The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (25-31-12) vs. the Winnipeg Jets (30-33-6 SBN - Article Ice Hockey)
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV – MSG+; Digital Audio – The One Jersey Network
The Last Devils Game: The Devils lost to the 2nd-worst NHL team, the Coyotes, 5-4 two nights ago. As John said in his recap, the first 25 minutes of the game were disgusting. They were down 4-0, and the game seemed lost. However, thankfully enough, the Devils responded by scoring four goals to make it close. However, as you can tell by the scoreline, the Coyotes won. In regulation. Yes, this should be good for a Devils fan, but it still hurts to lose to the second-worst team in the NHL. Schneider struggled, and could be put at fault for this Devils loss. Kinkaid came in, and did alright. The Devils goals, in order, were scored by Palmieri, Bennett, Palmieri again, and lastly Moore. It hurts pretty bad to write about this.
The Last Jets Game: As of this writing, the Predators and Jets haven’t played yet. However, for the purpose of time, I’ll write about how the Jets were shutout 3-0 by the Flames on Saturday. Brian Elliott made 31 saves to help the Flames get their 9th win in a row. Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Patrick Laine each led the Jets forwards with three shots on goal. Byfuglien and Trouba got four shots each. Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves on 29 shots, dropping his save percentage to .908.
The Last Devils-Jets Game: Way back on the 29th of November, the Jets beat the Devils 3-2. Scheifele started off the scoring, with sustained Jets pressure leading to a shot from Ehlers. The shot was blocked, but Byfuglien made a nice pass to a wide-open Scheifele, who easily deposited the puck for the 1-0 lead. Wheeler then scored off a similar looking goal, with Wheeler being in the exact same location as Scheifele was when he scored his first to make it 2-0. Miles Wood responded for the Devils with his first of his NHL career, off a sharp angle shot. However, Laine scored off a snipe, to make it 3-1 Jets. Nick Lappin scored off a Damon Severson rebound, but that was all that could be sung, as the Jets held on to win 3-2.
So..... As a Devils fan, I’m very conflicted. Yes, I do know that a loss to the Jets is a good thing in the long run. But 11 losses in a row? Against another bad team? I don’t know what I want. Honestly, the Coyotes game is probably the best-case scenario. A high-scoring game, with plenty of entertainment value, but still a Devils loss. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t complain with a Devils victory.
Devils Injuries: According to NJ.com, Michael Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly all missed practice with injuries. All were expected. Travis Zajac is back, and congrats on his third child, Anya Zia. So, the half-New Jersey half-Albany Devils squad will gain a top six forward back for the game against the Jets.
Devils Rumors: The Devils are apparently interested in signing college free-agent Gavin Bayreuther, as reported by NJ.com. The cousin of Ben Lovejoy, he is a 6’1 defenseman who recently scored 29 points in 30 goals for St. Lawrence. He also attended the Devils development camp. He is a pure offensive defenseman, which the Devils lack aside from John Moore. Personally, I see no harm in signing him, considering the sad state of the Devils defense currently. Only 22, I see him as a better signing than, say, Kevin Rooney was.
The Goal: Don’t completely suck. During this 10 game losing streak, the Devils haven’t been completely terrible, but have been fairly mediocre. Crisp passes and smart puck movement are essential for any victory, which helps explain why the Devils have struggled all year. As mentioned by John, having a CF% of 45.76 definitely doesn’t help. If the Devils can pass the puck well, and not get completely outmuscled by players like Blake Wheeler or Dustin Byfuglien, I see the Devils winning this game.
Who’s on the Jets?: With Hellebuyck expected to start, look for Michael Hutchinson to start this game for the Jets. Defensively, the Jets have two top defenseman in Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien, a young offensive defenseman in Josh Morrissey, a defensive stalwart in Mark Stuart, and two bottom pairing players in Paul Postma and Julian Melchiori. While Morrissey’s incredible WHL numbers haven’t translated to the pros yet, he’s still 21, so look for him to improve in the future.
Offensively, the Jets have four 20 goal scorers in Laine (32), Scheifele (28), Ehlers (22), and Wheeler (20). Bryan Little is close, with 18 goals. The Jets core players are very young, with players like Laine, Scheifele, Ehlers, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Nic Petan and Marko Dano all under 25. Interestingly enough, no forward on the Jets that played in their last game was over the age of 30. The Devils follow a somewhat similar montra in terms of playing youth as of now, but the Jets forwards are more established, while the Devils youngsters are fighting for spots next season and beyond.
Your Thoughts?: What do you think about this game? Who do you think will win? Do you think the Devils will lose 11 in a row after tonight? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.