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Game 43 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers

The Time: 9:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast:TV - MSG+; Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (22-17-2) at the Edmonton Oilers (16-22-3)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils, feeling bad that their fans had to watch a west coast game, decided to pack it in early and go into the first intermission down 4-0, so most of their fans could head off to sleep. Martin Brodeur let up two quick goals and was promptly pulled. Johan Hedberg didn't fare much better letting in two of his own in the latter half of the first period, nor did he play well in the remaining part of the game letting in fourgoals. The final 40 minutes tilted the Devils way a bit, but the initial deficit was too much to overcome and the Devils lost the game, 6-3. It's tough to fault the skaters effort in last nights game. It was a game in which the Devils dominated the Flames in the final two periods but with Vesa Toskala like goaltending goaltending it didn’t matter how well they played.

The Last Oilers Game: At the close of a lengthy road trip (due to the World Junior Championships), the Oilers closed out the trip with a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. With injuries affecting their lineup, the Oilers dressed a more thuggish one to combat the physicality of the Stars. That didn't work out too well. Despite Taylor Hall staking the Oilers to a 1-0 lead, the Stars had four unanswered goals (two each by Mike Riberio and Jamie Benn) to close out the game. Even worse than losing the game, the already depleted Oiler lineup (without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ray Whitney and Tom Gilbert), lost forward Jordan Eberle (their top scorer) to an injury. The recap at SBN site Copper and Blue can be found here.

The Last Devils-Oilers Game: Wow, what a difference 14 months makes. During the midst of a terrible run of luck and hockey in New Jersey, the Edmonton Oilers visited the Rock on Friday evening, November 13, 2010. The game was great in the sense that Ilya Kovalchuk scored an overtime winner for the 4-3 victory. The game was terrible in the sense that it was the Devils first home victory of the season in their 8th game. Both teams have undergone major changes and been infused by three of the best rookies in the NHL (Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) since their last meeting, so not much statistically is really relevant from that game. If you want to read more about that game, John's recap is here

The Goal: Show up in the first period is first and foremost. Also, don't play down to the level of perceived competition you are facing. The Oilers might be struggling, but let's not pretend the Devils are world beaters. There have been many 'winnable' games so far this year in which the Devils have fell short.

Another key early in this game will be fatigue. Will the Oilers (playing for the first time since Saturday) come out a bit flat? Will the Devils, far away from home and playing on back-to-back nights, be able to match the intensity of the Oilers?

And the main goal is to keep the Oilers on track for their third straight top overall pick in the draft. Hey Steve Tambellini....three straight top picks? You are doing this whole GM thing wrong. Scott Howson laughs at you.

After the jump I will go over a few more items that I think will effect the outcome of this game. Head over to Copper & Blue for the Edmonton perspective.

Steady Heddie:

Martin Brodeur has been inconsistent this year. He's played fantastic games like his past two outings against Pittsburgh or clunkers like games against Ottawa or last night in Calgary. Johan Hedberg on the other hand has been very solid in his role as the 1A goaltender on this team. He's going to let in some soft goals, he's going to make some amazing saves and he's going to wander from the net and make you pull your hair out. Combining all his plusses and minuses, you come out with a solid effort every time from Hedberg. If he sticks to three or less goals allowed in this game, I think you can look at two points for New Jersey.

(Note: I wrote the paragraph above before Hedberg's performance last night. In true knee-jerk reaction, if I was Lou Lamoriello last night then I am on the phone with Chuck Fletcher, the GM of the Minnesota Wild. I am not letting Fletcher off the phone until I either have Josh Harding or Matt Hackett on a plane to Edmonton. In a related story I probably would not have a great temperament to be a GM.)

Kick Them While They Are Down:

In their last 29 games the Oilers are 8-20-1. They are without a good portion of their top players, including their two top scorers (Eberle and RNH) their 'top' defenseman (Whitney) and their defenseman who was logging over 23 minutes of ice-time. And while it's never fun to only beat a team because they are depleted, two points are two points. Edmonton is a youthful team and doesn't give up easily so the Devils will have to put forth a sharp effort early and hopefully bury the Oilers before they have a chance to get into the game.

Don't Worry About Matching Lines:

When a team is as decimated with injuries as Edmonton is, and you are healthy you go at them. A steady dose of the top two lines should eventually wear down the top units for Edmonton and will tilt the ice in New Jersey's favors. That said, if the top two lines played like they did last night, Edmonton might have more of a chance to win then we all initially would think. With Edmonton having 1/3 of their top 6 out for tonight's game, they Devils should be able to maintain a high rate of possession.

Special Teams Advantage:

The Devils penalty killing unit has been great so far this year and they now face an Edmonton power play ranked fourth in the league. The good news is that with Eberle and RNH out the Oilers lose two forwards who combine for about 3:40 of power play ice-time per game and a total of 33 power play points. The Oilers penalty killing unit is in the top half of the league but without Gilbert they lose one of their top defensemen for tonight's game.

Old Friends Reunite:

Devils rookie Adam Henrique will get his first chance to play against former Windsor Spitfires teammate/line mate Taylor Hall. Hall, is also the main player the Devils need to keep an eye tonight. He is by far the best posession player on the Oilers and I expect Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne to match up a lot against Hall.

Embarrassment is A Good Motivator: :

After the effort last night, I expect the Devils to come out strong tonight. Their lackadaisical first period burned them last night and that type of effort is hard to overcome, especially when you have poor goaltending.

Thanks for reading and please add any new updates, lineup changes, comments, etc. below