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Game Preview #13: New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames

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After having a poor defensive game against the Edmonton Oilers, the New Jersey Devils face a Calgary Flames team that has been struggling to score.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames
Taylor Hall may need to continue carrying the team against the Flames.
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Hockey Fights Cancer night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (9-3-0) at Calgary Flames (7-6-0). SBN blog: Matchsticks and Gasoline

The Time: 9:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: MSG+

Line Changes: Following their loss to Edmonton I expected some changes to the forward lines, and it seems John Hynes has tried to correct some of his team’s issues. However, I don’t think the change is enough.

From the start of last game, Brian Boyle has dropped from third to fourth line, Brian Gibbons from second to third, and Miles Wood has jumped from fourth to second. I doubt that giving Miles Wood more playing time will improve the neutral and defensive zone structure of the team, but at least they’re trying something. However, I’m starting to get more bothered by Jimmy Hayes staying on the third line (with his 38.5 CF%) over Stefan Noesen, who played well with Pavel Zacha last season. Furthermore, I thought that Jesper Bratt might have been placed next to Nico Hischier after they found some chemistry against Edmonton - Bratt had a 12.50 CF% in 4:13 of ice time with Adam Henrique, and a 71.43 CF% in 8:28 with Nico Hischier. Plus, Bratt scored with the help of Hischier.

Keith Kinkaid will be starting against Calgary, but I could not find any information regarding who the Flames will be starting. So far, Mike Smith has been the starter 12 out of 13 times, and has a .936 save percentage and 2.19 goals against average. The Arizona Coyotes might be regretting trading him in the year they tried to improve during the offseason.

Calgary’s Last Game: Mike Smith had a great performance versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving his team a chance to win. He especially stood on his head in the first period, where the Penguins put up 19 shots on goal. However, the Flames started to play much better from late in the first period to the end of the game, and actually ended up with favorable possession numbers. You can read more at Matchsticks and Gasoline.

Where to Improve: The Calgary Flames have not been getting tons of shots on net this year. They have 412 through 13 games - that’s about 31.7 per game, and right below the league average of 413 shots through 13 games. They have given up 438 shots on goal - about 33.7 per game. The Devils, meanwhile, have given up an average of 35 shots per game. The lack of defensive cohesion and structure has led to the goalies having a tough time keeping the number of goals allowed at a more favorable number. Tonight, the Devils are facing a below average possession team - and Jaromir Jagr is still out with an injury - as the Calgary coach gave Tuesday as the target date for playing Jagr. Personally, I can very easily imagine him walking all over this year’s Devils, so they should probably fare considerably better not facing him than if they were to be in that situation.

Danger: There are three skaters to watch on the Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk. These players have very solid possession stats, and have combined for 13 goals and 23 assists through their 13 team games. Tkachuk also brings the additional havoc to the ice, and I’m not yet sure how John Hynes plans to counter that. He might dress seven defensemen, and play Dalton Prout in some sort of half-attempt to dissuade Tkachuk from being himself, or Miles Wood and Tkachuk or going to be very big pests towards their counterpart’s teams tonight. I think that’s something to keep an eye on. If the Devils can muffle the impact of the Flames’ top lines, they might have more success with the lower lines of Calgary.

Your Take: What do you think of this game? Do you think the Devils can improve upon their recent poor play? Who are your players to watch tonight? Should the Devils go 12/6 or 11/7? What do you make of Mike Smith’s red hot start to the year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.