The New Jersey Devils (17-18-9) take on the Vancouver Canucks (20-19-5) in the third of their four-game Western Conference road trip. This is their second and final meeting of the season; New Jersey won 3-2 on December 6th at the Prudential Center. Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, and Ben Lovejoy (his first) all scored. Palmieri’s goal was also a power play goal. New Jersey had only 22 shots on goal but were only outshot by two. The Devils are coming off a convincing win against the Calgary Flames Friday night by a score of 2-1; Palmieri and Hall both tallied goals (Hall’s was a PPG). The Canucks last played on Thursday night and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout.
Cory Schneider (12-14-7) will be in net tonight and has a .909 save percentage this season but his record says more about the Devils’ lack of defense (and inconsistency of offense) throughout the season than him. He had a few rough starts but looks like he’s finally found his groove. Keith Kinkaid started Friday night after Schneider made six consecutive starts. The Devils did hold practice yesterday and worked on things that we’ve been talking about moving towards the net and taking shots on goal off rebounds. Andy Greene and Vern Fiddler, both on injured reserve, practiced with the rest of the team (in regular practice jerseys) but will not be in the lineup tonight.
Ex-Devil Reid Boucher has had a roller coaster of a season. The Devils wanted to send him down to Albany (AHL) but had to put him on waivers first. The Nashville Predators claimed him on December 3rd, the day they played New Jersey, and then put him on waivers less than a month later. New Jersey claimed him back on January 2nd, placed him back on waivers January 3rd, and was picked up by Vancouver (yes, Vancouver) on January 4th. However, he most likely will not be in the lineup tonight and will have to wait to face his former team until next season.
Both teams are pretty evenly matched (statistically). Vancouver and New Jersey are at the bottom of the league in shots/game at 27.7 and 27.4, respectively. In their last game, Vancouver outshot New Jersey 24-22 but the Devils did take 36 shots against Calgary so hopefully we’ll see more of the same tonight. Vancouver has a 13.7% success rate on the power play, good for 27th in the league, and New Jersey has a 13.3% success rate (28th). The Devils’ power play has shown signs of life in their last few games, however, and could also play an important role tonight. New Jersey’s penalty kill is much better than Vancouver’s at 83% successful compared to 79.7%. The Devils’ PK has been strong all season long.
If the Devils play the way they way they did on Friday night, they should win tonight too. They were on the offensive for most of the game and managed to stay out of their zone more often than in it. They took 36 shots (36!) and moved better around Calgary’s net. Kinkaid made huge saves and the Devils defense did a tremendous job helping him out in front, winning puck battles and moving the puck out of their own zone. And if their practice yesterday was any indication, the New Jersey Devils will play strongly tonight against Vancouver as they look to gain two more points on this road trip; puck drops at 7PM.