The New Jersey Devils will begin their six-game road trip tonight in the Music City when they take on the red hot Nashville Predators (44-14-9). With just a three-point lead in the last wild card position, the time is now for the Devils to start putting some wins together if they want to stay in the playoff mix. The Preds will be a very tough test, having won 10 straight and being one of the favorites in the West to win the Stanley Cup.
Coming off a tough 3-2 loss against Winnipeg, the Devils will have to rebound and play with the same level of intensity as they did on Thursday night. New Jersey fired 43 shots on Hellebuyck and seemingly dominated play for the entire game, but a few unfortunate bounces and missed opportunities in the offensive zone, along with questionable goaltending at times, led to their demise.
Nashville is peaking at exactly the right time, scoring at least four goals in eight of their last ten and holding opponents to two goals or fewer in seven of those ten. The Predators have already begun resting players on this stretch to prepare for the playoffs, but that hasn’t stopped their winning ways. They currently hold the fourth best power play and the 12th best penalty kill in the league, so the Devils special teams will have their work cut out for them in this matchup.
Players to Watch
Kyle Palmieri: Palmieri has been red hot lately with eight points over his last eight games (4 goals, 4 assists). The Devils need all the scoring they can get right now, especially from players not named Taylor Hall. Look for Palmieri to keep up his aggressive play and be around the crease early and often.
Sami Vatanen: Another guy who just keeps rolling, Vatanen has 13 points over his last 14 games (1 goal, 12 assists). He logged an incredible 27:46 TOI against Winnipeg and has clearly become the most reliable member of the defensive group. He’s posting a 53% Corsi score on the season and is getting his shot to the net on a regular basis.
Keith Kinkaid: Any chance of the Devils going on a winning streak will start and end with the goaltenders’ performance. As of late, it has been a detriment, but Kinkaid is 2-1 against the Preds with a 2.94 GAA and has a .924 save percentage over his last five games.
Scott Hartnell: The former Flyer knows the Devils well, having recorded 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 61 games against. He is normally a third line guy, but his linemate Jarnkrok is ninth on the team with 35 points and fifth in goals with 16.
Victor Arvidsson: He has been leading the offensive charge on a solid line with Forsberg and Johansen, making it impossible to key in on just one player. With 25 goals and 51 points, the Devils will need to keep an eye on the 5’9” winger and not let him slip through the cracks.
Juuse Saros: Appearing in his 19th game of the season, Saros is 7-5-5 with a 0.924 save percentage. Three of his seven wins have come by way of shutout, however, so the Devils have to solve him early and not let him get comfortable in the crease. Bodies in front and a few scrums to shake him up wouldn’t hurt anything either.
Where to watch: Tonight’s game is slated for an 8:00pm start and will be on MSG+ or you can listen in through The One Jersey Network on Radio.com.