With two-thirds of the Oilers' Lottery Line on the shelf year playoff absence, are turning to another youngster to help fill the void.
The Oilers got off to a fast start this year, holding a 9-3-2 record on Nov. 8 thanks to the solid play of juvenile line Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton, though, is just 7-19-1 since and 4-14-1 over their past 19 games.
Nugent-Hopkins is second on the club with 22 assists and 35 points, but has missed the past three games with a left shoulder injury that is slated to keep him out until after the All-Star break. Edmonton also lost defenseman Tom Gilbert to a knee injury during its recently completed seven-game road trip and saw Eberle suffer a right knee injury of his own on Saturday at Dallas in the trek's final game.
Eberle has 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points this season -- all team highs -- and is expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks of action.
Hall scored in his fourth straight game on Saturday, but it was the lone tally for the Oilers in a 4-1 defeat. Nikolai Khabibulin allowed three goals on 33 shots in Edmonton's third straight loss that concluded a 1-6 road trip.
"We came up a little short," Oilers head coach Tom Renney said. "They're trying and they worked hard. It just wasn't enough."
With Eberle and Gilbert out, the Oilers recalled Paajarvi and Ryan O'Marra from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League on Monday. They also tried to bring back Gilbert Brule from the minors, but he was claimed by Phoenix off re-entry waivers.
Paajarvi had just three assists in 25 games this year before getting sent to the minors on Dec. 16. The 10th overall pick of the 2009 draft logged 15 goals and 34 points in 80 games a rookie last year, but took his demotion in stride.
"He was real good at understanding this was a move for his career," said Renney. "It was a move to help the Oilers at the end of the day. He felt he would welcome the opportunity to play more and play in different circumstances and situations and gain confidence and be ready for us when we tapped him on the shoulder again."
The 20-year-old did just that, logging a goal and eight assists in nine games with Oklahoma City. He now gets a chance to solidify a roster spot with the Oilers after showing off his maturity.
"I think at that time, it was the best thing for me," Paajarvi said of his demotion nearly a month ago. "To just go down and play a lot and just not think too much and just get that rhythm back."
The Devils will look to re-establish their groove this evening after suffering a 6-3 loss in Calgary last night. The goaltending duo of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg had a rough outing, with Brodeur getting lifted just 7:32 into the game after yielding two goals on five shots. Hedberg allowed four goals on nine shots in relief.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique both logged a goal and an assist, with Henrique potting his fourth short-handed tally of the season, tied for the league lead. Overall, New Jersey is tops in the NHL with 10 short-handed markers.
Still, the Devils were denied a third straight win despite outshooting the Flames 38-14.
"I can't sit here and tell you we didn't play well," said Devils forward Zach Parise. "We outshot them 40 to whatever it was. I don't think we played terrible. I really don't think there is a lot of things we need to do different."
New Jersey, which has split the first two of a four-game swing, notched a 4-3 overtime win over a visiting Edmonton club in the lone meeting last year, with Kovalchuk notching the game-winner to give his club its fourth victory in six meetings with the Oilers.
The Devils were shut out 2-0 in their last trip to Edmonton back on March 7, 2010, snapping their six-game undefeated streak (5-0 with a tie) at Rexall Place. It was New Jersey's first loss in Edmonton since Oct. 31, 1995 and it hasn't lost two straight there since defeats on Jan. 24, 1986 and March 17 the following year.