Matchup Overview (by Mike Luci)
It’s something we’ve been anticipating for a few weeks now- the spike in difficulty of competition in the Devils December schedule. Riding a two-game win streak, the Devils hope to make it three as they prepare to play in one of the toughest buildings in the NHL. In the post-Brodeur era, the Devils have gone 2-3-1 against the Habs, and went 1-1-1 against them last season. The Devils will again be without rookie center Pavel Zacha who did not travel with the team to Montreal, but managed a victory without him on Tuesday night. In addition to the Habs, the Devils have upcoming matchups against the St. Louis Blues (twice), New York Rangers (twice), and against divisional rivals like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. They would definitely like to start that long stretch of high-quality competition on the right note by getting a win tonight.
Despite the recent sluggish play of the Habs lately, New Jersey’s struggles on the road have been very well-documented this season (4-7-4), which has stifled their position in the standings. Montreal is coming off a five-game road trip where they went 2-2-1, and won two of their last three home games that were back in Late-November. Cory Schneider will start in goal for the Devils, and has gone 1-6-0 on the road this year, which should raise some concern for the Devils going into tonight. Considering how the Devils are also coming off two intense emotion-filled games, it could provide them with enough momentum to put them over the top tonight.
What to Watch (by Alex Chauvancy)
- Montreal will be out without arguably their best player in Alex Galchenyuk tonight and for the foreseeable future. He led the team in scoring with 23 points in 25 games before going do, wn with a knee injury. They were was also averaging 12.1 scoring chances per 60 at 5v5 when he was on the ice, the best mark on the team. The Devils will have to take full advantage of Montreal missing their key offensive catalyst.
- Montreal is a pretty high event team. They average 59.2 shot attempts per 60 and 58.3 shot attempts against per 60 (via Corsica). They like to push the pace, so there should be chances going both ways for each team. It’s just a matter if NJ can get a few past Carey Price.
- The Devils had one of their better defensive games in recent weeks against Vancouver Tuesday night. They held the Canucks to 24 shots on goal and just 28 shot attempts at 5v5 for the game. Montreal is a much better team than Vancouver, so we’ll see if the Devils have adjusted defensively, especially against a high-event team such as Montreal.
- Kyle Palmieri has gotten off to a slow start, but he scored his first goal in almost a month on his only shot of the game against Vancouver the other night. His shot totals are down from last season, but getting that goal could be a huge lift for him. We’ll see if that relief carries over to tonight.
- Montreal is 12-1-1 at home, but they’re also 4-4-2 in their last 10 games overall. With Galchenyuk and Desharnais out of the picture, this might be a good time for the Devils to pick up a win against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.