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Game Preview #19: New Jersey Devils vs. Edmonton Oilers

After sweeping two Canadian road trips, the Devils have their rematch against the Edmonton Oilers tonight. It should be an explosive scoring night.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (15-3-0) vs. the Edmonton Oilers (10-8-0). SBN Blog: Copper N’ Blue

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: MSGSN

Rematch? Marino and McDavid, Siegenthaler and Draisaitl

When the Devils last played the Edmonton Oilers, they defeated Edmonton 4-3 in a stunning third period comeback. During that game, Lindy Ruff relied upon John Marino to handle most matchups with Connor McDavid, while Jonas Siegenthaler got a lion’s share of minutes against Leon Draisaitl. Siegenthaler dominated the Kane-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line, posting a 6-5 shot share and 68.63 xGF% in 7:40 against Draisaitl. In 9:13 of even strength time against the best player in the world, John Marino shut down Connor McDavid. The Devils outshot the Oilers 8-7 and scored a goal, while not allowing any against, when Marino was locked on 97. For the Devils to win tonight, they are going to have to follow a similar gameplan.

Vitek vs...?

One thing is for sure tonight. Vitek Vanecek will be returning to the starting lineup after Akira Schmid performed admirably in a start against Ottawa in Newark. What is uncertain, though, is who the Edmonton Oilers will play in goal. The Devils already beat Stuart Skinner with four goals on 43 shots. It was not as if Skinner had a bad game - he faced an expected goals against count of 4.35 - so he performed just around average. On the season, he has a .930 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average (the Oilers still have a bit of a rough defense), sporting a 4-4-0 record. He does not yet have a shutout - so he has been consistently good. However, the Oilers also have Jack Campbell, who is 6-4-0 with an .873 save percentage and 4.27 goals against average. That says at least one thing: the Oilers offense is way too good to sleep on. Since Skinner got the win against Vegas on Saturday, though, I would expect Campbell to get a chance to find his game tonight.

Time to Give Zetterlund Recognition

To help spark the comeback against Edmonton earlier in the season, Lindy Ruff pulled Fabian Zetterlund off the top line to put Jesper Bratt on Nico Hischier’s wing. I do not think that will happen tonight. Since he was pulled from the top line, and placed back on it the following game, Zetterlund has six points in the Devils’ past seven wins. In total on the season, he has three goals and five assists in 13 games, playing just 13:31 a night. Last season, he had three goals and five assists in 14 games, playing just 13:21 a night. Ruff seems to have begun the process of expanding his role, as Zetterlund has been getting some power play shifts - and I would not be surprised if they started working him into the penalty kill (though, to do so against Edmonton would be quite a task - they score at a 31.75% clip on their power plays). They need to get him out there more often - he is playing at a level above his peers.

Check the primary point rate - it’s all of Zetterlund’s total for 2.73 per 60. The next highest primary point rate is 2.04 in almost the exact same TOI - Zetterlund is not just creating offense, he is consistently at a focal point of his line’s goal scoring. He is not just a one-dimensional player, though. Zetterlund has been great in all three zones and has shown himself capable of knocking opponents to the ice when necessary. He could learn something from Evander Kane, who should be on the ice against him plenty tonight. Zetterlund is not quite as physical as a true power forward, but I think he has the combination of size, speed, and skill to pull it off.

9:50 AM Edit Note: I omitted an important detail: Evander Kane is still out with a wrist injury from being skated over with a blade, and will be out for a few months. In Kane’s place, Warren Foegele has taken the left wing spot on Draisaitl’s line. Incorrect line struck-through.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching? Who will you be looking for tonight? Who will score the first goal? How many goals will be scored tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.