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Game Preview #20: New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

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The New Jersey Devils will host the Detroit Red Wings on Black Friday for their final home game this month. This game preview looks at the state of both teams and asks, Is Detroit good?

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at New Jersey Devils
Adam Henrique can skate against Nikals Kronwall again - tonight at the Rock.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Black Friday? Tonight, it’s the team wearing red taking on the a team with “red” in its name.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-6-3) vs. the Detroit Red Wings (9-10-1, SBN Blog: Winging it in Motown)

The Time: 7:30 PM

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

The Last Devils Game: The Devils hosted Toronto prior to Thanksgiving. The two teams had a game that had so much happen that I can’t really sum it up in a paragraph and do it justice. Michael Cammalleri was fantastic. The Devils won 5-4 through a shootout after being down 0-3 after the first period. My recap of the win is here.

The Last Red Wings Game: The Red Wings played Buffalo on Wednesday night too. This one had a lot less going on given. Gustav Nyquist opened the game’s with four minutes left in the second period. Brian Gionta answered that goal early in the third period. The Sabres brought it to Detroit by out-shooting them 12-4 in the third, but Jimmy Howard held it down. Overtime was needed but it solved nothing. In a shootout, Nyquist and Thomas Vanek scored. Only Sam Reinhart scored for Buffalo. The 2-1 shootout final yielded a 2-1 final score, a win for Detroit. Over at Winging it in Motown, irees has this recap of the win.

The Goal: Don’t get lost in your own end. The Devils were in a deep hole early in Wednesday’s game because they lost the puck, they lost their men, and they lost their gameplan when it came to defense. This cost them three goals in the first period. It could have cost them more if it wasn’t for some good breaks, Cory Schneider, and the post (twice). It nearly led to a heartbreaking end to Wednesday’s game when John Moore lost his sense and sent a pass right to Jake Gardiner from his own end. The Devils ended up winning Wednesday’s game thanks to a sensational night from Cammalleri and Toronto living up to their credo of “Giving up as much as we take.” Detroit is not Toronto. They’ll need to be sharper in their own end tonight.

It’s Black Friday, Can the Devils Buy a New Power Play?: I’d like to see changes to the power play. Sure, they broke an 0-for-29 on Wednesday. They also showed that they can spend more time doing full, 360-degree turns in their own end because the Devils don’t want to or can’t get the puck away from a forecheck - despite having an extra man on the ice. They also showed they think throwing the puck away and retrieving it is a positive play - despite having an extra man on the ice. They also showed occasional lack of awareness of where the other team’s penalty killers are. The result of a goal was good; the process is still horrid. With no practice on Thursday - of course, it’s Thanksgiving - and only a morning skate this morning, I doubt I’ll get any changes.

Roll On, Michael & Travis: Michael Cammalleri was ferocious against Toronto: one goal, three assists, and nine shots on net. He played very well with Travis Zajac, who had himself a great night too with a goal, two assists, and four shots on net. They did well whether they had P.A. Parenteau or Nick Lappin as the third forward. Even if Kyle Palmieri is good to go for tonight, I would expect these two to stick together for a bit. I’d like to see where it goes.

Is Detroit Good?: By their record, not really. 9-10-1 puts them near the bottom of the East. On the other hand, it’s early enough in the season where that can be made up. By their goal differential, not really. They’ve scored 45 goals and allowed 52. Thanks to having played two more games than the Devils, the Red Wings have a lower goals per game average than even New Jersey. In their favor, they have a decent shooting percentage in 5-on-5 play (7.78%) and a very solid 5-on-5 save percentage (93.36%) per Corsica.

What about shots? It’s ugly. According to the per-game averages at NHL.com, Detroit is often on the wrong end of them with the league’s lowest shots for per game average (27.6) and one of the highest shots against per game average (31.6). Their 5-on-5 stats at Corsica show that they have the second worst SF% in the NHL at 46.04; the second lowest SF/60 in the NHL at 27.50; and the fourth highest SA/60 at 32.23. Again, that’s bad. As for Corsi since, hey, it’s called Corsica for a reason, the Red Wings are last in the NHL with a CF% of 45.4 - driven by the lowest CF/60 in the league and a higher-than-league-median CA/60. As with shots, this is a Red Wings squad that has conceded plenty of opportunities for their opponents while not taking much themselves. That’s not good for anyone.

Have special teams been a bright spot? For the most part, no. Let’s go back to NHL.com for the evidence. Their power play has had a 15.5% success rate with a mere 7.1% success rate on the road. Their penalty kill success rate overall is in the bottom-third of the NHL at 79.7% and their road PK is just a bit worse at 77.8%. So it’s not that making up for their poor 5-on-5 numbers. I don’t know if you’d call it a special team, but the shootout has been good for Detroit. With Wednesday’s win in Buffalo, the Red Wings are 3-0. They have that going for them.

So are the Red Wings good? Unless I missed something, it doesn’t look that way to me. And with the state of their salary cap at CapFriendly, I don’t think they can do a whole lot to make improvements. Their record is not so bad that they’re out of it and disrespecting any opponent is a good way to earn a loss. But I don’t think Detroit is a good team in 2016-17.

Detroit’s Best: That all said, the Red Wings have numerous players that can make this night go bad for the Devils. Let’s run through them by position.

The Red Wings have several forwards on the injured list. I use CBS Sports’ injury list and as of Thursday morning, the following Red Wing forwards have been out: Andreas Athanasiou, Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco, Vili Saarijarvi, Joe Vitale, and Johan Franzen. While the quality of those forwards varies, having six on the shelf does take a toll. Helm and Athanasiou are surely missed if only because they each have four goals, second only to Detroit’s leading goal scorer

Fortunately for the Red Wings, their best forwards have very much been active. Gustav Nyquist, the lone scorer in regulation from Wednesday’s game in Buffalo, leads the team with four goals and nine assists. Dylan Larkin has not been as point-productive (five goals, one assist), but the very fast forward leads the team with 60 shots on net. Per Corsica, he’s the only Red Wings forward with a CF% higher than 50% (it’s 50.52%, Nyquist is second at 48.16%). The team’s leading goal scorer can be a real nuisance tonight. I think he’s the most dangerous Red Wing up front. While Pavel Datsyuk has moved on, Henrik Zetterberg remains a threat as he gets older. Zetterberg is second to Nyquist in points with three goals and nine assists to go with 39 shots of his own. Giving him space will be an error. Thomas Vanek has only played nine games with Detroit but he has four goals and five assists in those games, including a goal and two assists in his last three appearances. Their big-money acquisition of Frans Nielsen has not exactly been great, but with three goals, five assists (all on the power play), and 37 shots means he can’t be left unchecked. And players like Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader can chip in, although they have not done a whole lot this season. Of course, only Larkin has not been out-attempted when he’s been on the ice this season. The Devils should be able to give back as much as they have to take from them in the run of play.

On defense, Mike Green is the main man. He leads the Red Wings in average ice time per NHL.com. Also per NHL.com, he leads the blueline in points with three goals and eight assists and in shots with 35. According to Corsica, he’s their only regular defenseman with a SA/60 below 30. Green is their best defenseman this season. As for the rest, well, Alexey Marchenko being injured does not help. But Niklas Kronwall has been picked on in the run of play; Danny DeKeyser does not appear to be that effective; and while Brendan Smith has provided some offense (25 shots on goal, two goals, two assists), his shots against rate is almost as high as Kronwall’s. There is an X-factor among this group: Ryan Sproul. Per Left Wing Lock’s lines and pairings from Wednesday’s game, you’ll likely see him next to Jonathan Ericsson. In nine games, he has a goal, four assists, and 20 shots on net. That’s quite a bit of business for someone averaging less than 17 minutes per game.

In net, the Red Wings have paid Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek real well. Combined, the Red Wings look good in net. When you look at the saves by strength for each at NHL.com, well, you can see that Howard has been better than Mrazek. Where Mrazek has posted an OK 91.9% at evens, Howard has an astounding 95% save percentage. where Mrazek has been leaky on the PK with a 80.5% save percentage, Howard has a superior 90.5% save percentage. Of course, Howard and Mrazek have played the exact number of games, started the same number, and have similar records. Detroit really should be using Howard more. But let’s hope the Devils get Mrazek anyway.

Coats!: Bring new or gently used coats to the Devils game tonight. Tonight is the Devils Coat Drive. If you bring two, you’ll get vouchers for free tickets for future games. So bring some coats.

One Last Thought: Enjoy this home game. I know I will. The Devils will embark on another four game road trip starting Saturday. At least they won’t be going to California.

Your Take: The Devils will host the Red Wings on Black Friday. What do you think of this matchup? Do you think Detroit is good? Who on the Red Wings concerns you the most? Who on the Devils do you want to see have a great game tonight. Will you be there? I will be in Section 1. Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight’s game in the comments. Thank you for reading.