EDMONTON, AB - With a long road trip looming and the team on a three-game skid, the Oilers see tonight as an opportunity to end the short homestand on a high note and build momentum before takeoff.
“We feel like we’ve played well the last few games and came up short,” said Oilers defenceman Mark Fayne. “I think it will be real big for us to get a win tonight.”
That being said, the Oilers aren’t treating their matchup against New Jersey any differently. Progress is still the name of the game and the reward will come if they continue to play well.
“Game 20 is big, game 21 is big, game 22 is big. It would be great to have a positive result heading out on the road but we’re not going to just hang our hat on that,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We want the reward for the effort that we have or that we will put in for tonight. Not setting us up for the road trip because we’re not thinking that far ahead. Get an honest effort, cut our mistakes down by a few, try to win the special teams battle tonight and look up at the end of the night and see what the score is. That will be the approach.”
Six of the Oilers last eight losses have been by one goal. A win tonight is a step toward flipping those results.
“(It would give us) a lot of confidence,” said Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom. “I think a lot of games we’ve played some good hockey but it’s easy to stand after the game and say ‘we played good hockey’ but we didn’t win. Hopefully, we’re going to play some really good hockey for 60 minutes and get some points too.”
The Devils are 10-7-1 this season and boast the league’s third-best power play (22.6%) and ninth-best penalty kill (83.3%).
“They’ve had a real good start to their season. I think they’re a dangerous club because they don’t beat themselves. They’re positionally sound. Their special teams are very good and they get goaltending most nights,” said McLellan.
The Oilers will try to stay out of the box and get a solid night from their 13th-ranked power play (20%).
“I think the key is going to be our special teams tonight,” said Klefbom. “They have a good power play and a good PK. We have to be sharp from beginning here, stay out of the box and have a really good power play tonight.”
Edmonton is 4-1-3 in their last eight meetings with New Jersey.
The Oilers will roll with Anders Nilsson again in net. Nilsson has played eight games this season, posting a record of 3-4-1 with a 3.31 goals against average and .897 save percentage.
“I feel like with my performance, personally, I’ve been a little too much up and down,” he said. “I feel I want to play a little more consistent than what I have done. I think I have one good game and then one bad one. I want to keep my level up and keep that consistency up.”
Nilsson made 23 saves on 27 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to Chicago on Wednesday night. Getting a back-to-back start opportunity could help him get into a rhythm.
“Every goalie likes to play a lot of games. It gets a little easier mentally, you feel like you’re already in it and it’s a little easier. I like to play and hopefully I can contribute to two points tonight.”
Nilsson, in competition with Cam Talbot, is trying to show he deserves many starts moving forward.
“It’s a team game and all the guys need to contribute in their own way,” said Nilsson. “Us goalies, we need to step up and find that extra save and make that extra save so we can contribute to a win.”
Nilsson is 3-1 lifetime against the Devils with a .952 save percentage.
SQUASHING THE BUG
Various members of the Oilers roster have been dealing with the flu bug since the tail end of their last road trip. Klefbom and Andrej Sekera are the two most recent victims with Klefbom missing practice yesterday and Sekera missing morning skate today.
Klefbom looks like he’ll play tonight, while Sekera is “very doubtful.”
“Feeling a lot better,” said Klefbom. “It started before the Blackhawks game. I felt tired and low energy. Yesterday I had a little fever and felt really bad but today is good. It’s a new day. Ready to go tonight.”
With no Sekera this morning, the likely defensive pairings are:
Klefbom-Fayne Nurse-Gryba Reinhart-Davidson
Ference and Schultz (IR) were also on the ice.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
DEVILS (10-7-1) at OILERS (6-12-1)
TV: MSG+ 2, SNOL
Season series: The New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers each picked up a road win last season. Devils forward Adam Henrique had the decisive goal and goalie Cory Schneider made 29 saves for a 2-0 win in Edmonton on Nov. 21, 2014. Oilers forward Jordan Eberle set up goals by defenseman Oscar Klefbom and forward Nail Yakupov in a 2-1 win at New Jersey on Feb. 9, 2015.
Devils team scope: Forward Mike Cammalleri, who has one goal and four points in the past two games, didn't practice Thursday because of illness, but coach John Hynes expects him to be available. Forward Patrik Elias, who has yet to make his season debut because of a knee injury, filled in for Cammalleri on a line with Henrique and Lee Stempniak, according to Northjersey.com. Elias is not expected to play. Goalie Keith Kinkaid will make his fourth start of the season. Kinkaid has never faced Edmonton. Forward Tyler Kennedy, who joined the Devils on Wednesday under a professional tryout contract, practiced for the second straight day. He skated as an extra along with forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Eric Gelinas. Forward Bobby Farnham has goals in consecutive games after scoring in a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Oilers team scope: Goaltender Anders Nilsson will get the start, according to Northjersey.com. Nilsson made four starts against New Jersey as a member of the New York Islanders and won three. He also faced the Devils once in relief and had 120 saves on 126 shots (.952 save percentage) in the five total appearances. Klefbom (flu) and forward Matt Hendricks (undisclosed) did not practice Thursday. Edmonton has lost three in a row and is 1-4-1 in its past six games, but forward Taylor Hall sees improvement. "It seems every week we get better and better, but there's a fine line between winning and losing and we're experiencing that right now," Hall told the Oilers website. Forward Leon Draisaitl, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, has three goals and four assists during a four-game point streak.