Pregame: Devils Prepare for Habs

Devils look to bounce back against Montreal tonight. -Montreal Gazette

Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey

Preview

The New Jersey Devils are coming off two very different games after the All-Star break; one where they once again had the Penguins number and played very well. And then another game where they let the outcome slip away when it was in their favor at home and to make matters worse, a loss to one of their biggest rivals.

Today, the Devils are going to be taking on the Montreal Canadiens, and depending on which team comes to play, it’ll determine what the outcome of the game will most likely reflect. The expected starting goaltenders are Keith Kinkaid for the Devils and Antti Niemi for the Canadiens. While Niemi may not be Carey Price, the Canadiens have been a team that is trying to prove critics wrong, as they currently are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and hold the first wild-card spot. The Devils are going to need to step up and play a full 60 minutes of hockey to pull off the victory on the road in Montreal.

What to Watch For

How the Devils will respond after dropping last game to the rival New York Rangers will be a key factor for today’s game against Montreal. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead at home, the Devils ended up falling to the Rangers by the final score of 4-3 in regulation. They had the momentum and a great first period until the final seconds when the Rangers scored on a power play. Any time a team loses the way the Devils did, it can certainly deliver a sense of frustration to players on the team, especially when that kind of loss comes at the hand of one of the Devils’ biggest rivals. They will need to shake off what happened against the Rangers and focus only on what they can control and what they did right in their previous two games.

The Devils could benefit from Niemi starting for the Canadiens. He is a great goaltender in the NHL when one looks at his career, including what he did in San Jose and winning a cup in Chicago. This season, however, Niemi has a save percentage below .900, and the Devils could take advantage of this with a complete game for 60 minutes. Make no mistake, Niemi starting does not make this a game the Devils can simply walk into Montreal and win just for showing up. But with a complete game on all fronts, the Devils can benefit from Price not starting.

Devils forward Marcus Johansson has often been injured during his tenure with the Devils. -NJ.com

Players stocks could be rising or falling heading towards February 28. There is no secret that if the Devils are active around the trade deadline, it will more than likely be in the role of sellers looking to acquire assets that can help in the future. Some names thrown around such as Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, Keith Kinkaid, and others that could potentially be moved are going to have their stocks and value move in one way or another.

Now, none of these players have at all been mentioned officially as potentially being traded but they have the most potential to help the Devils continue building towards the future. While fans would obviously have hoped that the Devils would be buyers and not sellers at this point, there is no denying where the team is, and that this was not a possibility this season.

Brian Boyle has exceeded expectations during his tenure with the Devils. -USA Today

 

The Devils will take on the Canadiens today at 2pm ET in Montreal on MSG+.

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