Tonight is the back end of a back-to-back for the Devils and could be the final game for some players in a Devils sweater.
The Time: 5:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (25-27-10) at the Columbus Blue Jackets (26-30-4; SBN Blog: The Cannon)
The Last Devils Game: Last night the Devils came back from a 2 goal deficit to force overtime, but ultimately fell to the Bruins. John has a full recap here where he writes how the Devils struggled in the first half of the game before finding their stride. Once again it was Cory Schneider stepping up to keep the Devils in the game was they were routinely out-shot and out-attempted. Travis Zajac had a power play goal off some nice passes from Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson to start the comeback. Jordin Tootoo remained hot, with scouts in attendance, as he scored the Devils second goal off a nice feed from Mike Cammalleri with Adam Larsson also getting an assist. However, the Devils would fall in overtime when a failed attack by Patrik Elias and Martin Havlat resulted in a Bruins odd man rush that would finish with Ryan Spooner netting the game winner.
The Last Blue Jackets Game: Columbus lost to Montreal 5-2 on Thursday. Matt Wagner has this recap available on The Cannon. Brandon Dubinsky and Marko Dano had the goals for the Blue Jackets. David Savard assisted on both goals. Curtis McElhinney made 22 saves on 26 shots in the loss. Both teams had 27 shots each and went 0/2 on the power play.
The Last Devils-Blue Jackets Game: These two teams have only met once this season, back on November 1st, where the Devils came through with a 3-2 victory. Here is the NHL boxscore from that game. Marek Zidlciky had a goal and an assist. Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson each had a goal while guys like Michael Ryder, Damon Severson, Jaromir Jagr, Bryce Salvador, and Patrik Elias had an assist each. Cory Schneider made 32 saves on 34 shots as his counterpart Anton Forsberg made 26 saves on 29 shots. That game was so long ago that it featured Damien Brunner, Reid Boucher, and Ryane Clowe.
The Goal: To repeat what has been said many, many times this season, just play simple hockey. Execute the basics. Columbus is one of the few teams below New Jersey in the standings so they on about the same level. Simple entries/exits, clean passes, and disciplined hockey should be enough to keep the Devils in contention to pick up the win. Columbus (47.1 CF%) and New Jersey (47.1 CF%) are both weak possession teams so this is an opportunityfor the Devils to not be the team pinned back for the bulk of the game. Let's see if they can capitalize on it.
About Columbus: As I mentioned earlier, Columbus is one of the few teams below the Devils in the standings and they both have similar CF%'s. This is pretty much a matchup of two bad teams. As you can tell be the War-On-Ice usage graphs for the forwards and defensemen, the amount of injuries and overall struggle has the team a bit of a mess. On special teams, Columbus ranks 7th in PP% (20.5%) and 17th in PK% (81%). Nick Foligno leads the team in goals (23) and points (55) and is tied for the lead in assists (32) with Ryan Johansen who has the 2nd most points on the team (53). Scott Hartnell, James Wisniewski, and Jack Johnson round out the top 5 in points. The top pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard is averaging over 22:30 a night while Ryan Johansen leads the forwards at 19:39.
Blue Jackets Injuries: The Blue Jackets have been hit hard by injuries all season. According to The Columbus Dispatch, on Thursday they placed LW Matt Calvert on the injured reserved because of a concussion. C Brandon Dubinsky returned to practice on Friday after leaving Thursday's game early. As the Dispatch notes, they now have 9 players out injured.
An Old Friend: David Clarkson is set to make his Blue Jackets debut against his original NHL team. He is expected to play somewhere in the top 9 according to The Columbus Dispatch. Dan P. of The Cannon has a post breaking down the Horton-Clarkson trade that took the hockey world by surprise on Thursday. I personally hope that Clarkson can turn his career around in Columbus - just don't do it against the Devils.
Who Starts for Columbus?: Sergei Bobrovsky is coming back from a groin injury and expected to skate by himself in the morning to see if he can play tonight, according to The Columbus Dispatch. He hasn't appeared in a game since 1/21. In 32 starts he has a .913 SV%, 2.85 GAA, 16 Quality Starts, and a Goals Saved Above Average of -0.37. A bit down from his previous years but also a small sample size. Curtis McElhinney has been starting in Bobrovsky's absence and has a .915 SV% in 23 starts. There is also the chance that Oscar Dansk could make his first NHL start on his 21st birthday. He has a .883 SV% in 19 AHL games in his rookie season.
A Daily Reminder Schneider is Awesome: Tom Gulitti confirmed last night that Cory Schneider will start. No matter how the team plays, when he's in net the Devils have a chance to win the game - or at least be competitive. He's currently 4th in SV% (.926) and coming into last night had the 2nd highest amount of Quality Starts (35) and 3rd most Goals Saved Above Average (19.77) according to Hockey Reference.
Is This It?: A handful of Devils are an expiring contracts and could be moved. Marek Zidlicky is the most valuable of these players but has a no-trade clause. Will Lou ask him to waive it? Other guys like Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat have been out of the line up more often than not recently due to a lack of production and are likely trade candidates, assuming their are teams that would be interested. Do they get a final showcase tonight? Jordin Tootoo is hot lately and may appeal to a playoff team looking for a depth player that can chip in offense here and there, could this be his final game as a Devil?
Your Take: How do you see this game playing out? Are you excited to see David Clarkson with his new club? Are you hoping this is the last game for some Devils players, and if so, which ones? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!