The Oilers are back in action tonight as Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils are in town looking to hit 10 wins in their 12th game on this western road trip. (The Devils are 9-2 after a win in Vancouver on Wednesday.) The Oilers are on a two-game losing skid and need to rebound tonight if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs this year. They say that you don’t make the playoffs by American Thanksgiving, but you can certainly miss them by that point and the Oilers seem to be well on their way to that.
Keys to the Game
- Create traffic in front of Cory Schneider. He’s been playing unconscious this year, and that’s been a big factor in the Devils success so far.
- Force the Devils to play in their own zone. While their forwards have been scoring by committee, the defence isn’t necessarily one of the best in the league. The Oilers have the skill that should exploit those weaknesses.
- Keep doing what they’ve been doing. They’re scoring a ton, Nico Hischier is playing like he’s an NHL veteran, Will Butcher looks like he belongs on an NHL blue line, and Taylor Hall is putting the team on his back and good things are happening.
- Not get intimidated by what will certainly be an intense atmosphere in Rogers Place. The Oilers are struggling, and fans are getting restless. The Devils would do well to stick their gameplan, because it’s been working.
Players to Watch
- Kailer Yamamoto is drawing back into the lineup and this should be a good test of his ability to keep up with a fast opponent.
- Anton Slepyshev is back in the lineup as well, and it’s always fun to see what he can do.
- Nico Hischier was the perfect pick for the Devils, and in his first 11 games he’s shown why. He’s fast, has good hands and knows how to get in front of the net and cause some trouble.
- Taylor Hall. You know why.
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Anton Slepyshev
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Kailer Yamamoto
Iiro Pakarinen – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Darnell Nurse – Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom – Matt Benning
Yohann Auvitu – Kris Russell
Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Drew Stafford
Brian Gibbons – Adam Henqrique – Jesper Bratt
Brian Boyle – Pavel Zacha – Jimmy Hayes
Miles Wood – Blake Coleman – Stefan Noesen
Andy Greene – Steven Santini
John Moore – Damon Severson
Mirco Mueller – Will Butcher
The Oilers are in the danger zone. They missed out on a point against the Penguins, and are sitting 30th in the league. It’s not unheard of for a team to squeak into the playoffs at the last minute (it happened in 2006 and we all know how good that was), but by losing game after game and giving away points like they’re Oprah giving away Christmas gifts, the Oilers are really not doing themselves any favours.
In order to hit 95 points, the Oilers are going to have to basically win 44/71 games to even have a sniff. It’s not impossible, but these next 9 games are crucial. (A win against Pittsburgh would have been helpful, for sure.)
The Devils, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. They’re still projected to finish at the bottom of the Metropolitan division despite this strong start, but are playing well as a team. They don’t have anyone who has more than 5 goals, but they’ve had contributions from guys up and down the lineup. Rookie defenceman Will Butcher has been a surprise, and Nico Hischier is fitting right in alongside Taylor Hall on the top line.
With 15 points in 11 games, Hall is leading his team in pretty much all the metrics that matter (shots, shot attempts, scoring chances). It’s only a mater of time before he breaks it open and has a 5 point night. With two games against his floundering former club in the next 10 days, you have to think that now might be a good time for him to remind everyone just how good he is.