Overview…In the midst of a six-game homestand, the Devils are currently on their second three-game winning streak in their last ten games, which are separated by a string of four consecutive losses. Currently ten points out of the playoffs, if Lou Lamoriello wants to justify his recent declaration that New Jersey is still in the race, a win tonight is not just essential, but would put the Devils on their first four-game winning streak in two years. This is Arizona’s first of four games on the road, which they enter riding a five-game losing streak. Each team has scored 133 goals this season, which respectively ranks them 27th and 28th in the league. Ironically, both teams have bustling power plays (Arizona 5th with 22.1%, New Jersey is 9th at 19.8%), but are among the bottom ten on the penalty kill (New Jersey 23rd with 79.4%, Arizona is 27th with 77.6%).
Devils…Over the past month, Patrik Elias andMike Cammalleri have four goals apiece. Elias’ last three goals were the first or only his team scored and all were over the last six games. Cammalleri’s scoring has been more evenly spread this month. He’s got three points (including two goals) in his last two games and was the only Devil with a multi-goal game in February. Enjoying his resurgence under the new coaching staff, Adam Larsson continues to thrive as he logs well over 20 minutes a night and plays in all situations. The 22-year old’s production has recently spiked as he’s registered six assists in his last eight games, including four assists in his last two.
Coyotes…Arizona’s had trouble getting consistent scoring from their forwards, so their defense has at least partially compensated for the struggling offense. Oliver Ekman-Larsson especially personifies this this trend as he’s tallied four goals and seven points in his last ten games while Keith Yandle, who leads Arizona with 40 points, had eight assists over that same stretch of games. While he’s been relatively quiet the last three games, his eight assists came over the month’s first seven games. It’s worth mentioning Arizona has gone 3-5 in the 8 games Ekman-Larsson or Yandle registered a point.
Devils…Only one game this month has Jaromir Jagr played over 17 minutes, which is somewhat indicative of his recent overall play. The 43-year old has no points in his last six games and three in his last nine. The productivity from Elias and Cammalleri hasn’t overshadowed Jagr’s struggles because they scored just 19 goals all month (averaging a little over two goals a game). New Jersey’s highest-paid center Travis Zajac hasn’t found any compatible linemates with no points in his last five games and two assists this February. His face-off numbers and penalty killing slightly counteracts his lacking offense but just like Jagr, the Devil’s trouble scoring this month makes players like Zajac more noticeable in this regard.
Coyotes…As is the case with New Jersey, Arizona’s group of underachieving forwards has been costly for them this season. Captain Shane Doan has just two goals in his last ten games. His last goal came right before Arizona’s current five-game losing streak began. After an impressive start to his inaugural season, rookie Tobias Reider has cooled off and is someone the Coyotes could definitely benefit from seeing put the puck in the net. He has only one goal in the ten games he’s played all month and hasn’t appeared on the score sheet in eight games.
What to watch tonight
Arizona’s defense…Like I previously mentioned, the bulk of Arizona’s offensive productivity has come from their defense. Keith Yandle leads the team with four goals and forty points, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 17 goals on the year. Even Michael Stone has chipped in offensively as of late, posting a goal and four points over the last ten games. Arizona may continue to rely on this tentative source of scoring and the Devils will have to watch the opportunities Arizona generates from the blue line. This is especially important when the Devils take draws in their own zone since Arizona is among the league’s best teams on face-offs, they can give their defense a lot of easy shots off the draw.
Penalties and power plays…When it comes to special teams, Arizona and New Jersey are practically counterparts. They’re both efficient on the power play, lackluster on the penalty kill, and are respectively the seventh and eighth most penalized teams in the league. Don’t be surprised if we see players from both teams make frequent trips to the penalty box. Although both teams haven’t had much success scoring on a nightly basis, tonight should prove advantageous if both teams find themselves on the power play periodically.