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Game Preview #16: New Jersey Devils at Anaheim Ducks

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The New Jersey Devils take a five game winning streak into Orange County to play the Anaheim Ducks tonight. This game preview summarizes what one should know about the Ducks and the now Taylor Hall-less Devils.

Anaheim Ducks v New Jersey Devils
Silfverberg and Auvitu will get to face each other once more this season.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The second game of a road trip is against a familiar opponent from this past month.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-3-3) at the Anaheim Ducks (8-6-3; SBN Blog: Anaheim Calling)

The Time: 10:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV – MSG+; Radio – 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN; Digital Audio – The One Jersey Network

The Last Devils Game: On Tuesday, the Devils began a four-game road trip in Dallas. Michael Cammalleri did not make the trip due to personal issues. Taylor Hall was a surprising scratch; he went back to New Jersey for a MRI for a lower body injury. What did the Devils do? They pulled together. The Devils struck first in the first period. Beau Bennett won a turnover from John Klingberg, fed it up ice to P.A. Parenteau, and Parenteau connected Damon Severson with a pass that the defenseman buried in the slot for the game’s first goal. It was great. Later in the first period, John Moore decided to make a D-to-D pass along the blueline to Kyle Quincey. Antoine Roussel knocked the puck away from an unaware Quincey to start a rush up ice. Moore caught up to Roussel, but he found a streaking Patrick Eaves with a pass that he buried to make it 1-1. The Stars threatened the most in the first period, but the rest of regulation belonged to New Jersey as they kept coming at the Stars in waves. But Antti Niemi and Cory Schneider were too good to allow a second goal in regulation. Overtime was necessary and it did not last long. After thirty or so seconds of possession by Dallas, Kyle Palmieri was able to get the puck from Tyler Seguin and darted up ice. Adam Henrique joined him on said rush. Palmieri was able to maintain control as Klingberg engaged him and sent a pass to the top of the crease. Henrique slammed in the puck while diving to win the game in OT. The Devils won 2-1; my recap of a solid team performance is here.

The Last Ducks Game: On that very same Tuesday, the Ducks began a home-stand with Edmonton. The Ducks had a good start, thanks in part to Nick Ritchie finishing a play from Anaheim’s top two forwards: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Oilers brought the offense in the second period with 18 shots on net. Unfortunately for the visitors, John Gibson would only be beaten once – a late second period goal by Leon Draisaitl. And that goal came well after two more goals by Anaheim: one from Cam Fowler and a power play goal by Ryan Kesler. In the third period, the Ducks were able to dull Edmonton’s attack. They were also able to extend their lead when Antoine Vermette made it 4-1 nine minutes into the third. The Ducks maintained the 4-1 score to the end to win the game and lead the Pacific Division. At Anaheim Calling, dkk has this recap of the win.

The Last Devils-Ducks Game: The Devils held their home opener on October 18 and the Ducks were their opponent. In a game filled with turnovers by the Ducks, the Devils looked strong in the neutral zone. However, the visitors struck first. Sami Vatanen hammered in a shot to convert a power play to open the game’s scoring. The second period was a real rough one for Anaheim as they took five penalties. It was not always perfect, but the Devils’ power play came through for the night. After a 5-on-3 ended, the Devils continued possession and Michael Cammalleri fired a hard shot on net. An uncovered Taylor Hall put in the rebound to make it 1-1. On the next power play, Hall tipped in a shot by Damon Severson that beat Gibson for another PPG and a 2-1 lead. The Ducks had a few moments to tie it up – most notably a penalty shot by Chris Wagner that Cory Schneider stopped – but the Devils held on. They won their first game of the season at the Rock, 2-1. My recap of the win is here. For the other side, here’s what CJ Woodling wrote at Anaheim Calling.

The Goal: Try to contain Perry & Getzlaf. One of the reasons why the game Dallas went as well as it did was because the Devils were able to contain Tyler Seguin. Tonight will be more of a challenge as the Ducks have kept their two most talented forwards together: Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Perry is the team’s leader in total points (15), power play points (tied with seven), and shots (52). He has a strong offensive game and he meshes very well with Getzlaf, whose skills compliment Perry. The amazing thing about both is that they have not been scoring a lot of goals. Perry only has four and Getzlaf has one. However, like Hall’s last two weeks, their lack of goal scoring is not an issue because they’re creating goals for others. Perry helped create two on Tuesday to bring him up to eleven assists. Getzlaf has been even more of a creator with thirteen assists. The duo plays in all situations so it’s not enough to just deny them at 5-on-5. As this game is on the road, John Hynes and the squad will not have the luxury of defining the match up in most situations. But if they can do that and keep their work to a minimum, then the Devils have a better chance of extending their winning streak to six games.

The Ducks Depth: If you go look at the Ducks’ stats at NHL.com, you’ll notice that Ryan Kelser has seven goals and three players have five each (Jakob Silfverberg, Cam Fowler, Andrew Cogliano) and three more players have four (Perry, Rickard Rakell, and Nick Ritchie). While Perry and Getzlaf stand in terms of points and they are the most dangerous players for them, the Ducks are more than just those two. Their second line of Ryan Kesler – who has five power play goals and two power play assists to boost his point totals, Silfverberg, and Cogliano has been quite productive. Fowler leads a Ducks blueline that now has Hampus Lindholm (he was not signed when the Devils last played the Ducks) to go with Sami Vatanen to provide plenty of offense from the back. Rakell and Vermette have been the most productive among Anaheim’s bottom six. Unlike Dallas, this is more of a full-strength team that has been performing well. I like the Devils chances if they can keep Perry and Getzlaf quiet given that those two play so much. But they may need another effort like Tuesday’s where most of the Devils lineup won their matchups to get the desired results. That’s easier said than done.

That Power Play is So Good I Don’t Want to Really See It: I’ve mentioned the power play points here and there because the man advantage has been good for Anaheim. In all power plays, they have a success rate of 22.4% or 13 for 58. That’s ninth in the league. What’s more impressive – and concerning for the Devils tonight – is Anaheim has been fantastic at home when they have a man advantage situation. Their home PP success rate is an astonishing 42.9% or 9 for 21. It is second only to Columbus prior to Wednesday’s games. The Devils did well to take only two minor penalties in Dallas, although those calls were not smart ones to take. The Devils will have to be especially careful if/when they do take a penalty tonight. And if/when they do, they have to be aware of a lot of productive players on said power play, especially Perry, Getzlaf, and Kesler.

The Ducks in Net: John Gibson has been the #1 goalie for Anaheim this season. He did well in his recent start against Edmonton. This season hasn’t exactly been great for him given his 91.5% even strength save percentage; but he has been very good on the penalty kill with a 89.8% save percentage in shorthanded situations. Jonathan Bernier has superior even strength save percentage although he has appeared in fewer games than Gibson. I would expect Gibson to start this game as it’s not a back-to-back situation and he has had a day off after a good performance. The hope for Gibson is that his EvSv% will rise as the season goes on. The Devils will need to find ways to challenge him. Fortunately, they have been quite good at generating shots in recent weeks so we’ll see if they can do it again.

One Potential Exploitation: Possession has not been a hallmark of Randy Carlyle coaches teams and so it isn’t with the 2016-17 Ducks. Their Corsi For % at NHL.com is just below Dallas at 48.23% and ranks 24th prior to Wednesday’s games. The Devils went on to significantly out-attempt (and out-shoot) the Stars on their rink. The mitigating factor for Dallas is that their team is beset by injuries. The Ducks are not and, on paper, they have plenty of talented players. The Devils were able to succeed in their game against Anaheim in part because the Ducks struggled to move the puck into the neutral zone with control. They often turned the puck over, which gave the Devils additional looks and opportunities to attack. The Devils-Stars game was filled with turnovers (on both sides), which helped speed the game along with plenty of rushes. The Devils, even without Hall, demonstrated that they can take advantage of those opportunities. I know the Ducks won decisively against Edmonton, but even then the Oilers had the better run of play. I suspect the Ducks will be similarly loose with the puck and that is something the Devils should try to take advantage of as much as possible.

Hall-Less: Yesterday afternoon’s news that Taylor Hall would be out with a lower body injury was a surprise. It turned out to be serious news. The Devils announced yesterday that he underwent arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee; the surgery was a success but he will be out for three to four weeks. That’s definitely not good news. Hall had provided an extra dimension to the Devils’ attack. While goal-less in his last eight games, he was creating plays, leading breakouts, and taking loads of shots. He was absolutely contributing without scoring. He will be missed.

There is a silver lining to hold onto. The Dallas game did show that the Devils can be an attacking squad without the dynamic dynamo wearing #9. They did out-shoot and out-attempt a Stars squad that still had two ace forwards, two players riding hot streaks, and a returning Spezza. That’s not nothing. Can we expect it every night? I’m a little doubtful. That performance included one of the best games yet from Beau Bennett and everyone pulling together with several good efforts. I’d like to see that again even with Hall because, hey, good team performances lead to good games by the team. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t concerned about a potential drop off against a healthier Ducks squad coming off a decisive home win.

Keep it Mostly Together, Keep it Tight: With Hall and Cammalleri still unavailable, I would like to see the same lineup tonight that was used against Dallas. Bennett, Travis Zajac, and Parenteau were too good on Tuesday to tinker with it. Damon Severson continues to justify his minutes with Andy Greene. Henrique, Palmieri, and Pavel Zacha were quiet to start the game, but they made their mark as the game went on. Of course, Henrique and Palmieri scored While John Moore created a goal against, even he and Kyle Quincey stepped up to not be run over all night long. So while Jon Merrill is activated, I don’t think he should come into the lineup for now.

The only line that really struggled on Tuesday was Jacob Josefson, Reid Boucher, and Devante Smith-Pelly. They were mostly anonymous on the night. I’d like to see them take a little more initiative. With Anaheim’s depth, I would not be surprised if they’re going to be forced into a difficult matchup. If they want to follow another unit as a blueprint, then I’d suggest the fourth line. Sergey Kalinin, Vernon Fiddler, and Nick Lappin have played well together, but nothing that they’ve done is nothing that Boucher (think Lappin), Smith-Pelly (think Kalinin), and Josefson (think Fiddler) can’t do. If they can play more like them, then they can be more useful – which the Devils could use tonight given the potential match-up issues.

It’s possible that line changes for tonight. As Andrew Gross reported at Fire & Ice yesterday, the Devils did call up Blake Pietila from Albany yesterday in response to news on Hall, who is now on injured reserve. Pietila leaves the A-Devils as their leading scorer with six goals, five assists, and 31 shots in twelve games. He had such a notable run of games last week that Brian named him the A-Devil of the Week in this past Tuesday’s prospect post. He was a good candidate as any to be called up. Pietila has tasted the NHL last season in a bottom six role. As he’ll join the Devils in Anaheim, I could see him take Boucher’s spot in the roster (either on that line, or on a fourth line with Lappin moving up) if only for the coaches to see what he can do. We’ll see if that happens. If not, then Boucher should really try to make the most out of his minutes tonight.

Programming Note: As this will be a very late start for the local television here in New Jersey, I’ll be writing up a shortened recap early in the morning on Friday.

One Last Thought: The Devils power play has been ice cold with zero goals in their last 21 situations. I would not hold my breath for that breaking tonight. The Ducks’ penalty kill has been one of the more successful ones in the league. Their overall success rate is a top-ten rate at 85.5%. They have allowed only 3 goals out of 22 shorthanded situations at home. I doubt Anaheim will hand the Devils seven power plays as they did back in October. Therefore, I don’t have a lot of hopes for the power play breaking their streak tonight. Maybe on Saturday.

Your Take: The Devils have won five in a row and started this road trip on the right foot. If they can get anything out of this game, then that’s additional progress. What do you think of this game coming up? Do you think the Devils can match up well against the Ducks without Hall and Cammalleri? Who on or what about the Ducks worries you the most? Will you stay up for this one? Please leave your answers and other comments about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.