The Devils return to The Rock to take on the Nashville Predators in search of their first win of the season. The Predators have been stingy on defense through the first two games having given up only 1 goal. Keith Kinkaid will get his 2nd straight start, as Cory Schneider and his wife welcomed a baby boy early this morning. The Devils will also be without John Moore, who took an Alex Ovechkin shot to the arm on Saturday night. That means Damon Severson will be slotted back into the lineup. He will be paired with Jon Merrill. Tuomo Ruutu will also be back in the lineup, taking Sergey Kalinin’s spot on the 4th line.
The Predators come into tonight’s game having only scored four goals in two contests. Up front, Nashville has a good group of young, scoring forwards that includes Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson, and Craig Smith. Those young forwards are backed by veterans such as Mike Fisher, who had 19 goals and 39 points last season, and Mike Ribeiro, who led the team in assists (47) and finished second in points on the team, trailing only Fillip Forsberg, in 2014-15.
Nashville boasts one of the best defensive corps in the NHL, and it starts with veteran Shea Weber. He has long been one of the best puck-moving defenseman in the league and finished with 15 goals and 45 points last season, 2nd best on the team for defensemen. The defenseman that finished ahead of Weber in points last season was Roman Josi. He enjoyed a breakout season tallying 55 points and 15 goals, taking everyone by surprise. The Predators blue line goes beyond Weber and Josi, as it is backed by future-star Seth Jones, along with up and comers Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. Nashville’s ability to move the puck and create scoring chances from their defensemen goes through all three pairs. If the Devils are to win tonight, they’ll have to limit offensive chances created by Nashville’s defensemen.
Pekka Rinne will man the pipes for the Predators tonight. He’s off to an incredible start, stopping 56/57 shots in his first two games, which is good for a 98.2% save percentage. For a team that has trouble scoring, the Devils will need to get shots on Rinne early and make him feel uncomfortable. An early goal or two may have a huge impact on the outcome of tonight’s game.
Players to Watch
Travis Zajac…He’s been held scoreless through his first two games while only recording three shots on goal. He’s had some success against Nashville in his career recording 6 points in 9 games. If the Devils are to have any kind of success this season, they’ll need Zajac to start contributing offensively. Tonight presents a good opportunity for him to get his season going. If he can find some success early on in the season, he can build his confidence and hopefully have the bounce back season that he needs so desperately.
Seth Jones…He’s off to a great start for Nashville. The young defenseman is averaging just over 20 minutes of ice in his first two games and has been paired with veteran Barrett Jackman on Nashville’s third defensive pair. That speaks to the depth of their defensive unit. Jones is one of many Predators’ defensemen that can move the puck. The Devils will have to find ways to limit Jones and the rest of the Predators’ abilities to create scoring chances through their defensemen.
What to Watch
Where will the goals come from…? The Devils have gotten goals from Adam Henrique, Mike Cammalleri, and Jiri Tlusty. They’ll need to find secondary scoring from somewhere. The Devils skated the same line combinations, with the exception of their fourth unit, as they did Saturday in today’s morning skate, but if they’re having trouble creating offensive chances, look for John Hynes to mix and match his lines as the game progresses.
Where to Watch
When to Watch