Welcome to the preseason, where there’s not just one, but two Devils games tonight.
The Matchups: The New Jersey Devils vs. the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils at the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a split-squad night for New Jersey.
The Times: 7:00 PM EST for the Philly game; 7:30 PM EST for the Montreal game.
The Broadcasts: None for the Flyers game; RDS will air the Montreal game.
The Split-Squad: A split-squad game means that those in training camp will be split into two groups and head off to play at about the same time. Twenty will play against Philly; another twenty will head up to Montreal. There will be a good number of players not participating for one reason or another.
Who’s Not Playing (Ahead of the Roster Release): The United States flopped at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Fortunately for the Devils, that freed up Kyle Palmieri, Cory Schneider, and John Hynes. Back on Thursday, Andrew Gross reported at Fire & Ice that general manager Ray Shero has stated that both Palmieri and Schneider will not play in either game tonight. Shero wanted those two and Hynes to get some rest. Since they were at the World Cup, I don’t think either player will need as much time in New Jersey’s training camp to get up to speed anyway. However, Hynes didn’t take Shero’s advice. Gross reported Hynes was back at practice on Saturday, running drills and the scrimmages.
Reid Boucher won’t play in either game as well. He was held out of Saturday’s scrimmages due to a hip flexor injury, as mentioned in this post at Fire & Ice by Gross. He’s listed as day-to-day. Given that there will be six more preseason games after this one, missing the split-squad date shouldn’t be a big deal. He’s going to make the New Jersey roster regardless.
So Who is Playing?: On Sunday, the Albany Devils’ site released the rosters for both games. Also on Sunday, Andrew Gross tweeted that John Hynes said that lines and pairings from scrimmages will be kept intact. What were those? Based on Gross’ report from Sunday’s scrimmages, here’s my guesses at each lineups. Not all lines and pairings were kept intact from scrimmages by the released roster. Therefore, these are guesses and I stand to be proven wrong.
Devils vs. Philadelphia
Forwards: Cammalleri-Zajac-Bennett; Gibbons-Zacha-Lappin; Wood-Josefson-Camper; Gazdic-Coleman-Kalinin
Defense: Greene-Severson; Gormley-Lovejoy; Stollery-Scarlett; White
Goaltenders (Each will likely see some action): Kinkaid, Lindback
My Thoughts: Gross reported on Sunday that John Hynes in the press box in New Jersey, so I think this group may have a little more incentive to put on a good performance. I also think this group is a little stronger than the other. While Hall is going to Montreal, I count five sure-fire NHL forwards with a possible scoring line we could see on opening night, a real hopeful in Pavel Zacha, and half of the NHL defense with their hopeful top pairing. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the forwards rotate a bit to provide some looks either for New Jersey or Albany. Also, someone on that defense is getting scratched as seven are staying in Newark. I suspect it’ll be Colton White if only to see how a Karl Stollery-Reece Scarlett pairing may look for Albany.
Devils at Montreal
Forwards: Hall-Henrique-Smith-Pelly; Quenneville-Blandisi-Pietila; Speers-McLeod-Bastian; Sexton-Fiddler-Thomson
Defensemen: Auvitu-Merrill; Moore-Mozik; Santini-Jacobs; MacWilliam
Goalies: Wedgewood, Blackwood
My Thoughts: I had to guess more for this one as several t’s a shame this game may not be easily viewable outside of the Montreal area because Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Devante Smith-Pelly is a line that I think Devils fans want to see in a competitive game. It may not last when Kyle Palmieri becomes active for preseason; but it’d be a fun one to see all the same. Beyond them, it’s a hodge-podge of hopefuls, prospects, and AHLers. Defensively, we’ll see three potential hopefuls for the New Jersey blueline get minutes. I suspect they’ll rotate for different matchups. Andrew MacWilliam has been an extra in scrimmages so I suspect he’ll be an extra tonight.
Brandon Gignac is one of two omissions in my opinon. He did rather well in the recent prospect challenge against Buffalo and Boston. He’s been performing in scrimmages. I know the likelihood of making the roster lies somewhere between 0% and 1%, but it would have been nice for him to receive minutes in at least one game. I’m also surprised Seth Helgeson isn’t on either roster as he’s been paired up with Mozik so far in training camp. I guess he’s more on the outside than originally thought? Hopefully, those and others not participating in either game tonight get some minutes in the near future. The others not going: Jan Mandat, Kevin Rooney, Max Novak, Rod Pelley, Ryan Kujawinski, Colby Sissons (PTO), Ken Appleby, and Evan Cormier.
What of the Opposition?: Truthfully, there’s no real reason to evaluate and break down the opponent. This is preseason. These games don’t count. Their purpose is to try players together, perform the main tactics the coaches want to run, and get players ready for the season. Winning is nice, but it’s just that: nice. That said, let’s touch on the opponents.
The Flyers will have a split-squad game on Monday as well. They’ll have one team in Newark and another in Brooklyn to take on the Islanders. The Flyers’ website released their rosters for each game. Neither roster is loaded with NHL talent. I think Scott Laughton and Brandon Manning are the "biggest" names on Philly’s planned roster for tonight’s game. However, I would advise Devils fans going to the game to keep an eye on #63 Travis Konecny and #64 Ivan Provorov. Konecny is a center who was just a production monster when Sarnia acquired him last season. So much so that he may have a shot at making Philadelphia’s roster. We’ll see. Defenseman Ivan Provorov had a similarly strong season with the Brandon Wheat Kings and could seriously impress in preseason with his skills. If they don’t make the Flyers this season, then it may not be long before they do. They are among Philadelphia’s top prospects for a reason. The Rock may get to learn why tonight.
As for Montreal, they do not have a split-squad game tonight. The end of this report by Pat Hickey at the Montreal Gazette reports that several players won’t be available due to the World Cup. Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty are back with team but won’t hit the ice until Tuesday. Defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin are expected to return by the middle of the week. Carey Price and Shea Weber will be a part of the Canada team fighting Team Europe to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. It is not clear who will actually suit up for Montreal. Based on their inter-squad scrimmage on Sunday - as covered here by Jared Book of Habs Eyes on the Prize - there are some ideas of what the roster may look like. A mix of regulars, hopefuls, and minor leaguers with an occasional prospect. We’ll see. Or not, given the lack of coverage for NJ.
One Additional Hope: No injuries. This is pretty much the mantra for any team in preseason. Players need to go out there and play to get prepared and remove as much "rink rust" as they could. Getting hurt is a downer, more so just weeks before the real games begin. I just hope for no injuries for all involved.
Lastly: Don’t forget to visit Habs Eyes on the Prize for the Montreal game (they’ll likely have any more details then I can put together) and Broad Street Hockey for Philly’s side of this one. I'll be at the Devils-Flyers game in my usual seat (Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5) and Shane will try to summarize Devils-Canadiens as best as he can. We’ll do our best here; it’s preseason for us too. Thank you for reading and good luck getting warmed up, Devils!