The Edmonton Oilers won’t make a trip to New Jersey this season. Instead, the Devils’ home game in this series will take place in mere hours in Gothenburg, Sweden.
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. It’s a new life for this team. The 2018-19 Edmonton Oilers are on a mission, one to prove that last season was a fluke and that the real potential of this team was shown during the 2016-17 season. The Oilers have a chance to shut a lot of people up, myself included. That starts today against the Devils.
This will be the first of two meetings on the season between the clubs, who will meet in Edmonton on March 3rd.
Cam Talbot gets the nod for the Oilers, while Keith Kinkaid starts for the Devils.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Like the Oilers, New Jersey’s biggest weakness is the blueline. The Devils don’t have a proven number one, and their defensive group is rather slow outside of second year man Will Butcher and veteran Sam Vatanen. Speed over the blueline is key for the Oilers, because it will allow them the chance to set up offense and attack Kinkaid, the normal backup for this club.
New Jersey: Attack Cam Talbot early and often. Talbot had a terrific preseason for the Oilers, but he’s struggled mightily at the start of two of the last three seasons. Test him early and see if you can sneak one by him to really get into his head.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Tenth overall pick Evan Bouchard will make his NHL debut paired with Kris Russell on the third pairing. Bouchard, known for his offensive chops and powerplay ability, will have his toughest test yet today. Can he move the puck against an NHL lineup? Will he hold up defensively? All things worth watching today.
New Jersey: Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy as MVP a season ago and looks poised to have another huge year for the Devils. If Edmonton wants to open the season with two points under their belt, they’ll have to key in on the former Oiler and shut him down. He’s the second best player on the ice behind only McDavid.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Jujhar Khaira – Ryan Strome – Jesse Puljujarvi
Tobias Rieder – Kyle Brodziak – Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Evan Bouchard
After starting the season on the IR, Russell is activated and will play with Bouchard this morning. As a result, Ethan Bear has been assigned to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Some are speculating it’s a paper transaction, but I think a few games in the AHL will help keep Bear fresh while the Oil figure out what they have in Bouchard.
Adam Larsson, after missing the game in Cologne, will get the nod in his native country of Sweden. Alex Chiasson and Drake Caggiula, who spent all training camp sick, are expected to be the scratches for this season opening tilt up front. Jason Garrison will sit among the defenders.
New Jersey Devils Lines:
Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson – Pavel Zacha – Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood – Travis Zajac – John Quenneville
Blake Coleman – Brian Boyle – Jean-Sebastian Dea
Mirco Mueller – Sami Vatanen
Andy Greene – Damon Severson
Will Butcher – Ben Lovejoy
Eddie Lack will back up as Cory Schneider still isn’t good enough to go. Schneider, the number one for the Devils, has been battling a hip injury for over a year now. He’s skating but isn’t ready to play in games. Speedy forward Jesper Bratt is also on the IR as he recovers from a broken jaw.
Former Oiler Eric Gryba is a healthy scratch today, along with young defender Steven Santini. Up front, veteran Drew Stafford will sit up top for the Devils as a healthy scratch.
The Oilers went 7-1-0 in the preseason, including an overtime victory over the Cologne Sharks on Wednesday morning. The Devils also played a European exhibition game, heading to Switzerland to take on SC Bern. Like Edmonton, it took them overtime to claim a victory.
The Oilers have won two straight season openers, both coming at home and against the Calgary Flames. Last year, a 3-0 victory was highlighted by a Connor McDavid hat-trick and Cam Talbot shutout. Edmonton’s last season opening loss? October of 2015 in St. Louis, McDavid’s first career game.
This is the second time the Oilers will see Kinkaid. Last year, Edmonton beat the Devils and scored four times on him. He’ll be hoping for more Cam Talbot like results tonight. Talbot has helped the Oilers win four straight against Jersey.
Enjoy the game!