NEWARK, NJ - The Oilers will look to keep their early season momentum going tonight when they tangle with the New Jersey Devils in the second leg of their four-game road trip.
Edmonton opened its first trip of the season on Tuesday with a dominant 5-2 performance over the New York Islanders that saw James Neal light the lamp four times and set a franchise record with six goals in the team's first three games of the season.
New Jersey on the other hand has struggled mightily to open the 2019-20 campaign, sitting with a 0-2-1 record through three games and fresh off getting shut out 4-0 by Carter Hart and the Philadelphia Flyers in the City of Brotherly Love last night.
The Oilers skated at Prudential Center on Wednesday afternoon and discussed the potential advantage of being well rested while facing a team on the second night of a back-to-back.
"Getting on them as early as possible," Neal said of keys to tonight's game. "Back-to-backs are always tough. They'll probably get in a little later than normal tonight and for us, we'll have a good practice day today, get our rest and be ready to work tomorrow. The work ethic doesn't change but trying to get off to a good start and being physical on them early is always good."
"You want to get off to a good start, but you've got to remember they're saying that in there too," added Head Coach Dave Tippett. "They're coming back knowing they have to start quick because the other team is going to start quick. Every coach has their coach speak to try to get their team ready to go, and that's obviously one of ours. We want to jump on them quick, but they'll be coming back saying the same thing."
The Devils were easily the most active, headline-making NHL squad this off-season. They won the NHL Draft Lottery in April, selected highly-touted American forward Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick, acquired top-end blueliner P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators the following day, signed veteran winger Wayne Simmonds on July 1, and got forward Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights before inking the Russian to a two-year contract.
The League MVP from two seasons ago, former Oilers first-overall pick Taylor Hall, is also back healthy in the New Jersey lineup after only playing 33 games in 2018-19 due to a knee injury.
"They've got a lot of great players and made a lot of different changes," Neal said yesterday of the revamped Devils roster. "With PK coming over, Jack Hughes and Hallsy being healthy, it'll be fun to play them. We'll see how they do tonight against Philly and we'll be ready for them tomorrow night."
With their perfect start to the season, the Oilers are obviously feeling good about their game but they know there are still 79 more matchups on the schedule that will require their utmost focus and preparation.
"You just keep building," Tippett said. "We've had a pretty good start to the season, but the next game is the next challenge for us. We've got to worry about that one, not what we've done."
"It's been a great start for us, but that's all it is right now is a good start," added defenceman Oscar Klefbom, who's among the NHL leaders in back-end scoring with four points. "It's a long season and we all know what it can do to you. We want to continue on the same path… We've got to continue to do what we're doing because we're going to be playing some tough teams."
Since the Oilers did not have a morning skate today, the projected lineup is unavailable. However, Tippett will address the media at Prudential Center before the game to announce the starting goalie, provide status updates on Alex Chiasson (illness) and Josh Archibald (illness), and discuss any other pertinent information ahead of the date with the Devils..
-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (3-0-0) at DEVILS (0-2-1)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the first of two meetings between the Oilers and Devils this campaign. The two clubs will conclude the season series on Nov. 8 at Rogers Place.
The Devils defeated the Oilers twice last season, outscoring the club 11-5.
At the 2018 NHL Global Series in Gothenburg, Sweden, Travis Zajac tallied the winner and Keith Kinkaid stopped 17 of 19 shots in New Jersey's 5-2 victory.
Later in the season, the Devils doubled up on the Oilers at Rogers Place with a 6-3 win.
Oilers Captain Connor McDavid led the Oilers against the Devils last year with four assists.
For the Devils, Zajac, Kyle Palmieri and Damon Severson each compiled three points in two games against Edmonton.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are off to a hot start in the 2019-20 season, winning their first three games of the year, with the latest being a 5-2 road victory over the New York Islanders to kick off their current four-game swing.
The Orange & Blue haven't began a season at 3-0-0 since 2008-09 and currently sit tied for first in the Pacific Division with six points.
Despite losing veteran defenceman Adam Larsson to a fractured right fibula in the first game of the season, the Oilers are one of seven teams still undefeated in the League. The club owns a plus-five goal differential (3rd), 90.9 percent penalty kill (5th) and are converting at a 33.3 percent rate on the man advantage (T-7th).
After playing New Jersey, the Oilers will continue their road trip with games against the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.
Devils team scope:
The Devils had one of the busiest off-seasons among the League as General Manager Ray Shero worked to strengthen his player personnel.
The club acquired defenceman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators, forward Wayne Simmonds signed as a free agent, Jack Hughes was selected first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft and Russian scorer Nikita Gusev was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights then signed.
New Jersey is still winless on the season, however, with a 0-2-1 record and were blanked 4-0 by the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
By the Numbers:
James Neal leads the League in goals with six in three games. ... McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are tied for the League-lead in assists with six each. ... McDavid is tied for first in scoring with eight points, while Draisaitl is in a deadlock for second with seven. ... Former Oiler Taylor Hall has one goal and one assist in five games against his previous team. ... The Devils are 2-0-2 at home and 3-2-3 overall against the Oilers since 2015-16.
OILERS - Alex Chiasson (illness) is day-to-day; Josh Archibald (illness) is on IR; Adam Larsson (fractured right fibula) is on IR.