12/1/2017 Game 25 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Colorado Avalanche

The New Jersey Devils (14-6-4) embark on a three-game road trip tonight and first face the Colorado Avalanche (12-9-2) in their final meeting of the season. The Devils hosted the Avs in their home (and season) opener at the Rock back on October 7 and won 4-1. There’s a recap for that game here.

The Devils are 37-38-8-4 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Avs. They are 2-7-1-2 at the Pepsi Center. The two teams split games last season. Both teams have been pleasant surprises this season, partially due to the play of their younger players.

Colorado is in the midst of a five-game home stand. They played the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, a 3-2 overtime win courtesy of Nathan MacKinnon, and the Calgary Flames on Saturday, a 3-2 loss. Overall, they are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. They are also 8-2-1 on home ice and have won four of their last six games at the Pepsi Center.

As mentioned before, New Jersey is on a three-game road trip; they play the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. They last played on Monday, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on home ice. They defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2, on Friday and the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, on Saturday. They are 5-2-3 in their last 10 games overall and are 8-2-2 on the road this season.

Tonight’s goaltender matchup will likely feature Semyon Varlamov (8-4-1, 3.13 GAA, .906 save percentage) and Cory Schneider (9-5-3, 2.78 GAA, .918 save percentage).

Sami Vatanen will make his Devils’ debut tonight. He flew in and met the team in Colorado after being traded yesterday. This will be the Devils’ first game without Adam Henrique in the lineup since the 2015-16 season; he played all 82 games last season. Their lines look a little different.

Additionally, Marcus Johansson could return to the lineup tonight after missing last month with a concussion. Gabriel Landeskog was suspended four games for boarding Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and will miss tonight’s game.

Projected Avalanche Lines:
Andrighetto-MacKinnon-Rantanen
Jost-Kerfoot-Compher
Nieto-Soderberg-Comeau
Bourque-Toninato-Yakupov

Girard-Johnson
Zadorov-Barbiero
Lindholm-Barrie

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Hischier-Bratt
Zacha-Zajac-Johansson
Gibbons-Coleman-Stafford
Wood-Boyle-Noesen

Greene-Vatanen
Moore-Severson
Butcher-Lovejoy

Nathan MacKinnon is Colorado’s leading scorer with 28 points (8G, 20A) and also leads in assists. He has three game-winning goals, two of them overtime winners. Mikko Rantanen has 20 points. Gabriel Landeskog leads in goals scored with nine, while MacKinnon and Kerfoot have eight. Nikita Zadorov has scored in consecutive games for the first time in his career.

Taylor Hall is New Jersey’s leading scorer with 26 points. Rookies Nico Hischier and Will Butcher both have 18. Hall leads in assists with 18. Brian Gibbons leads in goals scored with 11. Hall is playing Hart-caliber hockey and has seven points in his last six games.

The Avalanche have scored a power play goal in nine of 11 home games and their power play is ranked 16th in the league at 19.8% successful. The Devils are 7th at 23.0% successful. New Jersey’s penalty kill is 14th at 80.9% efficient while Colorado’s is 25th at 77.3%.

Will Butcher was selected 123rd overall by Colorado back in 2013 but opted to sign with the Devils as a free agent this past summer. Butcher played four years of college hockey at the University of Denver. Alexander Kerfoot, selected 150th overall in 2012 by the Devils, signed with Colorado this summer. The Devils are averaging a shot more per game but are also allowing more. Colorado’s faceoff win percentage is dead last in the NHL and the Devils should take advantage.

And keep an eye out for the rookies tonight! Colorado’s Jost-Kerfoot-Compher has been electric. They all played NCAA hockey for the University of North Dakota, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan, respectively. They’ve combined for 26 points.

And don’t forget about New Jersey’s rookies either. Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher, and Blake Coleman have all played incredibly well this season (although they’re still going through some growing pains).

The Avs have (kind of) gone under the radar this season. They’ve played well and shouldn’t be taken lightly by any team in the league. I’d say that both teams are fairly similar. They’re both undergoing rebuilds. They’re trying to play a similar style of hockey. They’ve injected more youth and speed into lineups. Both teams should be on their toes (skates?) tonight.

It’s a late one. 9PM puck drop. Be sure to tune in for Vatanen’s Devils debut and an exciting game.

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New Jersey Devils: December 2017 Preview

Last season, the New Jersey Devils had an epic collapse during the month of December that really set them far behind the rest of the Metropolitan Division and never really recovered. Will December make-or-break this team again? Probably.

They finished last month with a 6-4-4 record. They played no divisional games. They went 2-1-2 against Atlantic Division opponents and played their remaining games against the Western Conference. They played two sets of back-to-backs, winning all four games. They finished the month at third in the Metropolitan Division with 32 points (14-6-4).

Onwards.

After this morning’s trade between the Devils and Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey will have to decide whether or not it is a playoff-caliber team. I think they’re still not quite a Stanley Cup-contending team but they’re getting there. December could really set them apart. The Metro is uber competitive, as usual, and every point is an important one.

New Jersey plays 14 games this month, including four sets of back-to-backs. They play eight of those 14 games at the Prudential Center. They finally play a couple more (five!) divisional games, as well as three against Atlantic Division teams. Then they have six games against Western Conference opponents. Let’s do a quick breakdown.

They kick off the month of December with a back-to-back set against the Colorado Avalanche on December 1 and the Arizona Coyotes on December 2. They then play a home-and-home series with the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 5 and December 8, the first few meetings between these two teams. The Columbus game on the 8th is also Star Wars Night!

The Devils then play their division rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden the following night, December 9. The following week, New Jersey plays the Los Angeles Kings at home on December 12 before heading north to face the Montréal Canadiens on December 14. They’ll fly back to Newark that night to play the Dallas Stars the following night, December 15.

They’ll then welcome back Adam Henrique to the Rock on December 18, when the Anaheim Ducks come to town. It should be an emotional night and I would expect Henrique to get a very loud standing ovation in his return. This game kicks off a five-game home stand.

They’ll play the Rangers again on December 21, the Chicago Blackhawks on December 23, the Detroit Red Wings on December 27, and the Buffalo Sabres on December 29 to close out the home stand.  They’ll play their last set of back-to-back games against the Sabres and then heading down to D.C. to play the Washington Capitals on December 30 to close out the month.

The Devils have a really good chance of solidifying themselves as a good team in the NHL, that is perfectly capable of making the playoffs for the first time in six years (five?). Whether or not they actually do remains to be seen but 28 points are up for grabs this month. Those five divisional games are incredibly important; they’re 1-1-0 in divisional play so far. But every game is important. They do play four sets of back-to-back games but they’ve been pretty solid in that situation this season.

I don’t like using the term winnable game to describe any specific game because every game is a winnable game if you play well enough. These are all winnable games. It’s unrealistic to expect that they’d win 12 or 13 of them but picking up at least 18-20 points out of 28 is (hopefully) a realistic goal. I’m currently knocking on wood as we speak.

So will December make or break the Devils this season? We’ll find out.

Devils Trade Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi, Pick to Ducks For Sami Vatanen, Pick

I knew it was a possibility but I didn’t think it would actually happen. The New Jersey Devils traded one of their longest-tenured and most beloved players, Adam Henrique, in addition to Joseph Blandisi, one of their best, up-and-coming prospects, and a 2018 third-round draft pick to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional third-round pick.

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 11.23.52 AM

The trade was announced at approximately 10AM this morning; the official announcement is here. Henrique was informed before morning skate that he was traded and Vatanen will meet the Devils directly in Colorado when they flight out there later today.

Henrique has played his entire NHL career up until this point with the Devils, the organization that drafted him 82nd overall back in 2008. He has 257 points (122G, 135A) in 455 games played. He played his first full, 82-game season last year and in 24 games this season, he has 14 points… fitting. He’s gotten off to a slow start but he’s been solid in most aspects of the game. Henrique will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season.

Blandisi has played this season with the Binghamton Devils, New Jersey’s AHL affiliate; he has 14 points (3G, 11A) in 19 games with them this season. He has 26 points (8G, 18A) in 68 career NHL games. He has 62 points (20G, 42A) in 77 regular season AHL games and three points in 13 Calder Cup playoff appearances.

And both Henrique and Blandisi have a knack for scoring game-winning goals against the rival New York Rangers.

Vatanen is an excellent, youngish defenseman and Devils fans should be excited about adding him to the team’s blue line. He is a left-handed, right-shooting blue liner. He, too, has had a rough start to the season but the Ducks have a depleted roster and that is more indicative of the team than him. He has four points (1G, 4A) in 15 games this season but has 126 points (33G, 93A) in 280 career NHL games. He has never played a complete NHL season. I haven’t watched him too closely but I plan on looking at some footage and making notes. I probably won’t be able to do a write-up before he plays.

And I can’t really talk about the future of both picks. The 2018 third-round pick is set in stone. The conditional pick is not and its future depends on whether or not Anaheim re-signs Adam Henrique and if they do, when. Details:

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 11.36.45 AM.png

All-in-all, it’s a good trade, especially for New Jersey. Anaheim is dealing with injuries so they get some help up front while the Devils desperately need help on defense. I would have the trade any day of the week if I was in GM Ray Shero’s shoes but that doesn’t stop me from being emotional about it. Expect a “tribute” sometime later today or tomorrow.

It’s been a busy morning.

11/27/2017 Game 24 Recap: Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

The game went back-and-forth but the away team came out on top. The New Jersey Devils (14-6-4) fall 3-2 to the Florida Panthers (9-12-2). Roberto Luongo became just the second goaltender in NHL history to win at least 200 games with two teams, joining hockey legend Patrick Roy. Jared McCann, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt were named the three stars of the game.

The Devils got off to a really slow and sloppy start. They managed just ten shots on goal total through the first 40 minutes (and allowing 31). But somehow, neither team scored during the first period and Florida only managed to score once in the second. The only reason that the score wasn’t more lopsided in favor of the Panthers was because of Cory Schneider, who was great all night long.

Aleksander Barkov got Florida on the board first with his seventh tally of the season in the second. Barkov’s goal was a shorthanded tally, the second that the Devils have allowed this season. The power play never really found any traction but New Jersey would answer back in the third with Nico Hischier scoring one heck of a goal. It was his fifth of the season, assisted by Pavel Zacha (4).

However, hey gave up a goal almost immediately after (about a minute and a half later) to Vincent Trocheck, unassisted, who hit the 10-goal mark. (He’s having a great season.) Florida now has their second lead of the game.

But these aren’t the same Devils of years past. Fellow rookie Jesper Bratt got in on the scoring and scored his seventh of the season, unassisted, to tie the game at two. It technically could have been Aaron Ekblad’s goal because the puck went in off of his skate but Bratt was the last Devil to touch the puck and he received the credit.

But alas, the lead was short-lived. Jared McCann tallied the game-winner about four minutes later and New Jersey failed to tie the game with about seven minutes remaining in regulation, despite some 6-on-5 (and 5-on-4) time. There was also two minutes of four-on-four play at the end of regulation for a “scrum” involving Taylor Hall, who went off for roughing, and Aaron Ekblad, off for holding.

It was a slow game and the Devils looked exhausted. They did play seven games in 12 days but a win takes 60 minutes of effort, not just 20. They did have a much, much better third period (which resulted in a pair of goals) but the slow start cost them. They took control in the third, outshooting the Panthers 15-7 and having several high-danger scoring chances.

They managed just 25 shots on goal total, but had just 10 through 40 minutes (as mentioned before). Of the team’s 25 shots, Damon Severson and Pavel Zacha led the team with three each. A handful of other players had two. But they allowed 38 shots on goal. They won just 34.9% of faceoffs. They failed to score on a pair of power play opportunities but killed all three of Florida’s.

Schneider did have a good night, making 35 saves and posting a .921 save percentage. (My favorite moment of tonight’s game was the fluke goal being called off and the camera panning over to Schneider’s smug reaction). The Devils’ defense helped him out (a little) with 12 blocked shots. Andy Greene did not have a great night in front of the net.

I thought Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt had great games (in addition to showing up on the score sheet). Hischier now has 18 points (5G, 13A) on the season while Bratt has 15 (7G, 8A). Hischier has the best penalty differential in the league, committing three and drawing 14. I thought Adam Henrique had a good night as well, registering two shots and three blocked shots. Brian Boyle had three hits.

The game wasn’t a total loss. They were able to find their footing in the third but it wasn’t enough. The team has some time off before they embark on a three-game road trip to face Colorado, Arizona, and Columbus to start December.

11/27/2017 Game 24 Preview: Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (14-5-4) return home to face the Florida Panthers (8-12-2) tonight before they set out on another road trip. Tonight’s game ends a grueling stretch of seven games in 12 days for the Devils.

The two teams have met once already this season, a 2-1 Devils win about two and a half weeks ago. Damon Severson and Kyle Palmieri both scored in this game to help New Jersey end a losing streak; Nick Bjugstad tallied for Florida. The two teams will meet again in their regular season finale on March 1.

The Panthers lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday; Jared McCann scored the lone goal. Tonight’s game will be the first half of a back-to-back for Florida; they’ll play the New York Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. They currently sit second-to-last in the Eastern Conference but have been playing much better than their record would indicate. However, they are 3-8-0 on the road this season and are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games overall.

The Devils are coming off of a 4-3 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings; Brian Gibbons scored the game-winner. They are 6-3-2 at home this season and are 5-2-3 in their last 10 overall (4-1-2 in their last seven). Since 2012-13, the Devils are 7-2-0 at the Rock against the Panthers. They are also 7-0-2 against the Atlantic Division this season and 8-1-2 against Eastern Conference teams.

It will be Cory Schneider vs. Roberto Luongo in net tonight.

Florida recalled Denis Malgin from the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL); Evgenii Dadonov is out tonight. Whether he plays or not tonight remains to be seen. Marcus Johansson (NJD) was cleared to play, and will practice this week and travel with the team but no return date (for game play) has been announced.

Projected Panthers Lines:
Huberdeau-Barkov-Sceviour
McGinn-Trocheck-Bjugstad
Haapala-McCann-Hunt
Haley-MacKenzie-Brickley

Yandle-Ekblad
Matheson-Pysyk
McCoshen-Weegar

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Hischier-Bratt
Henrique-Zajac-Stafford
Gibbons-Coleman-Noesen
Zacha-Boyle-Wood

Greene-Santini
Moore-Severson
Butcher-Lovejoy

Vincent Trocheck leads all Florida skaters in goals (nine) and scoring (22 points). Jonathan Huberdeau has the most assists with 15. Taylor Hall leads all Devils in assists (18) and scoring (26 points). Rookies Will Butcher (18) and Nico Hischier (17) follow in scoring. Hall has five points in his last two games and nine in his last seven. Hischier has six points in his last seven games; Butcher has five in his last five.

New Jersey has the much better power play at 23.6% successful (ranked seventh in the league) while Florida’s is 15.6% efficient (28th). The Devils’ penalty kill is 15th at 80.2% efficient while the Panthers’ penalty kill is last in the league at just 73.6%. New Jersey will have to take advantage of any power play opportunities; in their last game against the Panthers, Palmieri’s game-winning goal was a 5-on-3 power play goal.

Florida is averaging about 34.5 shots per game while New Jersey sits at 30.8 but the Panthers are also allowing slightly more (35.9 compared to 34.2). They’re also better in the faceoff circle by about 5%.

As mentioned earlier, despite their record, the Panthers are playing good hockey and the Devils will have to stay on top of their game in order to come out with another win. They’ve been good in close games, especially in games that go past regulation and other one-goal games, and have shown time and time again that they’re capable of staging a comeback no matter what the deficit might look like.

The Devils already have a 6-3-4 record this month and will look to close out November with another win. Puck drops at 7PM tonight.

11/25/2017 Game 23 Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

They might have blown a 3-1 lead but Brian Gibbons scored in overtime to lead the New Jersey Devils (14-5-4) over the Detroit Red Wings (10-9-5) in their first game at Little Caesars Arena. Keith Kinkaid picked up the win, posting a .912 save percentage; Jimmy Howard replaced Petr Mrazek in net for Detroit and faced just eight shots. Brian Gibbons, David Booth, and Anthony Mantha were named the three stars of the game.

This is the third time in the past four games that the Devils have gone to overtime. They’ve now had nine games go past regulation out of the 23 they’ve played so far and have lost four of them.

New Jersey didn’t get off to a great start and were outplayed. The Red Wings took advantage of that and scored just 34 seconds into regulation; David Booth was credited with the goal, his first of the season. The Devils were able to settle down after that.

Brian Boyle scored his second goal in two straight games to tie the game at one goal apiece at 9:12 in the first. Steven Santini (5) and Miles Wood (4) picked up the assists, making the tally an all-Boston College alum goal. Taylor Hall would give the Devils their first lead of the game about four minutes later on the power play, his eighth goal of the season. Will Butcher had the lone assist (his 16th).

No goals were scored in the second period. On to the third. The Devils killed Detroit’s remaining power play time and scored almost immediately after, Nico Hischier this time, his fourth goal of the season. Hall (18) and Adam Henrique (10) had the assists. New Jersey is up 3-1 but alas, this is one of the worst leads in hockey and they could not hold on.

Anthony Mantha brought the Red Wings within one on his 11th goal of the season, assisted by Dylan Larkin, and Booth scored his second of the game about a minute and a half later to tie the game with 11:44 remaining in regulation. Both teams were unable to score after that and the game headed to overtime.

OT wasn’t super one-sided but New Jersey had three shots compared to Detroit’s zero. Gibbons’s game-winner, a nice wrist shot, happened after he wiped out by the boards and got back on his skates quickly enough to intercept the puck and throw it past Howard. Gibbons now has 11 goals on the season (and leads the Devils), more than doubling the number of goals he had (5) before entering this season.

So let’s talk about blowing a 3-1 lead. It wasn’t pretty. 3-1 used to be a comfortable lead but not anymore. A two-goal deficit is nothing. Teams have to strive to get the next goal, and then the next, and then the next. I wouldn’t be super upset that they blew a two-goal lead because it happens but there are definitely improvements to be made.

You could also argue that the score should have been 4-2 before Booth scored the game-tying goal. You’d make a very convincing case. Travis Zajac batted in the puck for what should have been his first goal (and point) of the season since returning from injury but the goal was called off because Adam Henrique was pushed into Petr Mrazek and the referees determined that there was goaltender interference. So the goal was waved off. Which would have been enough but then Detroit was awarded a power play on top of that. It happens. Detroit didn’t score. But momentum shifts.

Gibbons had a great game, as did Hischier, Hall, and Boyle, tonight’s goal scorers. Hischier led the team in shots on goal with four (Henrique did also) and had a strong game overall. He was better in the faceoff circle. He was also awarded the team jacket tonight. Hall had a pair of points, shots, and takeaways, in addition to a 50% faceoff winning percentage. Boyle had two shots and a hit, and also won a flat 50% of faceoffs.

Miles Wood and Stefan Noesen also had strong games. Henrique was more noticeable on the ice. Defenseman Steven Santini also played well, notching two shots, three blocked shots, and three hits. Blake Coleman led the team in hits with four. John Moore had the most time on ice (22:23) followed by Damon Severson (21:13) and Andy Greene (20:13). Across the board, the team looked pretty solid. There’s still plenty of room for improvements and adjustments.

Overall, the Devils played okay stat-wise. They won just 48.5% of faceoffs. They did have 32 shots on goal; Hischier and Henrique had four each, while John Moore and Jesper Bratt had three. The team scored once on three power play opportunities and managed to kill both of Detroit’s. They had 17 hits, 10 blocked shots, fewer giveaways, and one more takeaway. They outshot Detroit 12-7 in the first period despite getting off to a sluggish start.

The Devils will be back at the Rock on Monday when they face the Florida Panthers to close out the month of November; puck drops at 7PM.

11/24/2017 Game 22 Recap: Vancouver Canucks vs. New Jersey Devils

This one wrote itself. The New Jersey Devils (13-5-4) defeat the Vancouver Canucks (11-9-3) on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Rock and sweep the regular season series (2-0-0). The Canucks have now lost seven straight games against New Jersey. Brian Boyle, Taylor Hall, and Nico Hischier are your three stars of the game.

Where do we start? The Devils came out guns blazing in the first period. They played really, really well but neither team found the back of the net. At the end of the first, Alexander Edler slashed Miles Wood, who had himself quite the night, and the Devils had a power play that carried over to the second period.

They failed to score but 2:15 into the second period, Taylor Hall scored his 7th seventh goal of the season (unassisted) to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead. Nico Hischier probably should have gotten an assist for the play that he made. Daniel Sedin would tie the game about a minute and a half later.

But the biggest moment of the game happened halfway through the second. Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in September and made his Devils (and season) debut against the Canucks earlier this month, scored his second goal of the season on the power play to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. Will Butcher, his 15th, and Hall, his 16th, had the assists. And while Boyle’s goal should be all about it, Butcher was the one who made it happen. Their celebration was heartwarming.

Damon Severson would tally his 3rd goal of the season at the 15:45 mark in the second and his goal would be the eventual game-winner. Hall, his 17th, and Nico Hischier, his 13th, would pick up the assists. Bo Horvat would bring Vancouver back within one with his ninth tally of the season on a power play that probably shouldn’t have happened, but the Devils would be able to hold on. (As a side note: Horvat’s goal was really nice).

Cory Schneider picks up his ninth win of the season in a 23-save effort (.920 save percentage). Jacob Markstrom also made 23 saves but faced one more (.885 save percentage).

Overall, New Jersey had a good night. They won 54.2% of faceoffs. They scored on one of their three power play opportunities and killed two of Vancouver’s three. They had 36 hits, 11 blocked shots, and 17 takeaways.

Hall had a great night. He had three points (1G, 2A) and now has 24 points on the season. He has a six-game point streak (4G, 8A) against Vancouver. He’s having a great season and it’s nice to see his name all over the score sheet.

Hischier also had one hell of a game tonight. He should have had a two-point night because his play made Hall’s goal possible but he did get credited with an assist on Severson’s goal. He now has 13 on the season. He was flying up and down the ice, and I’m warming up to a top line of Hall-Hischier-Bratt.

I really don’t want to talk about the no-call in the third after Miles Wood took a stick to the face and bled on the ice (and was in some serious pain). I don’t like questioning officials but that was a clear double minor and Vancouver’s second goal might not have happened had that penalty been called.

The team played really well. Stefan Noesen was crucial in those last few minutes when there was some 6-on-5 hockey; he had three blocked shots. Pavel Zacha had a solid game. He and Wood led the team in shots on goal with four each. John Moore had the most hits (5) but Hall, Boyle, and Steven Santini all had four. Santini also led the team in time on ice with 21:32.

Again, overall, they had a good game. Not a great game, but a good game and they came out on top. They played a complete 60 minutes. They didn’t let up even with a two-goal lead and kept pushing to score the fourth. I do wish the Devils scored more empty net goals; they go a long way to securing wins. In fact, New Jersey’s last empty net goal came against the Canucks earlier this month. That’s not good.

But tomorrow is a new day. The Devils will fly out to Detroit tonight and face the Red Wings tomorrow night; puck drops at 7PM for the Devils’ first game at the new Little Caesar’s Arena.

11/24/2017 Game 22 Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (12-5-4) will look for Win #13 as they face the Vancouver Canucks (11-8-3) in the two teams’ final meeting of the season. They played earlier this month, a 2-0 shutout win for New Jersey. There’s a recap for that game here. The Devils will also be holding their Hockey Fights Cancer Night tonight so if you’re attending the game, be sure to arrive early.

The Canucks have won their last two games and are 5-4-1 in their last 10. They played the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, defeating both teams by a score of 5-2. They lost four of five games before that but they have an 8-3-0 record away from home.

The Devils have lost three of their last four and are 3-3-4 in their last 10 games. They fell to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday in a shootout; Charlie McAvoy tallied the game-winner in the 11th round. Overall, the Devils played well. (I apologize for not having a preview/recap for that game! Been super busy!) New Jersey is 5-3-2 at home so far this season.

No starting goaltenders have been announced yet. Coach John Hynes mentioned that Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid would likely split games this weekend; the Devils play in Detroit at the new Little Caesar’s Arena on Sunday. Jacob Markstrom will likely be in net for Vancouver.

Projected Canucks Lines:
Baertschi-Horvat-Boeser
D. Sedin-H. Sedin-Virtanen
Eriksson-Granlund-Vanek
Gaunce-Sutter-Gagner

Edler-Pouliot
Del Zotto-Biega
Hutton-Gudbranson

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Zajac-Bratt
Henrique-Hischier-Gibbons
Wood-Boyle-Stafford
Zacha-Coleman-Hayes*

Greene-Santini
Moore-Severson
Butcher-Lovejoy

*I wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils’ lines continue to change, especially during tonight’s game.

Rookie winger Brock Boeser leads all Canucks in scoring (21), and in both goals (11) and assists (10). Boeser has taken the league by storm and is on pace to become the highest-scoring rookie in Canucks history. He is on a four-game goal streak (five-game point streak) and has six goals in that span, including two each against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He’s definitely someone I would keep an eye on tonight.

Vancouver’s top line has combined for 54 points so far this season. In addition to Boeser’s 21 points, Sven Baertschi has 17 points (8G, 9A) and Bo Horvat has 16 points (8G, 8A).

Taylor Hall leads New Jersey in scoring with 21 points (6G, 15A) also and has the most assists (15). Brian Gibbons holds the team lead in goals scored with 10, doubling the amount of NHL goals he had in his career prior to this season. The Devils lead the league in rookie scoring, combining for 49 points, so keep an eye out for them as well.

Overall, the Devils have the slightly better power play and penalty kill. New Jersey’s power play is ranked 8th in the league at 22.7% and Vancouver’s is 15th at 19.8%. The Devils’ penalty kill is 15th at 80.2% efficiency while the Canucks’ sits at 19th (78.8% efficient). They’re also averaging about 31 shots per game (which really isn’t bad for a team that has consistently finished dead last in shots/game). However, they’re also allowing 34.7 shots/game compared to Vancouver’s 31.2 shots/game.

In the last game the two teams played against each other, the Canucks outshot the Devils 37-26 and that won’t result in a shutout this time. They killed all four Vancouver power plays. Just like that game, they’ll need to consistently win faceoffs (57.1% last time). They need to be physical. They need to reduce the amount of penalties they take. It should be a great game no matter what the outcome is.

Puck drops at 7PM tonight. Come out and support the team after you’ve finished your Black Friday shopping!

11/20/2017 Game 20 Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Minnesota Wild

What. A. Game. John Moore, Mr. Overtime, wins it 52 seconds into overtime for the New Jersey Devils (12-5-3) as they defeat the Minnesota Wild (9-8-3) in the first of two contests this season. John Moore (NJD), Mikael Granlund (MIN), and Will Butcher (NJD) were named the three stars of the game.

The Devils have a five-game winning streak against the Wild and are 7-0-1 in their last eight games against the team. The Devils are also now 7-1-2 in games in which they score first this season and are 9-0-1 when leading after two periods.

Moore tallied the sixth overtime goal of his career, all with the Devils; only Jeff Carter (7) has more. Moore is also tied for the second-most OT goals in the NHL since the 3-on-3 format began during the 2015-16 season.

It was a great, back-and-forth game. Despite being massively outplayed during the first period, the Devils were the first to make their way onto the scoresheet, with Adam Henrique’s fourth tally of the season and his first in 11 games.

During the second period, Nino Niederreiter tied things up at one on the power play with his sixth tally of the season. But Steven Santini took the lead back with his first goal of the season, unassisted. He redeemed himself for two penalties taken earlier.

During the third, Will Butcher would give the Devils a two-goal lead with his second goal of the season. He now has goals in back-to-back games. He is currently fourth in rookie scoring across the league with 16 points (2G, 14A).

Mikael Granlund would score on the power play after Miles Wood was sent off for a questionable “holding the stick” penalty. It’s now 3-2 Devils. With about a minute and a half remaining in regulation, Granlund tallied his second goal of the game to tie things up at three with Minnesota’s net empty.

And we head to overtime, where Moore would score the game-winner just 52 seconds in. Taylor Hall set up the goal perfectly and Adam Henrique dished out a great pass to set up the winner. The entire sequence was brilliant. As mentioned earlier, Moore’s OT winner was the sixth of his career, all with New Jersey, and his second of the season (also scored the OT winner against Ottawa).

Speaking of Adam Henrique, he had a great night, posting his first three-point (1G, 2A) game of the season. He was “demoted” to the fourth line but really shined tonight, finding his way onto the score sheet and being a pest on the ice. He also won 71.4% of his faceoffs tonight. One of my favorite things about him is his ability to bounce back and he did just that tonight.

Cory Schneider looked great tonight and made 33 saves on 36 shots against (.917 save percentage). Devan Dubnyk made 21 saves on 25 shots, posting an .840 save percentage. Pavel Zacha also didn’t look bad tonight in his first game back after being a healthy scratch for four of the last five games; he did only have 9:40 of ice time, however. He had a pair of shots and a hit.

The Devils were outshot 36-25; Hall lead the team in shots on goal with four. They killed just two of Minnesota’s four power play and failed to score on their two. They won just 45.6% of faceoffs. They had more hits (21), blocked shots (21), and fewer giveaways (1). Santini had four blocked shots and three hits.

It wasn’t a pretty game but they found a way to win and that’s what matter. And not to get too excited or anything, but Steve mentioned on the MSG broadcast that last year, 13 of the 16 teams who held a postseason position on Thanksgiving did end up making the playoffs. The Devils will hold a playoff position on Thanksgiving. But again, it’s November and the playoffs don’t start now.

The Devils conclude their four-game road trip with a 2-1-1 record and five points; they’ll return home to face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at 7PM.

11/20/2017 Game 20 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Minnesota Wild

The New Jersey Devils (11-5-3) close out their four-game road trip against the Minnesota Wild (9-8-2) tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season. The Devils are 13-5-2-0 overall against the Wild; they are 5-4-1-0 at the Xcel Energy Center. Last season, New Jersey went 2-0-0; they played at home in October, a 2-1 overtime win (Taylor Hall had the game-winner), and away in January, a 4-3 comeback win. (If you read that game recap, you’ll notice how optimistic I was that the Devils might still somehow make the playoffs; spoiler alert: they didn’t.)

The Wild have won five of their last nine games. They lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday; Nino Niederreiter scored the lone goal. They currently sit at the bottom of the Central Division and are ahead of Edmonton and Arizona in the Western Conference.  They are 4-0-1 against Eastern Conference teams at home this season and have an overall 5-3-1 record at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Devils have lost two straight games and six of their last nine games, including a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday (recap here). Brian Gibbons and Will Butcher tallied goals. However, they still lead the Metropolitan Division with 25 points in just 19 games played, with the remaining seven teams breathing down their neck. The Devils are 6-2-2 away from the Prudential Center this season.

Cory Schneider (7-4-2, 2.87 GAA, .917 save percentage) and Devan Dubnyk (8-6-1, 2.48 GAA, .922 save percentage) will (likely) get the starts in net tonight for their respective teams. Schneider was pulled after two periods in his start against Winnipeg on Saturday.

Zach Parise (MIN), Charlie Coyle (MIN), Mirco Mueller (NJD), and Marcus Johansson (NJD) all remain out with injuries. Coyle could return to the Wild lineup tonight but he definitely will at some point this week.

Projected Wild Lines:
Foligno-Staal-Niederreiter
Zucker-Granlund-Koivu
Winnik-Eriksson Ek-Kunin
Stewart-Cullen-Ennis

Suter-Spurgeon
Brodin-Dumba
Quincey-Reilly

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Hischier-Palmieri
Bratt-Zajac-Zacha
Wood-Boyle-Stafford
Henrique-Coleman-Gibbons

Greene-Santini
Moore-Severson
Butcher-Lovejoy

Eric Staal leads Minnesota in scoring with 17 points (7G, 10A); Jason Zucker has 16 points and leads in goals scored with 11. Eight of Zucker’s 11 goals have come within the last eight games. Jared Spurgeon leads in assists with 11. There are a handful of players with at least 10 points on the season.

Someone I plan on keeping my eye on tonight is Luke Kunin, Captain of the 2016-17 World Junior (U20) gold medal-winning Team USA; he’s also played two years with the University of Wisconsin. He was recalled by Minnesota around this time last month and has four points in 16 games played.

Taylor Hall leads New Jersey in scoring with 20 points (6G, 14A); he and Will Butcher share the team lead in assists with 14 each. Brian Gibbons leads in goals scored with nine. New Jersey also has a handful of players with at least 10 points this season; three of them happen to be rookies.

Adam Henrique has eight points (4G, 4A) in eight career games against Minnesota and despite being demoted to the fourth line, he could have a breakout game tonight. He has just nine points in 19 games played, none in his last four and only one in his last nine. And while he’s more than just his offense (note: winning faceoffs, playing on the penalty kill, et cetera), he needs to step it up.

Minnesota is ranked 19th in terms of power play success at 18.0%; they have the league’s 8th-best penalty kill at 83.8% efficient (that’s a lot of eights). New Jersey has the third best power play in the league at 22.9%; Dallas, at second, is a full 4.5 percentage points ahead. Their penalty kill is 16th at 80.8%; they didn’t take a single penalty in the game against Winnipeg and discipline is something that Coach John Hynes has stressed.

The Devils also have a slightly better goals for but the Wild have a much better goals against; the Devils have also seen a decline in their offense as of late (the game in Chicago is an outlier). New Jersey is also averaging more shots per game but allowing more as well; they have the second-worst faceoff winning percentage in the league at 46.1%.

I’d like to say that this is a winnable game but I’m tired of hearing that phrase. Both teams have had an up and down season so far. The Devils are looking for a good, convincing win against a team that they’ve generally had success against during the regular season. They haven’t played badly but they’ve taken steps forward and some steps back.

Puck drops at 8PM tonight.