The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+ | Radio - WFAN 101.9FM/660AM
Handling Adversity: Deep breaths, everyone, deep breaths. The New Jersey Devils have hit a rough patch. Gone is the cycle of winning three-straight, followed by a disappointing, but not world-ending loss. Things are getting serious here. The Devils are on their first losing streak this year, having lost games to the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and St. Louis Blues. The Devils, previously unbeaten on the road, rolled into Edmonton on Friday November 3, and judging by the comments on my preview of that game, everyone saw the loss coming. So nothing to worry about, right? That Sunday, the fifth, the Devils were in Calgary. They played an exciting game, but in the end squandered a great start from Keith Kinkaid, who showed a remarkable ability to stop shots on the breakaway and keep his team in it. Ok. Everybody goes through some struggles, and back-to-back losses happen to even the best of teams, especially those as bitten by the injury bug as the Devils have been early this year. Fast-forward to this Tuesday. The Devils, back on home ice, but playing a team they’ve struggled against for years, drop another one to the St. Louis Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko. That’s three straight losses in which the team was outscored by a total of 14-8.
So that’s where we stand.
New Jersey will welcome the Edmonton Oilers to the Prudential Center tonight. Now, I gave Edmonton a lot of flak in that game preview on the third. I talked about the lack of reliable, consistently-scoring depth forwards that they now had thanks to GM Peter Chiarelli. And they promptly turned around that night and buried six on New Jersey.
“Ok,” said I “Even the most incompetent offensive teams score six goals once in awhile.”
I was pretty sure Edmonton wouldn’t repeat that performance. And they didn’t. They got handled two nights later by the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-0 drubbing. Another two nights later, the Oilers were on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to play a Metropolitan rival, the New York Islanders. In that game, the Oilers were again taken to task by the opposition. The Islanders controlled most of the game, and if it were not for Cam Talbot the Oilers could’ve lost that game by three or four goals. But Talbot stood on his head throughout the night to get them to overtime. About forty seconds and a little McMagic later, the Oilers survived, winning 2-1 in a game they should’ve lost a hundred times over. But that’s hockey. So, here we are. The Devils will have to face a team that just steam-rolled them not even a week ago. A team who, in their following games, struggled mightily to put any black rubber disks inside any nets at all. With Kyle Palmieri likely to return to the lineup, I’m interested to see the on-ice response from the players.
McMagic: The Oilers look like a team who’s going to go as far as their goaltending, and Connor McDavid, will take them. This is a team with a sub-3.00 goals for per game stat. A team who’s allowed four goals or more in six of fourteen games. Certainly Cam Talbot’s a good goalie with remarkable consistency. After all, the man, a one-time backup for those whose name shall not be spoken, started 70+ games a season ago. Talbot is an absolute workhorse, and the Oilers are going to rack up the mileage on him this year with 24-year-old Laurent Brossoit, a veteran of 17 NHL games, being his only backup on the roster currently.
As for the troubles on offense, it really doesn’t take much to see the issue. Aside from the first line of Pat Maroon, Leon Draisaitl, and McJesus, there’s really nothing behind them. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still a quality second line center, in my opinion. But he’s centering a line with Drake Caggiula on his right, and Milan Lucic on his left. Caggiula is a sophomore NHL’er who scored a whopping 18 points in 60 games a year ago. Meanwhile, Milan Lucic is good for some things, and not so much for others. Behind those two lines it’s a barren wasteland in terms of scoring capabilities. Jussi Jokinen wasn’t able to stay healthy last year, and thus his production fell through the proverbial floor. Ryan Strome hasn’t looked impressive since his rookie campaign in 2014-15, when he put up 50 points in a season, still his most impressive mark to date.
Amanda Stein said the Devils’ up-tempo Wednesday practice lines looked like this:
As for the Oilers, I could not find a full list of practice lines from Wednesday. However, it appears Caggiula will sit and be replaced by Anton Slepyshev on the second line with the Nuge and Lucic. That is, if Slepyshev is healthy enough to dress.
In Closing: So that’s that. There’s nothing more to be done. Tonight at 7 PM the Oilers and Devils will hit the ice for their second and final meeting of the season. I’ll keep the comments section updated with the Oilers line news, and if there’s a sudden change to Palmieri’s condition I’ll post that as well. Everybody enjoy your Thursday.