The New Jersey Devils are concluding their three-game road trip this afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers. They are 0-2 and will look to earn at least a point before returning home to Prudential Center. Nico Hischier and his team won their first matchup of the season against Connor McDavid back on Dec. 31 with Jack Hughes scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. It is worth noting this is a different opponent than the one they faced 78 days ago. The Oilers added Evander Kane to their roster and have a new head coach at the helm.
2 Storylines: Edmonton Oilers (34-23-4)
Oilers Looking to Complete Perfect Homestand
This afternoon the Oilers are concluding a five-game homestand that began on March 9. They have been a perfect 4-for-4, scoring 21 goals in that duration. In their last four games, Kailer Yamamoto has seven points and McDavid has eight. Edmonton has clawed their way back in the playoffs and currently sit third in the Pacific Division with a two-point advantage over the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I think everyone’s just locked in right now,” Yamamoto said. “We only have 21 games left in the season, so we’ve all got to be dialed. I think going into playoffs, you’ve got to be putting your best foot forward, so we’re trying to do that every game. I think we’re working towards that.”
According to Tankathon, the Oilers have the third-toughest remaining schedule, but first among current playoff-bound teams. Some feel their current winning streak could be an indicator that they will not look to make changes to their roster ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, but will a blowout loss to New Jersey change that? The organization already added a physical forward to their lineup and may just hope the team can keep up their current play for the rest of the season.
Edmonton Playing Well Under Woodcroft
Jay Woodcroft became the team’s head coach on Feb. 10, 2022, after the Oilers announced they fired Dave Tippett. With a new coach comes a new system, and it seems to be paying off for Edmonton as they are 11-5-1 in the 17 games he has been behind the bench.
“We’re a month in now with a new staff and the systems being a little bit different. We’re playing to our strengths,” defenseman Darnell Nurse said. “There’s a better understanding where guys are going to be on the ice, and the adjustments we’ve made have paid dividends at this point. I think for us, it’s good to have had the games we’ve had so far on this homestand and we want to finish off the right way.”
There has been a coaching carousel in Edmonton, and fans can only hope that Woodcroft can provide some stability behind the Oilers’ bench. Exactly how bad is the turnover rate of coaches in oil country? Well, let’s break it down. He is the fourth coach McDavid has played for in seven years. Leon Draisaitl is on his seventh coach in eight years, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on his ninth coach in 11 years.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (22-34-5)
What Will the Devils Lineup Look Like?
Ahead of the Devils’ game against the Vancouver Canucks, the team announced that defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler would miss the game due to a non-COVID related illness. Yesterday, Devils reporter Amanda Stein broke the news that there is a flu going around the team and it kept several members off the ice for practice. The Devils missed Nathan Bastian, Jesper Bratt, Dougie Hamilton, Christian Jaros, and Tomas Tatar yesterday in addition to head coach Lindy Ruff.
The situation leads to two questions for fans. The first and most obvious is what will the lineup look like this afternoon? The Devils were forced to play without a forward against the Calgary Flames as Andreas Johnsson was unable to suit up after getting a high stick to the eye in Vancouver. The good news is he should return to the lineup, but it is unclear if any of the missing players will be ready to go. It is confirmed that Pavel Zacha will miss another game due to an upper-body injury that also occurred against the Canucks. The second question is how healthy will the players be on the ice? If Bratt and Hamilton play this afternoon, will they be close to 100 percent? Fans and media may not get that answer until the conclusion of the game.
Will Daws or Gillies Get the Start?
This is the third and final game of New Jersey’s road trip and in the first two games, fans saw Nico Daws start only to be replaced by Jon Gillies. After their loss to the Flames, coach Ruff spoke to the media and admitted that he may have asked too much of Daws, who started nine consecutive games.
“I put Nico [Daws] through a pretty tough test,” said Ruff. “Probably an unfair test for a young goaltender.… We’ve asked a lot of him, probably unfairly.”
The above quote did not go over well with fans on social media who feel the team has a recent pattern of overworking young goalies. The coaching staff has been in a tough spot when it comes to their goaltenders as neither Daws nor Gillies expected to be fighting for the role of an NHL starting goaltender. It is speculated that Gillies will get the nod today at Rogers Place, but fans may not get their answer until the goaltender leads his team onto the ice.
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: The Goaltender
The Oilers have had no problem finding the back of the net during this homestand, and the Devils’ goaltenders have struggled during this road trip. This could lead to a very early lopsided score in favor of the home team. With the lineup being unclear, New Jersey’s starting goalie may not have the ideal defense in front of him, so whether it is Daws or Gillies, they will need to be on their A-game if they want to steal a win before heading back to Prudential Center.
Edmonton Oilers: Kailer Yamamoto
It could be hard to find a player on the Oilers’ roster who has more confidence than Yamamoto. He has four goals in his last four games and is playing the best hockey of his career with 27 points on the season, which is a career best. He has been playing on the first line alongside McDavid and Kane and has flourished playing among the league’s best. He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck and has a strong forecheck that can put the Devils in a dangerous situation, especially with McDavid lurking in the offensive zone.
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Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.