2/4/17 Game Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

The New Jersey Devils (21-21-10) will meet the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-12-5) for the first of four meetings this season in what is a very important divisional matchup. This is the second game of a back-to-back for New Jersey. Both teams played last night and lost 4-3 in overtime: New Jersey fell to Calgary and Columbus lost to Pittsburgh. Adam Henrique, Pavel Zacha, and Kyle Palmieri all scored goals.

Cory Schneider has started for the Devils in their previous two games and has been solid but because the team played last night, Keith Kinkaid may be in net. Sergei Bobrovsky started for the Jackets last night so he may or may not get the start tonight. Andy Greene will remain in the lineup. Jon Merrill is still on injured reserve and will not return until after the bye week. The lines should start to get some consistency because they have looked good over the last few games and are scoring more than just one or two goals. Those top three lines (Hall-Zajac-Palmieri, Wood-Henrique-Cammalleri, Zacha-Josefson-Noesen) will most likely stay the same but the fourth line may see some changes.

Joe Blandisi looked good in his Devils debut and was all over the ice; I would expect him to be back in the lineup as well. Rookie Zacha is starting to find his groove and has two goals and a pair of assists in his last five games. Both Palmieri and Henrique are creating more offensive chances and in turn, scoring more goals. Palmieri has four goals in his last five and Henrique has three goals and an assist in his last three. Both have 14 goals on the season, good for the team lead, and I keep saying this but I think they’re just trying to keep up with each other.

The power play units have also looked better: the Devils went 2/3 on the man advantage last night and, despite not scoring on the first one, were able to take four shots on goal and sustain pressure in Calgary’s zone. Their penalty kill on the road has been much better than at home but the Devils shouldn’t take any unnecessary penalties. Columbus’s power play is the best in the league with a 24.6% success rate and they have an 82.7% penalty kill rate, good for 13th in the league. The Devils penalty kill is slightly worse at 81%.

The Devils are 7-0-1 in their last eight games on the road and are riding a five-(road) game win streak. Their play on the road has been significantly better than their play at home and the team will look to keep that consistency going forward. However, getting two points against a formidable, almost perfect home team in Columbus is going to be a very difficult task. The Blue Jackets also know a thing or two about putting winning streaks together: they had a historic 16-game winning streak spanning from the end of November to the beginning of January but ended in a 5-0 shutout to Washington. They are 6-7-1 since their last win of that streak. They are 11-2-0 in their last 13 games at home, with their only two losses coming to New York (Rangers) and Ottawa. They have won six of their last seven games against New Jersey and are 5-1-0 in their last six home games against the Devils.

See if the New Jersey Devils can secure a much-needed two points as they meet the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this season; puck drops at 7PM.

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