Published January 13, 2015
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Edmonton Oilers will have some welcomed help on Monday night as they try to avoid their first 0-3 start in 18 years.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is expected to make his season debut for the Oilers when they take on a New Jersey Devils club also looking for its first win of the campaign.
Nugent-Hopkins has been out since undergoing left shoulder surgery in late April. The top overall pick of the 2011 draft had 52 points in 62 games as a rookie in 2011-12, but netted just four goals with 24 points in 40 games a season ago.
The 20-year-old is making an early-than-expected return and on Sunday skated on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Hall shifted from center back to left wing after playing the first two games in the middle due to the absence of Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (broken jaw).
"I'm excited to be back playing with Nuge. I'm excited for him to be back. It's a huge addition to our team. I'm happy being on wing. I've played there for a long time and had a lot of success there so I'm comfortable with the position and I've just got to revert back to my old habits now," said Hall.
The Oilers would like to get back into the habit of winning. They opened their season with a 5-4 home loss to Winnipeg last Tuesday, then allowed Vancouver to score five straight goals en route to a 6-2 setback to the Canucks on Saturday.
Jeff Petry and Boyd Gordon had tallies in the loss, while Devan Dubnyk allowed five goals on 31 shots faced.
"If you are not going to battle and win battles and compete like every shift is your last, you are not going to win in this league," Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said.
Edmonton is 0-2 for the first time since 1989-90 and has not begun a season with three straight losses since an 0-4 start to the 1995-96 campaign.
New Jersey has also lost its first two contests of the season, but earned a point last time out in a 4-3 shootout setback to the New York Islanders on Friday. Martin Brodeur made 23 saves and another five in the shootout before getting beat in the sixth round by New York's Matt Moulson.
A pair of first-year Devil skaters had the regulation goals, with Damien Brunner scoring twice and Michael Ryder adding a tally.
New Jersey, which was bested 3-0 in Pittsburgh the previous night, is trying to avoid matching its 0-2-1 start to the 2010-11 season and begins a five-game road trip tonight through Canada. The Devils are also slated to makes stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
"It's going to take time," Brodeur said of blending in all the new faces. "I think we need to give ourselves a little time here. I think it's a great thing we're going on the road here. We can get to know each other and learn how to play with each other."
The Devils have won two straight and five of their previous seven versus the Oilers, including a 2-1 overtime victory in Edmonton in the most recent matchup on Jan. 11, 2012.
New Jersey has six victories and a tie in its last eight games in Edmonton.