Tonight’s game will feature your New Jersey Devils, who currently own a 14-6-4 record, which positions them third in the Metropolitan Division, and the Colorado Avalanche, who own a 12-9-2 record which puts them last in the Western Conference’s Central Division.
The New Jersey Devils are coming off a much-needed three-day break, which saw the departure of forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi to Anaheim and addition of defenseman Sami Vatanen. The Devils’ break couldn’t come at a better time, as they were embarrassed in the first two periods of a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday night. The Devils will look to right the ship tonight and to do this, they may want to rely on the recent success of special teams. Before the break, the Devils killed off 11 of 12 penalties and scored a power play goal in three of their previous four games. If the Devils want to continue to be a force in the Metropolitan Division, the special teams must still succeed. Regarding personnel tonight, Sami Vatanen will make his Devils’ debut and play in a top-two role alongside Andy Greene, as he will replace defenseman Steven Santini who has struggled mightily the past few games. Forward Marcus Johansson will finally make his return to the lineup after missing the past month with a concussion. Forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dalton Prout will join Steven Santini as the other two healthy scratches. It is expected Cory Schneider will make his 19th start of the season on the frontend of a back-to-back. Schneider brings in a 9-5-3 record, a 2.78 GAA, and a .918 Sv%.
The Colorado Avalanche continue to impress and most importantly, keep scoring goals. The Avalanche currently own an impressive streak of scoring two or more goals in their past 13 games. Luckily, their defense hasn’t been as good, as they are allowing the 7th-most goals per game (3.1) and have the 24th-ranked penalty kill (77.3 percent rate). Unlike the Devils, Colorado has only had one day of rest before, today so it’ll be interesting to see how they come out tonight. Regarding personnel, the Devils won’t have to face Avalanche’s captain Gabriel Landeskog who is currently serving a four-game suspension. Also, Colorado forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Patrik Nemeth will each miss the game due to injury. It seems as if goaltender Semyon Varlamov will make his 14th start of the season tonight, Varlamov owns an 8-4-1 record, 3.13 GAA, and a .906 Sv%.
Projected Devil Lines
What/Who to Watch
- A large deal will be paid to the “Butcher vs. Kerfoot” matchup tonight. Devils’ defenseman Will Butcher was originally drafted by the Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but declined to sign which resulted in him coming to New Jersey. Like Butcher, forward Alexander Kerfoot did the same after being drafted by the Devils in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. So far this year, Kerfoot has 17 points with Colorado in just 23 games. It’ll be interesting to see the type of reception Will Butcher receives in returning to the city which drafted him four years ago.
- Although the Devils won’t have to face the Avalanche’s captain forward, they will have to face superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon has absolutely been lighting it up this year as he has 28 points (8G, 20A) in only 23 games and is a plus five. Recently, in the last five games, McKinnon has continued this trend as he’s compiled a hefty eight-points (2G, 6A). Look for John Hynes to get his top pairing of defense on the ice whenever MacKinnon and his winger Mikko Rantanen are on the ice.
- Newly acquired ex-Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen will be making his Devils debut tonight. The morning skate indicates he will be in a top-2 role besides Devils’ captain Andy Greene. It’ll be interesting to see how the two gel as they both have very different types of games. Vatanen is a swift-skating offensive defenseman, and Andy is more of a stay-at-home defensive defenseman. Don’t be surprised if Vatanen and Greene are split up if the pairing doesn’t work out as it’ll be an experiment to see who the newly-acquired defenseman gels with the most.
- To make room for the addition of Sami Vatenan, Steven Santini will be a healthy scratch tonight. At first it may surprise many, but with the heavy struggles Santini has been experiencing it might not be such a bad thing to let Santini take a night off. Don’t look too much into it as I expect Santini will be back in the lineup sooner than later.
Tonight’s game can be seen on MSG+2 at 9:00 PM.