The New Jersey Devils (23-22-10) meet the Colorado Avalanche (15-36-2) for the first time this season and will meet again on March 9th in Colorado. The Devils are coming off of a 4-1 loss to San Jose and the Avalanche fell to the Islanders, 5-1.
New Jersey is in the middle of its five-game homestand and its fourth home game of nine this month. They have lost eight of their last 10 at home and snapped a seven-game losing streak at the Prudential Center against Buffalo last Monday. Colorado is on their East Coast road trip and have lost their last three games. Their last win came against Montreal, a 4-0 shutout.
Tonight’s starting goaltenders will likely be Cory Schneider (a definite) and Jeremy Smith for New Jersey and Colorado, respectively. Schneider has made the last five starts for the Devils and has been excellent in all of them. He has made 148 saves on 160 shots faced, posting a .925 save percentage. Smith is going to make his NHL debut. Calvin Pickard made Colorado’s last five starts, allowed five goals against New York, and is 9-17-1 on the season.
Nothing major in terms of lineup notes. I wouldn’t expect Coach Hynes to make big changes to the lineup, if any. Kyle Quincey did not practice yesterday but everyone was on the ice for a 10:30AM morning skate today. Jon Merrill will be back in the lineup tonight. Adam Henrique had his five-game point streak snapped against San Jose but he, Kyle Palmieri, and Taylor Hall have been much stronger offensively. The Zacha-Josefson-Noesen line looks great and I hope they continue to stay together.
The Devils took a step back against San Jose (which can be attributed to the bye week interruption) but have played well otherwise. Just for reference, teams coming off of the bye week have gone 3-8-1 in their first games back, including Calgary’s 5-0 loss last night to Arizona. In the five-game span between the All-Star Break and now, the Devils have five power play goals (on 12 opportunities) and their success rate has gotten better. Some of the power play’s success can be attributed to the return of Andy Greene, who has had solid minutes since his reinstatement into the lineup.
Colorado has one of the worst power plays in the league (14.5% success rate) but New Jersey is not much better (16.1%) statistically. However, the Devils power play has been much better as of late. Colorado’s penalty kill has a 78.2% kill rate while New Jersey’s is better at 81.8%. Their penalty kill has been lights out as of late and they were able to kill all six San Jose penalties on Sunday, including a 5-on-3. They have killed four of six 5-on-3 opportunities this season. The Devils are still dead last in shots per game (no surprise there) at 27.3 shots/game and the Avalanche take an average 28.2 shots/game.
Tonight should be a slow game, hopefully a high-scoring one on the Devils end, but it is a must-win for the Devils. There’s no better way to bounce back and start a new win streak. If you don’t have any Valentine’s Day plans, a Devils game might not be a bad idea. Puck drops at 7PM.