NEWARK, NJ - This four-game road trip started well for the Oilers, as they downed the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday. Now they set their sights on the 9-4-1 New Jersey Devils.
"We talked about getting off to a good start on this road trip, and I think we did that," said Oilers winger Milan Lucic. "I feel like our defensive game on the road has been much better than it has been at home. You look at all our road games so far and they've been one-goal games and it shouldn't be much different of a mentality for us heading into tonight's game."
All five of the Oilers road games this season have been decided by one goal. The last four have been 2-1 results, three in overtime.
"I don't know what it is exactly, maybe we keep our play a little tighter," said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "If that's the case then we can learn from our road games when we come back home because we've played pretty solid on the road so far. Everything has been tight, one-goal games. Sometimes that's just how you've got to win games and we're learning that right now."
"Maybe sometimes you feel you need to put a show on at home and on the road you just go out there and play," said Lucic, as to why the team has played tighter defensively away from Rogers Place. "I think we still have got three important games left here on this road trip and we've got to take that same mentality into every game, one game at a time."
A benefit to playing this New Jersey team now is that they played them just a few days ago in Edmonton. Having that game as a point of reference can be beneficial to the Oilers, who hope to repeat their results - a 6-3 victory.
"I think the way we played the whole 60 minutes that night was good for us," said Nugent-Hopkins. "Obviously, the other night (in Brooklyn) was another game kind of like that where we played a full 60. We can take positives out of those games, but coming up against these guys again we know how fast they are, they really go for it so we can't be surprised by that. We definitely shouldn't be, having just played them."
The Oilers had six different players score in that game on November 3.
"We had everyone stepping up throughout the lineup," said Lucic. "It was probably the one game, if you look at the whole season, where we had goals from different guys and each line and defencemen and all that type of stuff.
"It came from throughout the lineup. When you're playing a team that's playing as well as the Devils have from the start of the season, you're going to need that to have success against them and we're going to need to have that tonight."
The Oilers chose not to have a full team morning skate today, instead having a meeting at the hotel. Head Coach Todd McLellan said it was a calculated mood to save the team's energy for tonight.
"We get to make decisions throughout the year on pre-game skates that the theory of getting up every morning and skating is dying out," said McLellan. "The experts tell you to save your energy. We don't get a lot done there anyhow. We were able to have our meetings in the hotel today and it saves us probably two hours of driving with 45 minutes there, 45 back and 45 there again before we even step on the ice. It's nice to be in one hotel, it's nice to stay local and try to get as much rest as we can so we can use the energy we have when we need it."
With Anton Slepyshev being a late scratch from the lineup in Brooklyn the other night, Brad Malone stepped into a fourth-line role and did well for the Oil. The veteran forward brings a healthy jolt of energy and a simple, yet effective game.
"I thought Brad, once again, brought some energy to the lineup," said McLellan. "He did get a little bit of penalty kill time, in which he was successful. He created chances for himself and others through a heavy forecheck and right now he has an energy we require and need."
Drake Caggiula has been ruled out, dealing with a lower-body injury. Anton Slepyshev was one of the lone skaters this morning, and is a game-time decision. Should he play, he will likely be slotted on the right side of the Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins line.
-- Chris Wescott, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (5-8-1) at DEVILS (9-4-1)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
The Oilers and New Jersey Devils meet for the second and last time this season.
The Oilers defeated the Devils 6-3 on Friday, November 3, at Rogers Place, snapping the Devils' three-game winning streak at that time. Oilers Captain Connor McDavid recorded three assists and six different Oilers scored in the winning effort.
Oilers team scope:
McDavid scored just 38 seconds into overtime against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Edmonton hasn't won two games in a row this season but the club understands that must change soon. "The start we have has put us in a hole and we're going to have to string games together at some point," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan on Wednesday. "The sooner, the better."
Devils team scope:
The Devils were defeated 3-1 against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. Since their 6-3 loss to the Oilers last Friday, the squad hasn't won a game. They recorded a point in their 5-4 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
New Jersey remains second in the Metropolitan Division with 19 points, a single point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
There's a "good possibility," Kyle Palmieri (lower body) returns to the Devils' lineup, per Amanda Stein of newjerseydevils.com. He was slotted on the left side of New Jersey's top line, alongside Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier at practice Wednesday.
By the Numbers:
New Jersey's power play is clicking at a 34.6 percent clip at home, which ranks third in the NHL. The Oilers road penalty kill is 90 percent, good for fifth in the League.
Taylor Hall leads the Devils in points with 17 (5G, 12A). Brian Gibbons leads the club in goals with seven on 21 shots. He also leads the club in shooting percentage at 33.3 percent.
Connor McDavid leads the Oilers in points with 17 (6G, 11A) as well as shots with 49 in 14 matches. Defenceman Oscar Klefbom is second in shots with 46 through 14 games.
OILERS -Andrej Sekera (knee) is on IR; Drake Caggiula (ankle) is day-to-day; Anton Slepyshev (undisclosed) is day-to-day.
DEVILS - Kyle Palmieri (lower body) is on IR; Marcus Johansson (concussion) is day-to-day.