The New Jersey Devils are coming off a turbulent road trip where they managed to scrap a 1-1-2 record. Although they earned points in three out of their last four contests, their volatile performance over the past couple of weeks has put the Devils three points out of the second wildcard spot. They return home to the Rock, where they’ve yet to lose a single contest in regulation this season. Going into tonight, the Devils are the only team in the NHL that hasn’t lost a home game in regulation, and that statistic is currently on the line as they prepare to face off against the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s an advantageous matchup for the Devils, who are facing off against a Canucks team that have also struggled mightily on the road this year. Vancouver has an away record of 3-7-1, but won two of their last three road games. This is their first game away from home in December, and the Canucks have gone 4-2-0 in their last six contests. On the surface, this looks like a sure win for the Devils, who are facing off against an opponent that’s statistically inferior in almost every major category like special teams, goals, and don’t quite match up too well head-to-head against New Jersey depth-wise. After coming off a momentous comeback victory against the Nashville Predators over the weekend, Vancouver is an ideal opponent to help them string a pair of wins together, especially considering how difficult their schedule gets after tonight. The Devils will be without rookie center Pavel Zacha tonight, however his absence will be offset by the returns of Sergey Kalinin (who appears to be occupying Zacha’s usual spot on the third line), and Beau Bennett.
Who to watch
Adam Henrique…In the grand scheme of things, Henrique’s production hasn’t been that dispersed as originally perceived. Although he only has five goals in 24 games going into tonight, he has two goals and three points in his last five games, and has averaged about four games in between each goal he’s scored. Henrique has always been a relatively late bloomer, and has tallied the majority of his points this season on home ice.
Cory Schneider…Slated to make his second start of the month, Cory’s been a victim of circumstance over the past couple of weeks that’s reflected strongly on his numbers. In his last six starts, Schneider’s given up 22 goals (3.66 per game), over which New Jersey has gone 1-3-2. Schneider’s last win came on 11/15 against the Dallas Stars so he’s definitely due to break out of his slump in giving up so many goals and going winless.
Keys to the game
Keep the scoring up…Despite their struggles in the standings and keeping the puck out of the net, the Devils have seen their offensive numbers spike in recent weeks. They’ve scored 21 goals in their last six contests (3.50 goals per game), which is a considerable boost compared to how they started out this season. Especially with Taylor Hall returning and the hot streak that Mike Cammalleri is on, the Devils are in a prime position to continue their current rate of goal-scoring.
Mobility in the defensive zone…One of the reasons why the Devils have surrendered so many goals is due to their lack of mobility in their own end. The Devils have faced the sixth-most shots in the league going into tonight (31.9 per game), and this is because of their lack of mobile stay at home defensemen. One prime example of this is Ben Lovejoy, whose shot differential when he’s on the ice is -70 (faces 70 more shots against opponent when he’s on the ice). The Devils are giving their opponents too much time to set up in their own zone and are leaving too much slack for their goalies to pick up, which needs to stop now.
Where to watch
MSG +2 (Local)
When to watch