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Game Preview #44: Devils at Flames

New Jersey heads to Calgary for the second of three games in Canada. Here’s the preview.

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils face Calgary for the first time this season.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On the night of Friday the 13th, the Devils head to Canada to contend against Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames.

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (16-18-9) at Calgary Flames (23-19-2; SBNation - Matchsticks and Gasoline)

The Time: 9:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2; Digital Audio; The One Jersey Network

The Last Devils Game: The Devils and Taylor Hall faced the Oilers last night. The first period in the game was dead until two minutes left, with the Devils appearing like they wouldn’t score at all. However, Kyle Palmieri went hard to the net with two minutes left, and he ended up setting up a perfect pass to Travis Zajac to make it 1-0 for the Devils. The end of the period was scrappy, which culminated in Kyle Palmieri getting into the saddest fight of the year for a Devils player. To open the second, Andrej Sekera scored 16 seconds in, for a 1-1 tie. However, with less than a minute left, Steven Santini deflected a Taylor Hall shot for his first career NHL goal. In the third period, the game was rather stagnant until 7:20 left in the game, when Patrick Maroon found the loose puck and easily deposited it past Schneider to tie the game. In the overtime, Leon Draisaitl scored on a feed from McDavid, which resulted due to a bad change on the Devils part. The recap is here.

The Last Flames Game: The Flames beat the Sharks 3-2 on Wednesday. The recap is here. The Sharks opened the scoring in the 1st off a Michael Frolik penalty. Logan Couture deflected a Brent Burns shot from the point. The Flames responded later in the period, with Michael Frolik scoring to redeem himself from the prior penalty. However, Brent Burns scored near the end of the 1st to make it 2-1, and the Flames found themselves behind at the end of the first. In the second, Matthew Tkachuk would score off a deflection to tie the game. With two minutes left to go, Dougie Hamilton score on a shot from the point, and the game would end 3-2.

The Goal: Play the young guys more, please. I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue saying this; Pavel Zacha needs to play. Perhaps he isn’t ready for the NHL, but he definitely shouldn’t be sitting in the press box. On the year, he is struggling, yes — but why does that warrant for players such as Sergei Kalinin to be playing instead of him?

I also personally believe the Devils need to find a way to gradually change the way they play. The Devils love utilizing the dump-and-chase, and teams realize this. In the past month or two, it has been rendered ineffective, yet the Devils refuse to maneuver away from this method. They even do this on the power play, and rarely- if ever - actually carry the puck through the zone.

Gaudreau and Co.: Just like the Oilers, the Flames are a team that focuses on youthful players with dynamic scoring abilities. The best of the bunch is probably Johnny Gaudreau. The New-Jersey born forward is struggling compared to his Johnny-Gaudreau-like standards, but is still better than any forward on the Devils (except maybe Taylor Hall) and the Flames lone all-star. He has 27 points in 34 games, and can change an outcome of a game on his own.

Matthew Tkachuk is another forward who many pundits thought the Flames rushed into the NHL, only for the critics to be proven wrong. He’s on pace to have 53 points on the year, and plays with the energy and grittiness that was previously seen through his father, Keith Tkachuk. Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik play good complimentary roles for this Flames team, and although Sean Monahan is having a bad year, no one doubts his abilities.

Doug and Mark: Most NHL teams would be happy with a defenseman who could score 10+ goals. The Flames happen to be a team who have two players with that potential, in the form of Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano. Dougie Hamilton has been a solid offensive defenseman his entire career, but this year he’s exceeding even his own expectations. Counted on to provide 40 points a year, this could be the year he gets over 50. He has 12 points in his last 14 games, and at the age of 23, could only continue to get better. Mark Giordano hasn’t been playing as well as he did the past three years, but is still a very solid defenseman. Plagued by his lowest shooting percentage since 2010, he’s projected to reach 10 goals and 38 points — still solid numbers for a defenseman. Aside from these two, T.J Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland and Jyrki Jokipakka round out the rest of the defensemen. It’s a decent-enough defensive core, as their 17th ranked goals-allowed per game suggests.

Goalies?: Schneider had another good game, but the Devils let him down. The second and third goals from the Oilers game were both Jon Merrill’s fault, and Schneider can only really be faulted for the Andrej Sekera goal. As of writing this, I have no idea who will start this game for the Devils, but I think Schneider or Kinkaid make solid options.

On the Flames side, it is possible that Brian Elliott will get a start, given the Devils offensive deficiencies. The Flames gave up a second and third round pick to get him, but he’s been outplayed by free-agent acquisition Chad Johnson. Apart from a disastrous 2014-2015, Chad Johnson has been a pretty good goalie. Brian Elliott’s numbers are unexpectedly bad this year, but it is unlikely the Flames will give up on him given the high price they paid for his services.

Your Take: What do you guys think will happen in this game? Do you even want the Devils to win at this point? Do you guys think Zacha should play this game? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.