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Game Preview: New Jersey Devils at Anaheim Ducks

New Jersey has strung together three consecutive wins against Western Conference playoff teams. Tonight they look to make it four-straight as we enter the final ten-game stretch of the 2017-18 campaign.

Anaheim Ducks v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (37-26-8) at the Anaheim Ducks (36-24-12 ; SBN Blog: Anaheim Calling)

The Time: 9:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: MSG+

Anaheim Still Alive: The Anaheim Ducks are still in the playoff race. Very much so considering they’re tied in points with both the third place team in their division, the Los Angeles Kings, and the top-two wild card teams in the West, Colorado and Dallas. The Ducks have been clawing all season, and have been on both sides of the proverbial glass when you talk about the playoff race. So who is the most important player on this team? For the longest time it would’ve been one of Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry. But it’s a different day. Rickard Rakell had a breakout season this regular season. He’s already bested his highest assist total for a single season, and he’s three off from besting his most goals in a season. With 60 points he leads the team. As for Getzlaf and Perry, the pair are still number two and three in the points lead in Anaheim respectively. Getzlaf has missed an extended period of time this season, and so his 52 points looks a lot more impressive on paper when you consider he’s missed twenty-five games this season. Perry appears to be the gatekeeper between the top-scorers and the rest on this Ducks team, with 43 points. But how is our old friend Adam Henrique doing? Well, he’s also missed twenty-five games this season, and his overall point totals reflect it, unlike Getzlaf. When healthy, Rico has seen third line time with young wingers Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase on his wings. Ritchie and Kase are both 22 years old, and Kase is number four on this Anaheim team in points, with 33. If there’s anything this Ducks team could use it would be an upgrade at the center position. Ryan Kesler currently fills the 2C role, and the man has ten points (7G, 3A) all season long.

The Last Time: New Jersey defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 in these two teams’ previous game back in December at the Prudential Center. In that game we got to see the Prudential Center crowd give a salute to their old pal, Rico. It’ll be interesting to see how the Anaheim crowd reacts to Vatanen. He says that because of the significant amount of time between the trade and now that there will be little in the way of drama. Vatanen told Chris Ryan of that he viewed it as an opportunity to play against his old friends, and that it should be fun. Vatanen has become the most important defenseman on this Devils team without any doubt, so it was a key move for GM Ray Shero during this regular season.

The Playoff Picture: The New Jersey Devils sit in the unenviable position of the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference this year. They’re just a point behind Columbus, who is the number one wild card, and Philadelphia, who occupies the third seed in the Metropolitan Division, via tiebreaker. The Florida Panthers are the closest team chasing the Devils, at 77 points.

In Closing: What are your thoughts on the Devils chances of finishing with the first wild-card? If New Jersey finishes in the second wild-card what would you predict in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Who’s your favorite for this year’s tournament? Let’s discuss in the comments section.