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Game Preview #56: New Jersey Devils vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Devils are at the Rock again tonight to take on the league-worst Colorado Avalanche. If they hope to make any kind of push to the playoffs, this is probably one they need to have.

Colorado Avalanche v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Devils will try to bounce back tonight from a poor performance in their Sunday matinee coming out of the bye week.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (23-22-10) vs. the Colorado Avalanche (15-36-2; SBN Blog: Mile High Hockey)

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV – MSG; Radio - WFAN 660 AM and 101.9 FM

The Last Devils Game: In their first game back from the break, the Devils welcomed former coach Peter DeBoer and the San Jose Sharks to the Rock on Sunday afternoon and it did not go particularly well. The Devils weathered and onslaught from San Jose in the first period, partially thanks to four power plays given up, but were able to escape the period up 1-0 with a goal by P.A. Parenteau, despite being outshot 19-3. Things did not go well on the scoreboard the rest of the way, as the Sharks would score four unanswered the rest of the way, including three in the second. Brent Burns showed why he is the runaway favorite for the Norris with two beautiful goals in that second frame to take San Jose from 0-1 down to 2-1. The Devils had a few chances, but ultimately couldn’t muster much of an answer and fell in regulation 4-1.

The Last Avalanche Game: The Avalanche, now very much alone in last place in the league (13 points behind the 29th place Coyotes), played like a team that matches that description with a 5-1 drubbing on Sunday at the hands of the red hot New York Islanders. Similarly to the Devils, the Avs actually managed to open up the scoring in the first period with a goal by Joe Colborne. The Islanders would answer just a few minutes later to make it 1-1 and then win going away with 4 goals in 20 minutes of game time from the end of the second into the third, including 2 on the power play. The Avs left with their league-leading 36th regulation loss.

The Last Devils-Avalanche Game: This will be the Devils’ first tilt of the season against the Avalanche, so their last meeting was in the 2015-16 season, when the Devils took a 3-0 shutout loss out in Denver last January to a more mediocre (instead of terrible) Avalanche squad. Matt Duchene scored what would amount to the game winner just 51 seconds in as the Devils had no answers for Avs netminder Calvin Pickard on that night.

The Goal: Beat an inferior team. There aren’t a ton of teams floating around in the NHL right now that you can say that about with respect to the Devils, but the Avs are definitely one of them. If the Devils hope to “make Ray Shero’s job tough” heading toward the trade deadline, this is a game they have to have. For as not great as the Devils have been this season, they still have almost double the amount of standings points as the Avs. Fans of Colorado have basically been watching what we saw from the Devils in December, except over the entire season. If the Devils can’t take two points from the worst team in the league by a mile playing at home, there probably isn’t too much hope for a run to the playoffs down the stretch.

The Rumor Mill: Trade rumors are swirling in Colorado and with the team having last place pretty much buttoned up with two months to go, it’s not hard to imagine one of their bigger names going before the deadline. With that in mind, could this be one of the last nights in an Avs uniform for Gabriel Landeskog or (less likely, but still perpetually speculated on) Matt Duchene? With things falling apart spectacularly this season in Denver, it seems all options are on the table for the Avs, who have a long way to go to be competitive in the upcoming seasons.

Sellers Market: The Devils aren’t quite in the same boat as Colorado with a full teardown on the table, but they could be one of the few sellers out there over the next couple weeks, so one can probably expect a lot of scouts from other teams to be circling this matchup tonight. Again, if the Devils want to try to force Ray Shero’s hand over the next couple weeks, this is going to have to be where it starts.

Who to Watch: There aren’t a ton of bright spots to be found in Colorado’s season, but they do still have some talent that the Devils will need to look out for. Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avs in points and remains a major threat with his skill and speed. Duchene and Landeskog are both having relative down years but remain players the Devils will need to be cognizant of. Tyson Barrie is also a threat from the blue line, as ever. Jarome Iginla is, unfortunately for him, still on this team and appears to finally be really showing his age with just 7 goals in 53 games in what looks like the first non-lockout season in which he will fail to reach 20 goals since 1997-98.

On the Devils side, Jacob Josefson stayed red hot (in Jacob Josefson terms), picking up another assist last night to give him 5 points in his last 8 games. Taylor Hall also picked up an assist Sunday to extend his team scoring lead and will look to add to it against the Avs, against whom he has scored more goals than any other team in the league in his career. For those hoping for maximized trade value, Parenteau will be looking to build on his goal from Sunday, his first since January 6th. Pavel Zacha, who was playing his best hockey before the bye, was held off the scoresheet Sunday but will be one to watch to see if he can continue to build on that pre-break stretch.

Playoff Picture: I’ll humor everyone and give a quick update on where the Devils stand in relation to the playoffs. With 55 games played, they have 56 points, which puts them 5 points behind the Leafs, who hold the last spot in the East at 61 points. The Flyers also have 61, but in more games played and the Isles are just 1 back with 60. The Bruins have reeled off a few wins of late, so they have jumped up to third in the Atlantic for now, with 64 points. The Devils also trail Florida and Tampa Bay, who have 58 and 57 points, respectively. Plenty of work to do for New Jersey.

Your Thoughts: If you’re heading to the Rock tonight, enjoy the game. Alternatively, if you’re taking a night off from the Devils to spend Valentine’s Day with your significant other, no one would blame you. Either way, sound off below with any of your thoughts, feelings, or predictions about tonight’s game. Go Devils.