After a high scoring win at the Prudential Center against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, the New Jersey Devils immediately get back to action. On Tuesday, the team heads to Columbus for the second half of a back-to-back, this time with divisional rival Columbus Blue Jackets as their opponent.
For much of their relatively short NHL existence, the Blue Jackets were the model of futility. Wins, star players, and any semblance of success were few and far between. In the past few seasons, that trend has dramatically reversed course, with the once laughed upon Blue Jackets continuously finding themselves near the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. Sadly, for Devils fans, much of Columbus’s success has come at the expense of the Devils.
Players To Watch
Cam Atkinson: Through 44 games this season, Atkinson has 26 goals and 20 assists, putting him at a point-per-game pace. This is a feat he only achieved once in an injury-shortened campaign last season. After a two-point night against the Rangers on Sunday, Atkinson shows no signs of slowing down.
Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman: The streakiest of any player on the Devils roster, Palmieri either scores in bunches or doesn’t score at all. With a two-goal performance against Chicago last night, let’s hope he’s in the middle of a streak and that the goals keep piling up. Coleman is the same story. Since surpassing his career best in goals in a loss against Toronto, he keeps adding points. After a three-point night against Chicago, he’s showing no signs of slowing down, either.
Keys to Victory
Playing On The Road: The Devils have a losing record against the Blue Jackets, heavily lopsided in the favor of Columbus more recently. They also have a losing record on the road in Columbus, but post a respectable 0.444 win percentage in Ohio. That’s close enough to .500 to give the Devils some hope.
Short Road Trip: The thought of a home and away back-to-back is enough to make any team feel tired just thinking about it, but Columbus is different. It’s close enough to New Jersey that this trip should feel no different than the other close Metropolitan Division road trips that go to locales like Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, or even the Wells Fargo Center. They will be tired, but these are the type of trips they should be used to.
Hope for a Columbus Off Night: The Blue Jackets outmatch the Devils in any category you can think of: offensively, defensively and in goal (well, in the pre-Mackenzie Blackwood era at least). Unless the Devils can find a way to put together another eight-goal game for the second day in a row, which they won’t, the most likely road to a Devil victory is Columbus displaying an unlikely weakness, even if for just the night, and the Devils finding a way to capitalize.
New Jersey Devils (lineups will be revealed when John Hynes speaks at 4:50 PM EST)
Columbus Blue Jackets
As much as I wish I could say it looks good, it doesn’t. Columbus is a better team that’s been dominating the Devils the past few seasons. Add that to the fact that whenever the Devils have an offensive breakout like they did against Chicago, they usually suffer in their upcoming appearances. 5-1 Columbus, and I wish I could be more optimistic.
The action starts at 7:00 on MSG+2 Tuesday night.