Hoping to shake off a frustrating penalty-filled 3-2 regulation loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the New Jersey Devils continue their mid-west road trip as they prepare to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. This will be the second and final time these two teams meet after previously facing off in October when the Devils blew a late-third period lead and would succumb to an early overtime defeat against the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions. A win tonight would be significant for the Devils who would love to even the score and get their first win in three contests. The Devils won only once in their last seven contests, and went 3-5-3 on the road in the month of November. Even with their miniscule record going into this month, they’re clinging onto the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference by a thread, which won’t last for long if things continue the way they’re going.
There’s a strong possibility left wing Taylor Hall could return to the lineup tonight after missing the last eight games with a lower-body injury. The Devils struggled mightily in the wake of their star forward’s absence, going 2-4-2 over the past two and a half weeks. While Hall is poised to return well ahead of schedule, forward Beau Bennett has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a leg laceration earlier this week, leading to the call-up of 2014 first round pick John Quenneville. The 20-year old forward will make his NHL debut if he plays tonight, however if Hall is activated, it puts the Devils active roster at 24 players and will mean somebody has to get sent down. Quenneville has seven goals and 17 points in 19 games with the Albany Devils this season, which leads the team.
Who to watch
Nick Lappin…After going pointless in his NHL debut against the Blackhawks in October, Lappin has been a pleasant addition to the Devils roster. He has four goals and six points in 16 contests this season, including scoring a big goal on Tuesday night’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets. He’s mostly been relegated to fourth line playing time, and has a genuine opportunity to string some games together where he collects points.
PA Parenteau…I’d like to think Parenteau is due to break his pointless slump. He hasn’t had a goal or assist in five games, and hasn’t scored in his last ten. He did score in New Jersey’s initial match against the Blackhawks, and hasn’t scored on the road since the beginning of November. He’s only had two assists since Taylor Hall was sidelined, so hopefully reuniting those two could provide the spark that PA needs to get his game going.
Keys to the game
Goals against…I mentioned in a previous article that the Devils scoring rate without Hall is a tad less than what they were doing with him in the lineup. One of the most shocking statistics that stands out in the Devils play has been their inability to keep the puck out of their own net in the last eight games. New Jersey’s goaltenders have averaged 3.50 goals against in their last eight contests. This contrasts sharply to their goals against average before Hall went down, which was 1.92. The timing couldn’t be better for Hall to return if he’s connected to this correlation of surrendering goals considering how the Devils are facing an offensive juggernaut like the Blackhawks.
Power play opportunities…Going into tonight, the Devils have the 25th-best power play in the NHL (13.7%). One of the silver linings going into tonight is they’re facing off against a Blackhawks team that has a league-worst 70.7% penalty kill. The Devils and Blackhawks are two of the least-penalized teams in the league however, and the Devils have the second-worst road power play (6.5%) in the league with just three goals scored this season. If the Devils can find a way to rattle Chicago’s disciplinary game and capitalize on any man-advantage opportunities they have, they could have a very favorable outcome tonight.
Where to watch
MSG +2 (Local)
When to watch