DAB Pregame: A Game of Threes

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Matchup Overview

A win tonight will give the Devils their third winning streak of three or more games for the third time in sixteen games. This will be the second time in three games the Devils and Blue Jackets will play each other and the third installment of the four game season series. Having bested the Jackets 2-0 and 3-2 in their previous two meets, the Devils are looking to keep a perfect record against their division rivals, hoping Columbus serves as no more than a stepping stone in their improbable pursuit of securing a playoff berth. When they last met, the Devils issued Columbus their fifth consecutive loss. The Jacket’s fortunes haven’t changed with their losing streak at seven games. This is the third time this season the Jackets have lost a stretch of four or more games in a row.

This will be the third time the Devils and Blue Jackets will play each other this season. -AP

This will be the third time the Devils and Blue Jackets will play each other this season. -AP

Opponent Overview

Offense… Although their competition the past two games has been relatively stiff, the Jackets scored six goals over that stretch, which wasn’t enough for a post-regulation point, let alone a victory. Their leading scorers Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno have combined for two goals in their last six games. Their offense took another hit after losing newcomer David Clarkson, who has been sidelined for at least a month, joining center Brandon Dubinsky as the team’s most recent injury casualties.

Defense… After individually shipping James Wisniewski and Jordan Leopold to Anaheim and Minnesota, one of the new faces they were replaced with was Justin Falk, a solid depth player who should fit in nicely with the Jacket’s physically tenacious blue line corps. Columbus’ defense has scored four of the 14 goals the team registered over their seven-game slide. Wisniewski’s departure leaves Columbus without their most productive defenseman all season, a void the coaching staff will look to have players like David Savard and Kevin Connaution step in to fill.

Goaltending… The biggest news on this end is the return of Sergei Bobrovsky, who was activated off injured reserve on February 28th. The 26-year old Russian goaltender’s return between the pipes hasn’t been enough to lift his team out of their seven-game slump (keep in mind it’s only been one game). Bobrovsky’s first game back since January 21st was spoiled at the hands of the Washington Capitals, who put five goals past him on 32 shots (.875 SV%). Including this game, Bobrovsky’s gone 3-7 in his last 10 starts, registering a 3.40 GAA and .886 SV%. If his last game was any indication, Bobrovsky could very well be picking up where he left off before he was sidelined.

Who to watch

Sergei Bobrovsky… It’ll be his second start since returning from injury; and if his last game was any indication, he’s had a lot of to shake off. He’s gone a career 2-3-1 against the Devils, a team he’s only faced them twice since 2012 (going 1-1). He had a .915 SV% and 2.56 GAA against New Jersey last season and is 7-5 this season in games where he’s faced less than 30 shots. It seems like a random irrelevant statistic, but the convenience of facing a low shooting team like the Devils as he readjusts to game form, it’s a potentially favorable scenario for him to thrive in.

Will Eric Gelinas see more ice time now that Marek Zidlicky has been moved? -AP

Will Eric Gelinas see more ice time now that Marek Zidlicky has been moved? -AP

Eric Gelinas… Nobody will benefit more from Marek Zidlicky’s departure than Eric Gelinas. He logged 17:47 of ice time last game, scoring a power play goal and logging 1:35 of power play time. Like I mentioned in an article that evaluated Gelinas’ role on the team, him and Zidlicky are essentially the same type of player. A defensively compliant team like the Devils has no room to give a period’s worth of ice time per game to more than one of their erratic defensive play. Gelinas is the man now, with Zidlicky out of the picture and it’ll be interesting to monitor his playing time, especially on the power play and (if the game is close) in the third period.

What to watch

The Blue Jackets are due… It’s not uncommon for losing streaks to exceed ten games (as the Sabres and currently the Coyotes, have demonstrated this year). Contrarily, all losing streaks eventually stop and the team that it happens against always takes the quality of their opponent for granted. This is another pivotal game for the Devil’s growing playoff aspirations and since Columbus has struggled with first periods, the Devils have to establish a quick commanding lead that sets the tone for the rest of the game.

An offensive defense… Whether it’s a coincidence or ongoing trend this season, three out of the five goals New Jersey scored on Columbus this season were from defensemen. Spearheaded by Adam Larsson’s goal and seven points, over the last seven games, the Devil’s defense has combined for four goals and 13 points. Assuming they don’t take Columbus lightly, New Jersey’s blue line could continue their point streak if they take advantage of playing against a slumping team on the road and a goalie recently returning from injury.

Where to watch

Fox Sports- Ohio

MSG Plus

When to watch

7:00pm EST

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