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Game Preview #6: New Jersey Devils vs. Arizona Coyotes

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The New Jersey Devils are coming off a win and will play one of the hottest shooting and shot-stopping teams at evens in the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes. Learn more about the Coyotes and the Devils' potential roster changes in this preview.

The last time the Devils hosted Arizona was a good time.
The last time the Devils hosted Arizona was a good time.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

What three letters helps explain some of the success by tonight's opponent? P, D, and O.

The Time: 7:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (1-3-1) vs. the Arizona Coyotes (3-2-0; SBN Blog: Five for Howling)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went into the World's Most Overrated Arena to play the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. The start was horrid as the Devils mustered up little in attack, conceded pucks left and right, and allowed an early goal.  This time it was Oscar Lindberg feeding Derek Stepan to beat Cory Schneider.  Schneider stopped the rest of the onslaught.  Fortunately, the second period not only featured a competitive effort by the Devils, but an equalizer. Adam Henrique popped in a close rebound to make it 1-1 and the Devils did a bit more to attack.  The third featured a failure of a 5-on-3 and not much else from New Jersey as Schneider, somehow and someway, held it down.  Overtime was necessary and notable for two reasons. One, Andy Greene managed to save a goal early on. Two, Greene corralled a loose puck, went around his own net, and hit a streaking Henrique with a long pass. After a Henrique settled it down, he saw Lee Stempniak join him in the 2-on-1.  Pass, shot, and the Devils won their first game of 2015-16.  Shane recapped the victory here.

The Last Coyotes Game: The most recent Saturday night featured Arizona hosting Boston.  The Coyotes got on the board early as franchise legend Shane Doan jammed in a puck. The goal put Arizona up 1-0 and it was the 900th of the forward's career.  The Bruins responded with a lot of shots, 14 to be exact, on Mike Smith.  Smith stopped all of those.  He didn't stop two of the 19 he faced in the second period, though. Tyler Randell put home a sweet backhander to tie it up and David Krejci converted a power play to make it a 1-2 score after two periods. Then things got crazy and not just because the Coyotes actually out-shot the Bruins 13-10 in the third.  Brad Marchand scored a shorthanded goal and seconds later, Tobias Reider converted on that power play to make it 2-3.  Minutes later, Kyle Chipchura tied it up 3-3.  Alas, the home team would take two more penalties in the game and they paid for it both times. Patrice Bergeon scored on each of them to make it a 3-5 loss for Arizona.  Michael Z. Morrissey recapped the game at Five for Howling, remaking on the Coyotes' lackluster performance. Yes, getting out-shot 23-43 is lackluster to say the least.

The Goal: Make special teams count.  The Coyotes have been fantastically hot at even strength.  What hasn't been so fantastic has been their power playing and penalty killing.  For a team with sixteen goals scored in five games, it's a surprise to learn they have had only two power play goals.   It's not like they haven't had opportunities, they've had 24 of them already.  Early season hockey is known for extremes, but what it tells me is that there's not much of a reason to freak out about their PP.  What's more is their PK.  They've already been shorthanded 22 times this season, the sixth most in the NHL as of Monday night.  They've only given up four goals. However, considering they've only given up five in 5-on-5 play and their PK got blown up in their loss to Boston, it's something to potentially exploit.  As much grief as the Devils deserve for their power play, this may be the night to set things right.  They'll get the opportunities to do so.  If they can, two points are definitely attainable.

110.8: That number is what War on Ice currently has for Arizona's PDO in 5-on-5 play. PDO doesn't stand for anything, it is the sum of a team's shooting and save percentage. It's a quick-and-dirty measure to see whether teams have benefited from good percentages.  Over time, teams will regress to their true value.  Arizona's is the highest in the league as of Monday night. Their team has shot at 14.1% at evens and the Coyotes goalies have stopped 96.7% of all shots against.  As a result, they have thirteen goals and five goals allowed in 5-on-5 play.   Neither percentage is sustainable.  Unfortunately for New Jersey, that doesn't mean either will necessarily fall tonight.  Unfortunately for Arizona, they have given up many more attempts than they've generated - both higher rates than New Jersey in this young season.

Rising Stars & Familiar Names: Still, high shooting percentages yield early hype, especially for a team expected to do very little in 2015-16.  What adds to that hype are young players succeeding.  Immediately, they are touted as being Part of the Future and perhaps that The Future Is Now.  This will be even persist until those young players are mired in a slump or something else.  Still, for the Yotes faithful, there's reason to be legitimately excited about three forwards: Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Tobias Reider.  All three have shown considerable skill.  Now they have some choice production to go with it.  Reider leads the forwards in shots with 19 and he's got three goals and two assists to go with it.  Domi, who's already showing he's not a jerk like his dad was, has three goals and assists each with 16 shots. Duclair has been the hotted with four goals and two assists on eight shots, but he's already demonstrated his skill on the puck in New York - he will be a threat going forward.  For Arizona to become a regular contender, these three will have to come close to their potential. So far, so good on that front.

The hope is that they become a part of the core that already includes forward Martin Hanzal and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.  Hanzal actually leads the team with seven assists, and he's been a solid two-way player for them in his career.  Last season, he only played in 37 games due to injury. A healthy Hanzal strengthens the squad.  Ekman-Larsson is 24 and is definitely what one would want in a #1 defenseman.  Despite difficult situations and competition last season, he remained a positive possession player and a very productive one with 23 goals and 43 points.  His start this season hasn't been so productive, but he'll get there in time.  He's been trying given he has 21 shots on net already.

I suppose one could consider Shane Doan and Mike Smith part of the core as well.  Doan is 39 so he won't be for long. Still, the power forward made his mark against Boston and he should make a few more as well.  Smith ihas been the team's starter since 2011.  After a standout 2011-12 (overall save percentage of 93%), he's been rather normal.  Still, he's been the starter.   Now, he's rocking an overall save percentage of 94% and 97.5% at evens. Part of how this team does this season will be based on him.  In the present situation, he's been a big help. We'll see how long that lasts.

Ultimately, the Coyotes are in a similar spot to the Devils and a lot of other teams that aren't projected to do well and proceed to not do well.  They don't have all of the pieces in top situations and they definitely don't have solid depth. Each squad has a few players that are OK in those spots, but it's not necessarily enough.  If one stops Domi, Duclair, Reider, and Hanzal, then the offense isn't so threatening. Beyond Ekman-Larsson, who on the defense should be a big concern?  Sure, Connor Murphy and Zybnek Michalek are big but are they really, really good?  I'm not so sure on that.  Especially after they recently conceded 43 shots to Boston at home.  We know Smith isn't Cory Schneider, but he's playing as hot as anyone in the league as of late - that five spot by the B's aside.  For the Coyotes' sake, they should hope Domi, Duclair, and Reider are for real and that at least will answer some of the questions in their roster for the future.  And the Devils shouldn't mind finding some of those players in the nearer future as well.

Speaking of that Depth: As Brendan Porter wrote at Five for Howling, the Coyotes placed Joe Vitale on injured reserve as expected and called up Matthias Plachta.   Plachta was surprise standout in camp, someone from the DEL that they're taking a chance on.  He's replacing Vitale, who's very much a Tim Sestito-like player, only he's scored some goals in his career.  That this is a move to note speaks again of depth not being a strength for the Coyotes.

I can't sneer at it; the Devils are in a similar boat should players get hurt.  Only right now, the Devils wouldn't necessarily have to call anyone up.  Like for Tuomo Ruutu being out with an unspecified condition.  Per this post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, Ruutu was not at practice and he will not play tonight.  As the Devils were carrying two extra forwards anyway, no one is coming up from Albany. Ruutu was held out of Sunday's game, I would expect the Devils to do the same.

More of the Same: The Devils won on Sunday and so the lineup remains mostly unchanged based on Tom Gulitti's report at Monday's practice at Fire & Ice.  Cory Schneider will start, Jordin Tootoo remains away from the top-six, and that's fine as-is. The only difference was the return of Jon Merrill.  He was sick on Sunday but he could be back tonight and probably back with John Moore.  Eric Gelinas appears to be the one to sit out for him. I'm not sure how I feel about that. David Schlemko had a really rough start and I'm not sure what he provides in general that makes him worth putting into the lineup over Gelinas.  Of course, given all of my written concerns about Gelinas, I'm not exactly pro-#44-all-the-time here.  Likewise, I don't know how good Merrill is to maintain his regular status if John Hynes is willing to sit Damon Severson.

One Last Thought: Based on that same post at Monday's practice, the Devils were practicing with four forwards on their power play.  Gelinas was one of the defenders in practice, so perhaps he finds a way into the lineup somehow. Or it's just practice.  Either way, I figure the Devils should use two defensemen on one or both units in that I don't think the Devils have eight forwards that should be on a power play.  The units included Tootoo, Jacob Josefson, and Lee Stempniak.  With all due respect to the overtime hero in Rangerstown, those aren't forwards that are necessarily threatening on a power play.  Maybe they should go to the two D, three F format.  Then again, they did that on their last 5-on-3 and it yielded nothing.

Your Take: The Devils, who are coming off a glorious, sweet win, will take on the Coyotes.  Will the Devils get that second win tonight?  Can they keep Domi, Duclair, and Reider relatively quiet?  Do the Devils have the power to cool off Smith further?  Will we see special teams have a good game tonight in both aspects?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.