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PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Devils

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
TV: Sportsnet West (HD)

RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 7:38 p.m. MT



The Edmonton Oilers get top centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back for the first time this season coming off of off-season shoulder surgery and the team is getting the band back together by reuniting the centre with their top forward line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

"I want all our lines to be top lines," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "I always think everyone puts too much emphasis on who is one, two or three. I fully expect (David) Perron and (Ales) Hemsky to get going with (Boyd) Gordon but the answer to your question is, talking to the coaching staff, those guys had some success last year. With (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins_ coming back his first game, I think he'll be well covered off on the wings with those two players.

"Obviously, Hall is a very good left winger and Eberle knows the game. He's a smart kid, he's good defensively and he's got some offensive punch too. It's a no-brainer for Nugent-Hopkins to get started with those two guys."

This will also be Taylor Hall's first game of the season back at his natural position of left wing.


When asked if Jason LaBarbera was being given the opportunity to not just fill in for Devan Dubnyk in net, but push for the starting gig, Eakins said this was his big shot.

"Yeah, opportunity every time," said Eakins. "It's an opportunity for LaBarbera, it's an opportunity for Ryan Hamilton. Anytime you can get your foot in the door, you want to kick it open and walk right in. Absolutely, a great opportunity for Jason to have a great game."


The Oilers, sitting at 0-2 to start the season, are hungry for their first win especially in front of their home crowd in Edmonton. There is bound to be added pressure on the team when they take the ice tonight.

"You never want to get off to this 0-2 or 0-3 start," said goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who will get the start tonight. "I mean, your goal is obviously to win but it's a long season and we're kind of in a process right now of just trying to learn and trying to get to know everybody and new coach and there's a lot of things going on. We need to find a way to get a win."

"We're all going to put pressure on ourselves to have a great game tonight," added top-line centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "We don't want to lose three in a row. Anytime during the season, especially at the start you want to get rolling and we're going to start tonight."


Head Coach Dallas Eakins has been unimpressed with the play of about 'four or five' of his forwards so far through two games of the season. The bench boss made the choice to scratch long time veteran forward Ryan Smyth tonight versus the New Jersey Devils.

This gives freshly recalled Ryan Hamilton an opportunity to showcase his talents for the Oilers brass.

"It's a great opportunity just coming into the lineup," said Hamilton. "I'm trying to help the team out and get a big win. I'm real excited and I'll just try to get some rest in and I'll be ready to go right from the get-go."

This will be Hamilton's first game for the Oilers. He is familiar with coach Eakins have played with the Toronto organization during the coach's time with the Leafs and Marlies.

-- Chris Wescott,


DEVILS (0-1-1) at OILERS (0-2-0)


Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers. The last time the Devils and Oilers faced off, New Jersey pulled out a 2-1 overtime win at Rexall Place on Jan. 11, 2012.

Big story: New Jersey opens up a five-game Canadian road trip against Edmonton as both teams try to pick up their first win of the season. ... Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes his return to the Oilers lineup.

Team Scope:

Devils: After a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last Thursday, the Devils picked up their first point of 2013-14 in a 4-3 shootout loss against the New York Islanders on Friday night, but as the team sets out on what is likely to be one of its more challenging road trips this season, its first victory remains elusive. In the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division any early-season deficit in the standings could be an enormous hindrance for New Jersey, which is seeking to avoid missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

Getting that first win is all the more urgent for the Devils considering their game Monday night will be the opener of a five-game road trip that takes them to five different Canadian cities in 11 days. The first two games -- in Edmonton and Vancouver -- are on back-to-back nights, meaning coach Peter DeBoer will split the goaltending duties, starting Martin Brodeur in Edmonton and giving Cory Schneider the call Tuesday night against his ex-mates in Vancouver.

“Obviously, [it’s] disappointing getting one out of four points,” Schneider told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Our effort level both nights was pretty good. Whether it was me making a couple moer saves on the first night or not being able to get that go-ahead goal and hang onto to it (against the Islanders), we all feel we can be better. We’re going to have to be.”

Oilers: Few rookie coaches in the NHL might face the pressure Dallas Eakins is up against in Edmonton. The Oilers, loaded with young offensive talent, haven't made the playoffs since 2006, and after developing one of the best young cores in the game, many feel Edmonton is overdue for a return to the postseason. Just two games into the season, though, the Oilers are 0-2-0 after two rough losses in the season's first week. After letting a two-goal lead slip away at home against Winnipeg on Tuesday the Oilers took a 6-2 beating in Vancouver on Saturday night.

"Part of the message to the players this morning was they are greatly confusing me," Eakins told the media Sunday. "I can show them clips where we have no compete level at all and then I show them clips where our compete level is way more than I even expect -- and out of the same people."

If the players don't get the message soon, Edmonton could be in for a long October. After hosting New Jersey and Montreal this week, the Oilers head east for a six-game road trip.

Who's hot: Damien Brunner has scored two of the three goals New Jersey has this season. … Boyd Gordon is off to a strong start with two goals in two games for Edmonton.

Injury report: The Devils will bring a healthy lineup with them to Edmonton. … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) is expected to make his season debut for the Oilers Monday while Steve MacIntyre (knee) and Corey Potter (back) are questionable. Sam Gagner (broken jaw) remains out.

-- David Kalan - Staff Writer

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