The New Jersey Devils (23-21-10) play the San Jose Sharks (33-18-5) in their first game back from the bye week. This is their second and final meeting this season; San Jose defeated New Jersey 4-0 back in November on the Devils’ California road trip. They were vastly outshot 42-26 and Keith Kinkaid made 37 saves on 41 shots faced, earning a .902 save percentage. Martin Jones earned the shutout for the Sharks.
This is the Devils’ third of nine home games this month and the second of a five-game homestand. It is Taylor Hall Bobblehead Night (Afternoon?) and the first 9,000 fans will receive a bobble head. The Devils are also celebrating “Hockey is for Everyone” month at the Prudential Center: after the game, they will hold a free screening of “Soul on Ice: Past, Present, and Future” and there will be a discussion panel afterwards, including Willie O’Ree (the first black player in the NHL), Devante Smith-Pelly, Anson Carter, and Damon Kwame Mason.
Cory Schneider will be in net for New Jersey; he has been the starting goaltender for the last four games and has looked nothing short of excellent. Jones will be in net for San Jose; Dell started yesterday. In other lineup news, John Moore is expected to return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a concussion on December 31st (and will replace Karl Stollery, who was not recalled after being sent down to Albany (AHL) on Tuesday). Joe Blandisi was recalled from Albany (AHL), as expected. Coach Hynes will continue to go with the same lineup so Smith-Pelly is the healthy scratch. Kyle Quincey and Jon Merrill are both out with injuries, and only Merrill practiced with the team yesterday along with Beau Bennett, and Coach Hynes expects both of them to be back sometime this week. Logan Couture did not play yesterday for the Sharks but Coach DeBoer expects him to be back today and Joonas Donskoi is out as well.
The Devils last played Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres and snapped their seven-game losing streak at home. Adam Henrique and Pavel Zacha both scored power play goals, and the team had a miraculous 39 shots on goal. The Sharks faced the Philadelphia Flyers last night and lost 2-1 in overtime. Patrick Marleau scored the lone goal. The Sharks are on their East Coast road trip and have dropped four straight. Dell started in net yesterday after relieving Jones against Boston. Henrique has four goals and three assists in his last five games. Brent Burns leads all defensemen with 22 goals and 57 points.
The Devils may or may not be rusty after their bye week; they were not allowed to formally practice until 4:15PM yesterday. This game can be seen as a must-win for the Devils, especially because it’s at home and it sets the pace for the rest of the season. The team will need to win most of their remaining 28 games if they have any shot of making the playoffs. If they can come out strong and play a full 60 minutes, winning is manageable.
It’s an early game but it should be a fun one to watch; puck drops at 12:30PM.