The New Jersey Devils (16-16-7) take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (17-12-8) in the first of three straight home games as they honor Dr. John J. McMullen in their inaugural Ring of Honor night. Dr. McMullen brought hockey to New Jersey and passed away in 2005. His contributions led the team (then the Colorado Rockies) to New Jersey and they’ve been here ever since. Devils alumni Bruce Driver, John Maclean, Ken Daneyko, Chico Resch, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, and Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello will all be in attendance (I’ll be there too!). The pregame ceremony will happen before puck drop and the first 9,000 fans in attendance will receive a Ring of Honor pin.
The two teams have only met once this season. The Devils defeated the Leafs 5-4 in a shootout at The Rock. Toronto took an early 3-0 lead on goals by Auston Matthews (2) and Nazem Kadri. New Jersey then ties the game at 3 with goals by Traviz Zajac, Beau Bennett (his first of the season), and Michael Cammalleri. Matt Martin scores the go-ahead goal in the second but Yohann Auvitu scores his second of the season to tie things back up. No one scores in overtime (they were a few lucky breaks) and Jacob Josefson was the only successful shooter in the shootout and sealed the win for the good guys.
Both teams held practice yesterday (Devils at The Rock, Maple Leafs at the Devils’ practice facility) and are both playing their first game in three days. The Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 at PNC Arena and the Leafs lost to the Washington Capitals, 6-5 in overtime. Matthews has 20 goals on the season, including an OT winner in the Centennial Classic, and is second in goals scored by rookies (one behind Patrik Laine). Mitch Marner has two goals in his last two games and leads rookies in assists (19); Leo Komarov has four goals in his last five games; Connor Brown has three in his last five.
Michael Cammalleri scored a goal in Tuesday’s game to end his 14-game goal drought. Kyle Palmieri has two goals in his last three games (eight on the season) and looks like he’s getting back on track.
The Devils are still struggling to score on their power play (or even get shots off) and are scoreless in their last 27 attempts. However (good news!), Coach Hynes set aside time during yesterday’s practice and devoted that time solely to power play practice (say that five times fast). He also changed up the power play units so we’ll see if those stick. Miles Wood might see some power play time.
Cory Schneider is in net tonight; however, Schneider played both back-to-back games earlier this week and although he played well, I would expect Keith Kinkaid in net tomorrow night. Captain Andy Greene will not play tonight and is uncertain for tomorrow; his ironman streak of 350 consecutive games played will be broken tonight and there are no further updates on what exactly is keeping him out, other than that it is not a face issue. He did not practice yesterday and neither did Nick Lappin, who has the flu (as did Travis Zajac), but Lappin did skate in the optional skate this morning and will most likely be in tonight. Zajac is still on the fourth line but I don’t expect him to stay there for the game. Jacob Josefson was back at practice, which is also a good sign. Seth Helgeson was recalled from Albany (AHL).
I will be at tonight’s game (my first all season!) so you can follow me on Twitter (@namritas14) or game updates and photos, and I will probably do a “game day experience” post sometime this weekend.
The Devils are looking to get their third straight win and remain undefeated in the New Year as they take on the Maple Leafs at The Rock; puck drops at 7:30PM.