kassian said. "Obviously Archie can skate really well and get in on the forecheck. He's physical, he can hound pucks, so that's going to be very good for our team tonight. Both of those guys are good on the PK."
"Sheahan is a big centreman, which obviously helps in your own end. We're excited to have both of them back and they're going to bring us a lot of energy for sure.
Whether it's in the offensive zone or winning a faceoff in their own end, Sheahan is keen to stick to his role and hopefully provide some secondary scoring for the Oilers that's been lacking early in the season.
"I think for the third and fourth line, starting in the d-zone and things like that, just being conscious down there and limiting your time spent in the d-zone to get it going the other way and provide some offence is huge," Sheahan said.
"Even if it's an offensive-zone shift where we gain some momentum. There's a whistle and we can throw our big guns out there, and little things like that go a long way."
Goaltender Mikko Koskinen was in the starter's net for the Oilers at this morning's practice, signalling that the Finn is slated to make the start.
Koskinen is 5-1-1 in eight starts this season with a 2.46 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Nurse - Bear Klefbom - Persson K. Russell - Benning
-- Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (10-5-2) vs. DEVILS (4-6-4)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the second and final tilt between the Oilers and Devils this season.
In their first meeting of the year on Oct. 10, Edmonton overcame three one-goal deficits, including Connor McDavid tying the game with 1:06 remaining to force overtime and the shootout.
Leon Draisaitl sniped in the skills competition to secure the victory for the Oilers.
McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led the club offensively in the 4-3 SO win with two points apiece, while Mikko Koskinen made 28 saves.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are hoping to inject some speed and steadiness into the lineup on Friday, as Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald are expected to be ready for game action.
As a result of their recoveries, the Oilers placed forward Tomas Jurco on waivers for the purpose of being assigned to Bakersfield, while also assigning centre Colby Cave on Thursday.
The Oilers are on a two-game losing funk, dropping decisions to the Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place.
Devils team scope:
The Devils will face off against the Oilers in the second of a back-to-back, clashing with the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
2019 first-overall choice Jack Hughes notched a goal and assist while former Oiler and 2010 first-overall selection Taylor Hall picked up a single helper in the Devils' 5-2 loss to Calgary.
New Jersey is 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and 2-4-0 on the road this season, sitting last in the Metropolitan Division with 12 points.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers are 5-0-0 when leading after both the first and second periods. ... Edmonton is 7-0-0 against the Metro Division this year. ... The Oilers have 19 third-period goals scored in '19-20, while the Devils have nine. ... The Devils have allowed 20 third-period goals against this campaign. New Jersey has the worst road power play, going 1-for-21 for a 4.8 percentage.
OILERS - Joakim Nygard (ribs) is on IR; Adam Larsson (fractured foot) is on IR.