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Game Preview: New Jersey Devils at the Columbus Blue Jackets

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The Devils goaltenders attempt to stop Artemi Panarin tonight.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Another game.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (11-14-7) at the Columbus Blue Jackets (18-12-3). SBN Blog: Jackets Cannon.

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

Let’s Do a Bit Better: The New Jersey Devils, in their most recent pathetic outing, gave up seven goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. There isn’t much more that can be said about the team at the moment. The defense has been awful and the forwards are not scoring enough. Looking at @MattDondersNJDevils Game Bot, this is how the lines and pairings did last game.

I would take a guess that the Devils have to be a fair bit better than this tonight. And the first step, while not all-encompassing in its potential effect, should be to break up the pairing of Mirco Mueller and Ben Lovejoy. Given an astounding 12 and a half minutes where the team registered no high danger scoring chances, I ask what the harm would be in seeing how Egor Yakovlev and Steven Santini do as a pairing tonight. I say this as a Ben Lovejoy-on-the-third-pairing apologist - the pairing of that night should never happen, ever.

On the Blue Jackets side of Things: Artemi Panarin has been joined by Cam Atkinson in the point-per-game club. Atkinson has improved on his usual 50-60 point pace to scoring 19 goals and 15 assists through 32 games this season. Artemi Panarin, meanwhile, has nine goals and 25 assists through 31 games played this season. The Blue Jackets have been very good at scoring at even strength this year, scoring 88 goals thus far at even strength (the Devils have 74) while only scoring 16 on the power play for a power play percentage of 15.09%. The team is shooting somewhat above average at 10.0% while the goaltenders have struggled with an .899 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.07. Sergei Bobrovsky got his first shutout of the season on December 17 against the Vegas Golden Knights, and will likely be in net. He has a .905 save percentage and a 2.86 goals against average - slightly above Keith Kinkaid’s clip of .902 and 3.00.

The Blue Jackets tend not to outshoot the opposing team by much of a margin, and they're manageable in the run-of-play department. The key to tonight, I think, is running the Travis Zajac line out there against the top scoring line for the Blue Jackets and hoping that Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, and Kyle Palmieri can dominate the Blue Jackets middle six.

Your Thoughts: How do you feel about tonight's game? Do you think the Devils can win tonight? Will the defense play effectively in front of Keith Kinkaid? Can they? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.