EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers dance with the Devils tonight at Rogers Place, hosting a familiar face in new colours.
Oilers 2010 first-overall pick Taylor Hall returns to Oil Country for the first time as a member of New Jersey's squad. The teams met five days ago in Newark, with Edmonton emerging victorious 2-1 in overtime.
"It was definitely a little strange going up against him," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "I spent five years playing with him, so it's a different experience going up against him. Tonight should be interesting, especially for him. I know he still has a lot of fans here so it should be fun tonight."
When it comes to defending the Devils leading scorer - 25 points in 32 games - Edmonton will try to match speed for speed and take away his chances, but that will be quite the challenge.
"He's capable of having a big night every night because he's a tremendous player," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "The way he skates and can handle the puck at high speeds, he drives offence and he's a threat. He's all the things that we know as an organization, as a staff and as fans. To shut him down, it takes a big team task. It's not based on one individual, but we won't approach the game that way."
"He's got so much speed and he's kind deceptive with that," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "If he can wind it up a little bit, you've got to be prepared for that. You don't want to give him a good chance in any situation but we've got to just be ready for him."
Brandon Davidson hasn't played since January 3, but he's back in the lineup tonight.
Davidson has dealt with a few injuries and setbacks in his career that have, at times, derailed his upward trajectory as a player at this level. But he's eager to put all that behind him, carve out his spot on Edmonton's blueline and stick the rest of the season.
"It's frustrating," said Davidson, who just dealt with an illness. "I'm ready to shake all that bad stuff off. It's a new year here, and it's a good time for me to reestablish my game as the team moves forward closer to playoffs. I want to do whatever I can to make sure I'm back to where I was and am exceeding that."
Jujhar Khaira will make his season debut with the Oilers tonight. The big forward, selected in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft, has eight goals and 18 total points in 24 games in the American Hockey League this year.
Khaira is having one of his better seasons, production wise, and feels confident returning to the NHL. The forward has 15 NHL games under his belt.
"I've learned to come up here and just be calm," Khaira said. "I know I can play up here at this level and now I've just got to come prove it. For myself anyways, I know I'm confident in myself so I've just got to show it and hopefully other people see."
The Oilers coach has spoken about upping the pace of play, with the Oilers dropping their last two games. Khaira figures to help in that department.
"He's obviously going to be excited," said McLellan. "He's getting another opportunity at the National Hockey League (level). He has size that we feel can get around the rink and move, so it brings a little more pace maybe to the game using that size. And we just want to take a look at him. He's had a pretty good run in Bakersfield and we want to see where it fits right now, evaluate him and see if he can help our team."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (21-15-7) vs. DEVILS (16-18-8)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game marks the first of two meetings between the Oilers and Devils this season and the lone game in New Jersey. The last time these teams met in Edmonton was on November 20th, 2015, where the Oilers defeated the Devils 5-1. Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, Jordan Eberle and Mark Letestu all scored for the Oilers in the win.
The last time these teams met was on January 7th in New Jersey, where the Oilers defeated the Oilers by a score of 2-1 in overtime. Mark Letestu scored the game winning goal.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers have dropped each of their last two games by a 5-3 score with the most recent being the opener in this six-game homestand on Tuesday to San Jose.
Rookie defenceman Matthew Benning has three points (2G, 1A) in his last four games, and five points (2G, 3A) in his last seven games.
Prior to Christmas, Benning went a stretch of 13 games without a point. Since the team returned to play on Dec. 28, Benning has more than doubled his points total for the season, going from four to nine points (2G, 7A), in 31 games.
Forward Mark Letestu has six special team goals this season, and two scored at even strength. The native of Elk Point, Alberta has four power play goals and two shorthanded goals. He also has four game-winning goals.
Forward Leon Draisaitl is one power play goal off the NHL lead, with eight power play goals. Three players are tied for first with nine power play goals (Atkinson, Crosby, B. Schenn).
Defenceman Kris Russell ranks sixth in the NHL with 99 blocked shots. He is tied for first in the NHL with an average of 2.8 blocked shots per game
With one takeaway against San Jose on Jan. 10, Connor McDavid now has 35 takeaways and ranks seventh in the NHL in this category. Leon Draisaitl ranks 15th, with 32 takeaways.
Devils team scope:
New Jersey comes into tonight having dropped each of their last three games in losses to Toronto, Edmonton and Florida.
Former Oilers winger Taylor Hall is mired in a scoring slump. He has only one goal in his last 14 games. All in all, Hall only has four goals since October 25 which is a span of 26 contests. Hall has missed some stretches of games during that time on two separate occasions. Hall is still tied for the team lead in points, however, despite having only played 32 of the team's 42 games.
Tied with Hall is Travis Zajac, who has eight goals and 25 points in 41 games.
P-A Parenteau leads the Devils in goals with 12 in 40 games. He only has six assists on the year. Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri have 10 goals each.