The New Jersey Devils have not played a lot of hockey over the past week and a half. The team only took the ice once since a victory over the Vancouver Canucks that saw Jack Hughes score his first career goal. That only game was a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes where even though Jack Hughes tallied three points, the Devils couldn’t hold onto a 2-0 lead.
After another long layover, the team will face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Prudential Center. Hopefully, the Devils used the extra time off to find answers as to why they continue to struggle. If not, fans in attendance might wish that layover lasted just a little bit longer.
Players To Watch
After a slow start that saw some impatient Devils’ fans panic, Jack Hughes has seemingly found his grove. The loss against the Arizona Coyotes saw Hughes register his first three-point game. While the point totals keep climbing, do not expect too much out of him just yet. Either way, he should be on the score sheet in one way or another on Wednesday.
After being out of the lineup a few games, Bratt finds a way to draw himself back in. Without a doubt, Nikita Gusev’s benching has something to do with it. Bratt has struggled to be the same player we saw during his rookie year that made him the surprise of the 2017-2018 team. Hopefully, he can find some of it against the Lightning. The fact he’s paired with Nico Hischier should help as well.
With Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the nod less than 24 hours ago in the loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Devils should expect to see Curtis McElhinney in goal tonight. After a successful season being one half of the goalie tandem with Petr Mrazek on the Carolina Hurricanes, McElhinney left Carolina for the sunshine state. In three games this season, McElhinney has yet to lead his team to victory.
Keys To Victory
Battle of the Under Performers
There’s no question that the Devils have underperformed this season, but so have the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even though they sport a decent record they seem like they never fully recovered from that opening round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. With rumors and speculation stirring around head coach John Copper’s future, things aren’t looking great for the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners. After all, they began the season as the favorite in the East.
Time To Rest
While the Devils are seemingly well-rested after six days off, the Lightning are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They played last night against the Rangers and then headed right to Prudential Center. Playing a back-to-back is never ideal and playing a back-to-back on the road is even worse. Devils should take full advantage of the Lightning’s weary legs and tired play.
Get To McElhinney:
While his save percentage is on par with last season, his goals against average has taken a turn for the worse. Last season his average was 2.58 GAA. This year he’s at 3.30. Carolina’s defense may be better than Tampa’s, but not bad enough that McElhinney should see his GAA go up by almost a full goal. Devils have their problems in their own end, but they should be able to get a few off McElhinney.
New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Where To Watch
Fans can watch the Devils take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 PM on MSG Network. Don’t miss pregame coverage starting at 6:30 PM.
Holding out hope the Devils can get the best of a tired Lightning squad. If they stay off the penalty kill, it’s possible. 3-2 Devils.