DAB PREGAME: Devils Look to Build Momentum vs. NHL’s Best

 

The Devils defeated the Lightning in a shutout in their only meeting this year. –Getty Images

Match Overview

Tonight’s game will feature the New Jersey Devils, who currently own a 29-20-8 record, which positions them fourth in the Metropolitan Division, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who own a 39-16-3 record, which puts them first in the Atlantic Division.

The Devils have established themselves as one of the streakier teams in the league. They have seen streaks of five-consecutive wins, six-consecutive losses, and two streaks of four-consecutive losses.  Luckily for fans, they have strung together two consecutive wins. At such a vital part of the season, they must become a more consistent team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been the President Trophy frontrunners for most of the season. With a goal differential of +53 and a goal per game average of 3.6 (both rank best in the NHL), they are perennial Stanley Cup contenders. Not only are the Lightning dangerous at even- strength, they also have a power play goal in eight of their last nine games. They are a tough test for whoever may be in their path, so the Devils must bring their “A-game” tonight.

Regarding personnel, Eddie Lack will get the start in between the pipes as Keith Kinkaid is getting the night off to prepare for tomorrow night’s divisional game against Carolina. It is expected for Mirco Mueller to be the Devils only healthy scratch as forward Brian Boyle did participate in the morning skate but it looks unlikely that he will play.

Tonight’s game will be at Amalie Arena and is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM.

Projected Devils Lines

Hall-Hischier-Palmieri
Bratt-Zacha-Lappin
Wood-Zajac-Noesen
Hayes-Coleman-Stafford

Greene-Vatanen
Moore-Severson
Butcher-Lovejoy

Lack

Projected Lightning Lines

Namestnikov-Stamkos-Kucherov
Gourde-Point-Johnson
Killorn-Peca-Erne
Kunitz-Paquette-Callahan

Hedman-Dotchin
Sergachev-Stralman
Coburn-Girardi

Vasilevsky (34-11-2, 2.30 GAA, .929 Sv%)

Eddie Lack is expected to make the start for the Devils tonight. –Getty Images

What/Who to Watch

  • For as great as a team the Lightning is, they still have some weaknesses. The two parts of the game they struggle with are face-offs and penalty killing. They rank 29th in the league with a 47.6% success rate on the dot and 24th in the league in penalty kill efficiency (77.8%). Even though the Devils have struggled with both their power play (0-13 in the last four games) and on face-offs (30th in the NHL), they must find a way to take advantage of Tampa Bay where they can.

 

  • The Lightning may rank near the top in every major offensive category. However, they seldom outshoot the opposition. They have only outshot their opponents twice in their last fourteen games. Meaning when they get good looks, they don’t miss. In order for the Devils to successfully compete with the Lightning tonight, Eddie Lack must be on top of his game.

 

  • Rookie forward Nico Hischier has been playing his best hockey of the season. He has racked up six points in his last three games while compiling a +8 rating. The most crucial aspect of his recent scoring stretch has been the importance of each point. He was a part of scoring on each of the last two GWG. The first overall pick has started really started living up to his hefty expectations.

 

  • The combination of Steven Stamkos (31G, 45A) and Nikita Kucherov (most points in the NHL) are lethal. The two have accounted for 25% of the Lightning’s total point production. Look for Coach Hynes to consistently match his top pairing when their line is out there. Shutting the duo down is a tall task, but it must be done if the Devils wish to come away victorious for the third game in a row.

 

Tonight’s game can be seen on MSG+ at 7:00 PM.

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