DAB PREGAME: Devils Return Home to Face the Leafs

The Devils host the Maple Leafs on “80’s night” at The Rock. –Getty Images

 

Match Overview

Tonight’s game will feature your New Jersey Devils, who currently own a 16-19-7 record, which puts them seventh in the Metropolitan Division, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who own a 27-13-2 record, which puts them second in the Atlantic Division.

The Devils started an all-important second half of the season with a demoralizing 5-1 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres. After a promising 3-1-0 stretch after the Christmas break, many thought they may have turned it around. However, now mired in a two-game losing streak, time is running out to get back into the playoff picture. Unfortunately, things do not get any easier tonight against one of the league’s best teams.

The Maple Leafs, fortunately for the Devils, have been riddled with injuries at the goaltending position. After Frederick Andersen went down due to injury, backup Garret Sparks also got hurt. This leaves ex-Winnipeg Jet Michael Hutchinson as the only healthy goalie and tonight’s starter. Hutchinson owns a .878 save percentage this season between two teams (.915 with the Leafs). Luckily for Hutchinson, he has a pretty stellar offense in front of him. The Leafs own the 2nd ranked offense (3.62 goals per game) and 8th ranked power play (22.3%).

Tonight’s game will be at the Prudential Center and is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM.

Projected Devils Lines

Bratt/Hischier/Palmieri
Wood/Zajac/Coleman
Pietila/Zacha/Noesen
Boyle/Seney/Stafford

Greene/Severson
Vatanen/Santini
Butcher/Lovejoy

Kinkaid

Projected Maple Leafs Lines

Hyman*/Tavares/Marner
Johnsson/Matthews/Kapanen
Marleau/Kadri/Nylander
Lindholm/Gauthier/Brown

Reilly/Hainsey
Gardiner/Zaitsev
Dermott/Ozhiganov

Hutchinson

*- returning tonight after injury

Keith Kinkaid will get another start tonight versus Toronto. –Getty Images

What/Who to Watch

  • The story of the season for the Devils has been goaltending. Keith Kinkaid is tonight’s projected starter, and to put it bluntly, he has been terrible. Since his start five games ago versus Ottawa, he is 1-3-0 with a .852 save percentage. Going up against the second-best offense in the league can be a recipe for disaster.

 

  • One of the few bright spots this season for the Devils is the penalty kill. They rank 2nd in the league killing penalties, with a success rate of 85.3%. The matchup of that and the Leafs eighth-ranked power play will certainly be something interesting to watch. For now, give the advantage to the Devils.

 

  • Leafs third-line center Nazem Kadri is coming off a 30-goal season. However, this season he only has two goals in his last 24 games. Devils are notoriously known for allowing opposing players to score their first or break dry spells. Kadri also got an upgrade in linemates after Patrick Marleau was shifted down due to the return of Zach Hyman. Do not be surprised if you see Kadri break that dry spell tonight.

 

  • Surprisingly, the Devils both generate more and give up fewer shots at 5-on-5 than the Leafs do. The Devils rank 16th in the NHL, with a shots for percentage (SF%) of 50.40 percent, while the Leafs rank 23rd with an SF% of 48.16. Luckily for the Devils, the Leafs do not have Frederick Andersen to lean on if they are able to generate more shots than the Leafs. However, Kinkaid must be good for the Devils if they wish to have a shot tonight, which is certainly a tall task.

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

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