Both the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils will go for their third consecutive win when the two face off tonight at the Prudential Center. Both teams have played around .500 hockey in January, and are separated in the standings by one point. The first time these two met, they scored a combined eight goals in regulation before having to settle the contest via shootout, in which New Jersey prevailed. The second matchup resulted in a 3-0 Devils shutout. The Devils, who previously lost five of their last seven before stringing together consecutive wins, have somehow managed to hang onto the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. A win tonight could give the Devils a three-point cushion over the Senators, while a loss can trounce them out of a playoff spot. This is New Jersey’s last home game before the All-Star break, while it’s vice versa for the Senators, who play two more contests at home after tonight.
The Devils are one of twenty teams in contention tonight, whose placement in the standings can be affected by the outcome of three or four other contests. Tuesday’s victory over Calgary was the first time the Devils scored more than two goals in a game this month since they broke into 2016 with a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. The team played like it’s picking up where it left off after getting left wing Mike Cammalleri back from injury. Consequently, call-ups Reid Boucher and Joe Blandisi have played well since they were brought in, enough to warrant a longer look from Coach Hynes and Co. Special teams were an issue for the Devils on Tuesday, who failed to score on the power play for the eighth game in a row and gave up two power play goals to the 30th-ranked special team units in the league. Two things the Devils need to continue working on going into tonight are taking more shot opportunities and staying out of the box, both of which have been the January demeanors for this team.
After playing the first two games of their season series against the Devils on their own turf, this is Ottawa’s only visit to the Prudential Center this season. While the Devils have struggled at home and thrived on the road this year, it’s been the opposite case for the Senators. Ottawa is 11-6-4 at home, while going 11-12-2 on the road. This month, the Senators went 3-3-0 on the road, emerging victorious in their last two away contests, whose momentum they hope to bring into tonight’s game. Andrew Hammond was in net for each of Ottawa’s first two games against the Devils. He hasn’t played since starting in a 7-1 beat down the Senators endured against the Washington Capitals. Ottawa has gone with Craig Anderson during their road trip who has a 2-1-0 record going into tonight. Hammond has been dealing with a personal matter for the past ten days and could rejoin his team tonight. It remains to be seen however, which goalie will get the nod.
Who to watch
Adam Larsson…He came into the second half of the season by storm, having six points in six games since January 8th, including two multipoint contests over that span. He’s coming off a big game against Calgary where he had a goal and two points. Although Larsson hasn’t posted many points until recently this season, both his goals and seven of his 13 points were tallied at the Prudential Center this season. The Devils are also 7-1-2 in games where Larsson has registered point this year.
Bobby Ryan…Simply put, he’s one of those players that needs to be on top of his game if the Senators want any chance to playing beyond April. He has goals in back-to-back games for the Senators that played huge roles in their two road wins over the past week. Six out of Ryan’s last eight goals have come on the road. Although his last two goals were his first in four contests, the Senators are 8-2-1 in contests when Ryan scores.
What to watch
New opponent in net…? As previously mentioned, Andrew Hammond was in net for the Senators in their first two matchups against the Devils, both of which resulted in losses. Although he’s had a brief leave of absence from the team, it’s possible Hammond can be available for tonight’s contest. Hammond got smoked the last time he started and the Senators have fared well with Anderson. If I were Senators head coach Dave Cameron, I’d give Anderson the nod in net tonight, regardless of Hammond’s status. The Devils had a similar situation against Detroit, where they defeated them their first two times against Jimmy Howard, but failed to get one past Mrazek in their third and final matchup this season. It remains to be seen if this trend could continue against the Senators tonight if they go that route.
Where to watch
When to watch