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Game Preview #51: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings

NHL hockey resumes and the New Jersey Devils resume their regular season with a visit to the Detroit Red Wings. Both teams could be doing better than they are; this preview sorts out what one would want to know about this game.

Detroit Red Wings v New Jersey Devils
Yeah, perhaps this would be the facial expression many would have for this matchup given where both teams are in the standings.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This game may decide once and for the moment: who will be last in the East. Or not. Whatever.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings (SBN Blog: Winging it in Motown)

The Time: 7:30 PM ET

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

The Last Devils Game: Last Thursday, the Devils hosted Washington. The Devils tried to make more of a game against the Caps than their New Year’s Eve contest. I wouldn’t say they accomplished that. Early on, Kyle Quincey coughed up the puck to Alex Ovechkin, which led to a goal. Later, during a penalty kill, Jon Merrill would attempt a pass to Adam Henrique in front of Keith Kinkaid. The pass didn’t work, Andre Burakovsky swooped in and scored a PPG. The Devils would make it 1-2 when Stefan Noesen finished a feed from Pavel Zacha. After then, it looked like the Devils could compete. Then they did not. Lars Eller was all alone in front of Kinkaid to slam in a rebound to make it 1-3. Then the Devils were on another penalty kill, Steve Santini was torched by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who proceeded to score to make it 1-4. Yeah, it got out of hand. The Devils did pull within two late in the second period, when Henrique tipped in a shot by Michael Cammalleri to convert a power play. But the third period yielded only an ENG for Washington. The Devils lost 2-5 to head into the All-Star weekend winless in their last six home games. My recap of the events are here.

The Last Red Wings Game: Detroit hosted Toronto last Wednesday. They entered the game winless in their last three. The Maple Leafs dropped four goals on the Red Wings, who put up nothing. It was indeed a stinker. Let JoshMVP at Winging it in Motown give you the details on the team’s fourth winless game.

The Last Devils-Red Wings Game: Way back on Black Friday, the Devils hosted Detroit. If you liked goals, then you got to see a lot of them. John Moore struck first on one of the team’s first shots of the game. A little later, during a Devils power play, Frans Nielsen slammed in a rebound for a shorthanded goal to tie up the game. A few minutes later, Nielsen gets a shot on net and puts in his own rebound to put Detroit ahead, 1-2. In the second period, the Devils struck back with goals from Michael Cammalleri and Pavel Zacha on a power play to make it 3-2. The Devils were struggling at the end of the period and Detroit made them pay. Dylan Larkin scored a goal Cory Schneider should’ve stopped on a play the Devils skaters should’ve done something about with less than two seconds left in the period. Anthony Mantha scored within the first minute of the third period to make it 3-4. The Devils would get an equalizer from Henrique deflecting in a shot by Quincey. The score stood for overtime. There, Mantha and Nielsen both set up Mike Green for the game-winning shot. The Devils lost 4-5 in overtime. My recap of the loss is here. For the other side, here’s JoshMVP with the recap at Winging it in Motown.

The Goal: Don’t get stupid. The Red Wings have struggled in this season and are tied with New Jersey for last in points (Devils are below them by tiebreakers) in the East. Their power play remains awful, with a success rate of 11.1%, or 18 for 162, which rates as the worst in the NHL. They have had key players out injured. While not as bad as the Devils, the Red Wings have been out-shot (Corsica has their SF% at 48.9%) and out-attempted (Corsica has their CF% at 48.3%) regularly in 5-on-5 play. The Red Wings entered the All-Star weekend winless in their last four games. If the Devils don’t give them opportunities or turned over pucks or free rebound chances or any other defensive error from their last game, then they could hang with the Red Wings tonight.

The Returns: For New Jersey, Andrew Gross reported at Fire & Ice yesterday that Steve Santini, Karl Stollery, and Seth Helgeson were recalled from Albany. They were sent down to get some extra action during the break in the season. Now they’re back. I’m not sure why Helgeson had to return as opposed to, say Yohann Auvitu. I would expect Stollery and Santini to be paired together unless there’s another return to the blueline. There could be: Gross reported that Andy Greene practiced with the team. It’s not a guarantee he’ll play tonight, but he should be close to playing soon.

For Detroit, Ansar Khan reported near the end of this post at that Dylan Larkin is cleared to play. I think that’s a big deal. The fast winger has been Detroit’s leading shooter (112 shots) and he’s tied with Thomas Vanek for the team lead in goals. Larkin stunned the Devils in their last meeting, that’s someone who will be one to watch for even if he’s eighth on the team in points. Goaltender Jimmy Howard did practice the team, but Khan reported that he’s going to have a conditioning stint with Grand Rapids before playing for Detroit. That would be a big deal.

The Expected Goalies: Cory Schneider has been the team’s starter and can cap off what has been a fantastic January performance tonight. For the other side, Khan noted that Jared Coreau maybe the starter at the end of this post at Who is Coreau? He’s Detroit’s third-stringer. Since Howard has been out, Coreau has made eleven appearances - all starts. According to, he’s been excellent on the penalty kill with a 91.5% save percentage. However, he has been far less than excellent at even strength with a 90.6% save percentage. Corsica has his GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average) at -0.99, which means he’s just below average. That’s the same even strength save percentage for #1 goalie, Petr Mrazek. Howard has been much better at evens but since he’s been unable to play, it’s fair to say that goaltending has been an issue to a degree for Detroit in this season. As for tonight, if the Devils can get through the defense and challenge Coreau, then there should be opportunities to score.

The Danger Men: For the Devils, the forward to watch for is Taylor Hall. He’s been the team’s All-Star representative and it shows seeing that he’s been a dynamite player on the puck. He’ll likely skate with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac in the hopes of that line functioning. Detroit should be careful if Miles Wood is actually given space to skate ahead into as he’s rather fast. If only the coaches utilized him better. Defensively, well, there’s not really a danger for Detroit.

For the Red Wings, Henrik Zetterberg and Thomas Vanek are #1 and #2 on the team in points. The veterans have remained productive both on the shot count and on the box score. Frans Nielsen may cause more of a headache as he tends to play in all situations and does very well at them - just like he did for the Isles. He certainly did on November 25, 2016; I think he can do it again. There’s no shortage of talent; Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Anthony Mantha have skills - they just have not been exceptionally productive for one reason or another. In terms of an X-factor, there’s Andreas Athanasiou, who averages over twelve minutes per game and has eleven goals. That’s second only to Vanek and Larkin for the team lead and tied with Tatar and Mantha, who each play more minutes. And Athanasiou has scored some real beauties. Defensively, well, there’s not much of a danger other than Mike Green. He’s arguably Detroit’s top defender in SA/60 (lowest among regulars per Corsica), he leads their blueline in scoring and in shots by a large margin.

Two Rebuilding Teams: It’s been known that New Jersey is rebuilding. I would hope so seeing as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2012. Detroit has been able to put up a very long streak of playoff appearances. But that is in danger of being broken in this season. J.J. from Kansas at Winging it in Motown has noted that general manager Ken Holland may be tipping his hand that a rebuild is coming. J.J. and others at Winging it in Motown feel it is inevitable. Know this, Red Wings fans, it’s not always an easy thing to watch - even if you expect it.

One Last Thought: There will be a recap tonight, a Month in Review on Wednesday (spoiler: this month wasn’t as bad as last month’s...mostly), and the rest of the staff will take over most of February. Don’t worry, nothing bad is happening. I just need to focus less on hockey for the next few weeks. I will return in time.

Your Take: NHL hockey is returning tonight. The Devils and Red Wings will faceoff in a game for the bottom of the East. What do you think of this matchup? Do you think the Red Wings will pose a big challenge because of what happened in the last Detroit-Devils game? Or will their recent slide make it a little easier for the Devils? What are you hoping for out of this game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.