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Game Preview #6: New Jersey Devils vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

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Coming off a win against the rival New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils look to end the winning streak of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Prudential Center.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres
Pavel Zacha is one player who will seek to bounce back from recent troubles.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (4-1-0) versus the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-0). SBN Blog: Raw Charge

The Time: 7:30 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV: NBC Sports

Hynes’ Doghouse: Pavel Zacha, Marcus Johansson, and Jimmy Hayes all found themselves out of the game by about midway through the second period in the game against the New York Rangers. While coach John Hynes gave a bold in-game punishment for their poor play, he commended them on their response to the action he took. Chris Ryan at NJ.com reported:

"It's never easy to get sat. I thought the way they handled it as players on the bench on Saturday was fantastic," Hynes said. "They're team guys. There was no sulking, there was no bad body language. They were there. I thought today they came in, they all had positive energy, they all knew we were going to have a one-on-one meeting today and we were going to discuss it."

It’s good to know that there isn’t any apparent hostility in response to the enforcement of expectations from the coach in this instance, especially in the case of someone as young as Pavel Zacha. But, that isn’t to say there will be no long-term effect of the inconsistencies of play and how Hynes is responding to them.

Shifting the Lines: Amanda Stein reported from the Devils practice yesterday that these were the lines John Hynes put together:

The Devils forwards have seen the more notable movements on the team. Pavel Zacha has moved to third line center, bumping Nico Hischier and Adam Henrique to first and second line center, respectively. Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford have been flipped on the top two lines. Jimmy Hayes and Stefan Noesen are now sharing third line right wing duties in practice - this being the first time Noesen has been slotted in the third line since the season began, aside from when both Palmieri and Stafford were out with injuries.

There are things I like about these lines. Specifically, I like Hischier playing with Taylor Hall, and Zacha playing with Jesper Bratt. I remain somewhat skeptical about the decision to move Zacha all the way down to third line, despite his recent poor play. I’m also not too sure about how well he’s a fit with Jimmy Hayes, but he did have some success with Stefan Noesen on his line last year. I suppose with the top nine’s wealth of skill, it’s harder to get all the young players the experience you would like them too.

I think it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to try Miles Wood on the third line. With Bratt and Zacha’s skill with the puck, I like the idea of his speed and body creating chaos in front of the net. That may be a bit of defensive liability, but if Hynes were to give them favorable zone starts, that problem could be avoided to some extent. If Bratt and Zacha can control play in the offensive zone, it could yield good opportunities with Wood cutting to the net for deflections. I see Hayes as more of an immovable object, which I’m not sure compliments Bratt and Zacha.

The Other Side: Tampa Bay has been very solid on offense so far this season. In six games, the team has scored 23 goals - nearly four per game. However, the games haven't been blowouts. Only one of their games has been with more than a one-goal margin (5-3 win versus Florida on opening night), indicating that the team has been winning the bulk of close games. They've been outshot on the year 210 to 182, but the full return of Steven Stamkos is proving fruitful for the offense, as well as the further development of players lile Brayden Point.

Their most recent game was a 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. This was the recap at Raw Charge. Despite being pinned back in much of the even strength, their offensive firepower got them the win. Quelling that firepower will be the key to Devils victory, and like the Washington Capitals game, the Devils must be sure not to take any unnecessary penalties.

Your Take: What Devil will you have your eyes on most? Do you think this game is as big a test as the Capitals game? How do you think Tampa Bay will fare in the longer run of the season? Leave your thoughts below.