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The last time the New Jersey Devils (5-2-1) visited Amalie Arena, they walked off the ice hanging their heads after being eliminated from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. With both teams having largely the same players and with the playoffs still likely fresh in their heads, this game has some added meaning, especially for the Devils. The team clad in white this evening will surely come out with a chip on their shoulder, seeking revenge for their early playoff exit back in April. The Tampa Bay Lightning (7-2-1), however, will also be coming out with something to prove after suffering a crushing 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes this past Saturday.
The Bolts will be without star defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Ondrej Palat in this evening’s game due to injury. For the Devils, forward Marcus Johansson will draw back into the lineup in place of Joey Anderson after missing the last game due to illness.
Keys to Victory
Special Teams… The New Jersey Devils currently rank 10th in the league in power play percentage, having success 25.7% of the time. They’ll be put to the test tonight against the league’s best penalty kill, as the Lightning have killed off 95% of the power plays that they have faced through the first 10 games of the season.
Similarly, the Devils will have to stay out of the box and be significantly more disciplined than they have so far this season because the Lightning’s power play ranks eighth in the NHL, with a 26.3% success rate. The Devils penalty kill, which ranks fifth in the NHL, with an 87.9% success rate, will have to be up to the challenge that the Bolts will provide.
Shots On Goal… The Lightning allow an average of 32.6 shots against per game, while the Devils allow just 28.9 shots against. Bolts goaltender Andrej Vasilevskiy gets the start in goal tonight. And he has been sharp this season after his Vezina-caliber season in 2017-18. Any shot on goal is a good shot on goal so peppering the netminder with shots will be essential, especially on the man advantage.
Finishing… Jersey’s Team has had problems finishing on excellent opportunities, especially players like Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier, and Blake Coleman. If these guys and other players can find a way to put a biscuit in the basket, especially Coleman on the penalty kill, the team will put themselves in a strong position to win tonight.
For New Jersey…
Kinkaid (starter), Schneider.
For Tampa Bay…
Vasilevskiy (starter), Domingue.
Players to Watch
Miller/Stamkos/Kucherov line… Coach Cooper has reunited this line after the Bolts got blown out by the Coyotes this past weekend. The Mueller-Vatanen pairing will have to be at the top of their game to contain this unit. Any time they are on the ice, they pose a lethal threat and the Devils defenders will have to be at their best.
Nico Hischier… Nico struck twice in the game against Nashville on Thursday night and recorded two assists in the Devils’ victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon. He’s heating up on the scoresheet, which is no surprise given how active he has been in front of the net consistently, and how dominant the Devils top line has been. Flanked by forwards Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, Hischier has a good chance at scoring every night. With Hedman out of the lineup due to injury, there is a great opportunity for the top line to wreak some havoc.
It will be a battle of special teams tonight in a high-flying, speedy, action-packed game. I predict a 4-3 overtime victory for the New Jersey Devils.
Play tonight’s game on StatementGames.com! It’s free, and all winners of tonight’s contest will receive a FREE Devils Army Blog t-shirt presented by StatementGames! Our two lock statements are…
Taylor Hall + Nico Hischier + Kyle Palmieri OVER 0.5 goals
Sami Vatanen Will Play OVER 22.00 Minutes
Where to Watch
The puck drops shortly after 7:30pm and can be seen on MSG+ and SUN. We also invite you to follow us on social media as we provide live play-by-play, instant reaction and analysis to the game. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @DevilsArmyBlog for live look-ins from Amalie Arena throughout the evening.