NEWARK, NJ - Two players involved in a significant off-season trade will face their former teams for the first time tonight as the Oilers road trip continues against the New Jersey Devils.
The Oilers and Devils were two of the six teams involved in three blockbuster deals on Wednesday, June 29 that sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world. Edmonton received 2011 fourth-overall draft pick Adam Larsson in exchange for 2010 first-overall selection Taylor Hall.
Larsson and Hall will play their first games against their former teams tonight at Prudential Center, and the Oilers defenceman is excited for the unique opportunity.
"It brings back a lot of memories," Larsson said following morning skate. "It's going to be fun to see my old teammates tonight."
Don't expect him to get caught up in the reunion much during the game, though. After starting the road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Oilers rebounded nicely with a gutsy 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday and look to make it two in a row.
"There's still business… we have to get two points out of this one," Larsson said. "I think we're well prepared, but obviously it's going to be a special night for me."
A LOT OF ASSETS
Larsson played his first 274 career games with the Devils, plus five more during the 2012 playoffs. He tallied 69 regular season points (nine goals, 60 assists) and also scored a post-season goal.
The Swede has been solid for the Oilers thus far, suiting up for all 40 games, averaging 20:06 TOI and chipping in with six points (two goals, four assists). Head Coach Todd McLellan said Larsson's play is one of the reasons the Oilers are much improved over last year and currently sitting in a playoff spot.
"Our team is better than it was last year at this time, and he plays a part in that," McLellan said. "There are a lot of others who have contributed in different ways, but his ability to defend, move pucks out, play big minutes, his physicality, there are a lot of assets he brings to the table that we desperately needed."
The Oilers knew they were getting a reliable blueliner who could move the puck, but Larsson's tenacity has been an added bonus.
"We've been happy with his evolution with our team," McLellan said. "His physicality and ability to battle in tight around the blue paint was something that we found out after."
Larsson's teammates have also appreciated his steady presence on the back end.
"We're very happy to have Lars here," said rookie forward Drake Caggiula. "He's been a big, heavy body in the D zone for us. He's a good team leader and the guys respect him. He does a good job playing physical and being hard to play against. He's a good shutdown guy, penalty kills, blocks a lot of shots and all that little stuff. He's been a great addition to this team."
BOTH TEAMS HAPPY
On the flip side of the trade, Coach McLellan said he's looking forward to seeing Hall play again after coaching the star forward last season.
"When you spend time with these young men and you get attached, you care about them, and you care about them after the fact as well," he said. "The organization had good years with Taylor as an individual, but the team didn't get to where it wanted to go, so changes had to be made."
Much as Larsson has given the Oilers exactly what they desired from him, Hall has provided the Devils with a much-needed injection of offence. The left-winger has scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 30 games.
"There's nights where we sorely miss his offence and his ability to drive the play long with his speed, but that's what happens when you make a trade," McLellan said. "I think the trade has helped both teams."
Between the pipes, Cam Talbot will make his league-leading 37th start of the season, looking to secure his 20th win and keep pace with the Minnesota Wild's Devan Dubnyk for second in the NHL in that category.
There will be no changes to the Oilers lineup on defence. Brandon Davidson's status continues to improve as he's been sidelined with an illness, but Coach McLellan said he's not quite ready to return.
Up front, it's expected Matt Hendricks will replace Jesse Puljujärvi, though the exact bottom-six line combos were not divulged. The top line of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl is not expected to change, nor is the trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian.
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (20-13-7) at DEVILS (16-17-7)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet
This is the first of two meetings between the Oilers and Devils this season and the lone game in New Jersey. These teams will meet again on January 12th in Edmonton.
The last time these teams met was on February 9th in New Jersey, where the Devils defeated the Oilers by a score of 2-1. Jordan Eberle combined with Benoit Pouliot and Connor McDavid for the Oilers lone goal.
Oilers team scope:
After going winless in two games, the Oilers found their way back into the win column on Thursday in Boston with a 4-3 victory.
The Oilers are three points behind Anaheim for top spot in the Pacific Division and one point back of the Sharks for second.
Connor McDavid leads the NHL in scoring, with 45 points (14G, 31A) through 40 games, with a two point lead on Evgeni Malkin (PIT). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season, and has led or co-led the league in points a total of 56 of the first 86 days (as of Jan. 6).
Connor leads all Oilers forwards in average time on ice (21:10) and ranks fifth in the NHL. His season high (26:43) came on Dec. 31 against Vancouver.
With two assists vs. Boston on Jan. 5, McDavid now has 14 multi-point games, tops in the NHL. Malkin and Sidney Crosby (PIT) each have 13. Leon Draisaitl has seven, Jordan Eberle has five and Milan Lucic has four.
Forward Patrick Maroon scored his first career hat trick against Boston on Jan. 5, setting a new personal mark for goals in a season, at 14. His career best until this year was 12, combined between Anaheim and Edmonton in 2015-16.
Maroon has 22 points (15G, 7A) through the first 40 games of the season, which also puts him on pace to match or improve his career-best point total (34) in a season, set in 2014-15 with Anaheim.
Maroon has points in five of his past seven games, registering seven points (6G, 1A)
Since being acquired by Edmonton, Maroon has scored 35 points (22G, 13A) in 56 games.
Devils team scope:
Heading into last night's 4-2 loss against Toronto, the Devils had won three of four games. Prior to that, they had a tough stretch with only one regulation win in 12 outings (2-9-1).
The Devils sit six points behind the Flyers for the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Former Oilers winger Taylor Hall leads the Devils in scoring with 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists) despite only playing in 30 games this season. This is the first time he'll have ever faced his former club.
Damon Severson leads all Devils defencemen with 20 points in 40 games so far this season. Severson has three goals and 17 helpers.