Coming off of a poor effort in Detroit, New Jersey will look to right the ship against the New York Islanders. After a strong start, the Devils have fallen into a rut and now sit at a 5-4-1 record, which puts them near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders, however, sit tied atop the division with 15 points, and a 7-4-1 record. For a team that was largely expected to fall into a full blown rebuild after losing John Tavares, the Islanders have certainly come out swinging, and surprised a lot of teams thus far. No game is ever easy in the NHL and tonight certainly won’t be any different. If the Devils continue to come out and play the way they have in recent games, the losing streak will most likely continue tonight.
Keys to the game
Sustained pressure/faceoffs…The biggest factor in the Devils’ hot start was their opponents never had time to think. Whether in the offensive, neutral or defensive zone, a Devils player was constantly harassing the puck carrier, and rushing their decision-making. These past few games, however, New Jersey has looked more complacent, and are giving teams easy routes through the neutral zone while now being the ones not given any space to operate. Pressure also comes from winning your faceoffs, which the Devils just have not been doing. As a result, it has cost them numerous times, including the empty netter last night against Detroit (see video below). The Islanders are playing well, but are also a young team who can be forced into making some mistakes and getting into penalty trouble.
Depth contribution….The biggest issue with the red hot start by Kyle Palmieri was—much like Hall last season—that Palmieri had largely been the sole provider of offense. Now that he has come back down the earth, the team has expectedly lost some of their momentum and confidence in burying the puck. To be a regularly well-balanced and competitive team, you need guys outside of the top line to produce, and Hynes is very aware of that aspect. In refusing to break up the top line, coach Hynes sent out a message to the rest of the team that they need to start producing, otherwise their roster role may change (i.e. Quenneville and Zacha being demoted for underperforming).
Hall – Hischier – Palmieri
Johannson – Zajac – Wood
Coleman – Seney – Stafford
Boyle – Dea – Gabriel
Mueller – Vatanen
Greene – Severson
Butcher – Lovejoy
New York Islanders
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Lee – Nelson – Bailey
Ladd – Filppula – Komarov
Johnson – Cizikas -Clutterbuck
Leddy – Pulock
Hickey – Mayfield
Pelech – Boychuck
Players to watch
Brett Seney…Seney will aim to be a breath of fresh air into the Devils lineup tonight, bringing a tremendous level of speed and skill to the bottom-half of the team. Seney has posted 10 points in as many games with Binghamton, and provides a very active stick at both ends of the ice. Some of the recent roster moves should certainly wake this roster up, so look for Seney to make his way on the stat sheet tonight.
Will Butcher…To keep things family friendly around here, let’s just say Butcher had a bad night against Detroit. Butcher had a poorly-timed turnover on a power play, which led to a two-on-one shorthanded goal that proved to be the game-winner (see below). Butcher did have a chance to get back on defense, but was indecisive in covering the shooter or the potential pass recipient. Butcher also was beaten in front by Rasmussen, who chipped home a rebound on the power play in the second period to tie the game. Coming into a contest that will again see its fair share of special teams play, Butcher needs to be stronger on the stick in the crease, and deny the Islanders space in front.
Where to watch
Barclays Center 7:00 p.m.
MSG+, MSG (Pregame begins at 6:30)
New Jersey: 1.5 goal spread, -109 money line
New York: -1.5 goal spread, -112 money line
Over/Under: 6 goals
This game is going to be very chippy, and I would be very surprised if there isn’t at least one fight. It’s not time to panic, but to expect a more aggressive performance, which is exactly what Devils fans should get tonight. Seney should see his first NHL point, and hopefully that garbage time goal last game for Johannson helps get him going. New Jersey wins a tight one 4-3.
To make the game more interesting, we are playing today’s game on www.statementgames.com for the chance to win cool prizes! Our two lock statements are:
NY Islanders forwards UNDER 2.5 goals
Vatanen will play OVER 22 minutes.