If a pregame ceremony like tonight’s doesn’t get the Devils firing out of the gate, they might as well stick a knife in the rest of their season. After months of anticipation, tonight’s matchup against the Edmonton Oilers will be preceded by the retirement ceremony of Martin Brodeur’s No. 30. His name will take its rightful place in the rafters alongside the banners of Scott Stevens (No. 4), Ken Daneyko (No. 3), and Scott Niedermayer (No. 27). Brodeur will be the first non-defenseman to have his number retired by the organization, and the fourth player to receive the honor that was on all three Championship teams (1995, 2000, 2003).
In regards to the Devils’ actual opponent, the Edmonton Oilers made New Jersey look like a Mickey Mouse organization (no pun intended) when these teams first met back in November. The Devils, who are 3-0-0 on number retirement nights all-time, look to maintain this lossless trend, while trying to snap a three-game winless streak (0-1-2) that continued last night in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. The Oilers are wrapping up a four-game road trip, where they’ve had some polarizing outcomes. After defeating the Senators 7-2, the Oilers dropped their last two contests against the Habs and Islanders, getting outscored 13-2. Edmonton wants to rebound from their last two losses, end their road trip on a high note, and spoil this historic night for an injury-riddled Devils team.
Goals continue to be a reoccurring issue for the Devils this season, particularly when left wing Mike Cammalleri is out of the lineup. He hasn’t played since the Devils went into the all-star break, during which they’ve gone 1-1-2. The Devils scored eight goals over that span, and blew back-to-back third period leads that led to the post-regulation losses. Needless to say, their incompetence is derailing their placement in the standings. The Devils are one point out of the playoffs going into tonight’s game, with the Islanders playing tonight as well. Rookie forward Joe Blandisi and veteran Lee Stempniak have continued to lead the way for the Devils offensively. Blandisi has three goals and eight points in seven games, while Stempniak has six goals and ten points in his last 11 contests. Although its only by a small margin, it’s worth noting how Stempniak currently leads the Devils with 39 points.
Despite the fluctuant record, Edmonton has welcomed Connor McDavid back with open arms. While his team has gone 2-2-0 since he came back from injury, the young phenom has two goals and six points in his last four games, including Edmonton’s only goal in their 8-1 plunder against the Islanders. Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers tonight. It will be his first game against the Devils this season. The 28-year old netminder is 11-16-3 this season with a 2.69 GAA and .912 SV%. He’s started every game for the Oilers this road trip, and will undoubtedly aim to have a rebound performance tonight after being pulled in his last game. Talbot has performed exceptionally well against Eastern Conference teams, going 7-3-1 this season. This could give the Oilers a slight edge, despite how Talbot lost his last full start and was pulled in Edmonton’s previous game, during which he gave up ten goals in that span.
Who to watch
Kyle Palmieri…Ever since he scored his 20th goal of the season in a three-point performance against the Ottawa Senators, Palmieri’s gone cold. The Devils’ leader in goals has no points in his last six contests, over which the Devils went 2-2-2. The Devils left a lot of points on the table over that span that could have been different if Palmieri found the back of the net over the past few weeks. He’s definitely due and has the perfect stage to break out of his point drought.
Taylor Hall…Despite the disparity in points between these two players (50-35), Palmieri’s goal drought pales in comparison to what Taylor Hall has gone through. The former first overall pick has only three goals in his last 22 games, including zero in his last seven contests. Hall did have a big game against the Devils when they first met, registering a goal and three points. Scoring has been a tremendous struggle for Hall, but he could easily break out against a team he previously found the back of the net against.
What to watch
Will goalies change the outcome…? The first time these teams met, Keith Kinkaid and Anders Nilsson manned the pipes. Tonight we’ll see two different (and the actual starters of both teams) goalies, which could yield an entirely different outcome in tonight’s game, based on that factor alone. Both goalies are also on downward slides going into tonight’s matchup, which will give them all the more reason to play with an extra edge.
The Severson effect…After being a healthy scratch for the last three games, sophomore defenseman Damon Severson will reportedly return to the lineup tonight. As of writing this, it remains to be seen who will take his place in the press box, although I’m sure the decision of who sits is split between Eric Gelinas and Seth Helgeson. The Devils have gone 0-1-2 in the three games Severson sat so hopes are high his return to the lineup can change that trend.
Where to watch
When to watch
Ceremony begins at 6:15pm
Puck drop is at 8:00pm