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Game Preview: New Jersey Devils at the Montreal Canadiens

As Marcus Johansson is cleared to return, the Devils take on the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Centre.

NHL: Preseason-New Jersey Devils at Montreal Canadiens
It seems he's back.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (41-28-9) at the Montreal Canadiens (28-38-12). SBN Blog: Habs Eyes on the Prize.

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The Time: 7:00 PM

Return of The General: Marcus Johansson was recently cleared for contact, and today, the Devils activated him off of injured reserve. He has traveled with the team to Montreal, and it seems to me as of this moment that he could be playing tonight.

The last time Johansson played was the 23rd of January. That was when Brad Marchand elbowed him in the head, giving him his second concussion of the year. It’s been an unlucky year for Johansson, as when he was acquired, he likely expected to have an expanded role with his new team - and he never missed 15 games in a season before. I imagine that Johansson having to watch his team try to make its way into the playoffs was hard for him, but now he has the opportunity to help set it into stone.

In 29 games this year, Johansson has five goals and nine assists. While he’s been plagued by injury this season and some inconsistent play likely as a result of never being able to really get himself going (though he did have seven of his 14 points in the last 11 games he played), it’s good to have his smart two-way game back. And hopefully, he can help to improve the second unit of the power play. Regardless, I’m glad to see him activated off of injured reserve. As it stands now, there’s a good chance the Devils get into a playoff matchup with the Boston Bruins, so keep an eye on the scoreboards every day until the playoff picture is set.

The Goalies: Carey Price should be in net for the Montreal Canadiens tonight. Hopefully he continues to be worse at consistently stopping pucks than he is at blocker punching Kyle Palmieri. There is no word on the Devils starter, and John Hynes will speak with the media at about 4:50 PM. Personally, I think this might be the best time to get Cory Schneider into a game for the rest of the season. Montreal is not exactly the most threatening offense in the league, and Keith Kinkaid faced 30 shots last night, and also (obviously) had to catch a flight with the rest of the team. It’d be one thing if the back-to-back was entirely at home, but I think the best thing to do tonight is play the more rested goalie.

Other Things: This tweet from Chris Ryan caught my eye today.

I don’t know how the Hart Trophy voting will go down. I don’t normally go too crazy over individual league awards, regardless, in hockey, but how could anyone look at that and not think Taylor Hall should be a finalist? Compared to last season, he seems improved in every area of the game to me. He made a jump from an elite left winger to a franchise player in my eyes, and who knows how good the top line might get as Nico Hischier matures in the NHL?

Other Massive Improvements: While watching the last couple of games with my brother, he remarked to me that Blake Coleman has suddenly looked like a 30-goal player lately. While that might be because he has seven goals in his last 12 games on a shooting percentage of 25.0%, it remains a legitimate point to note that Blake Coleman has made himself more of an necessity to the team this season than anyone probably imagined. He scored his third shorthanded goal last night, as he’s been an absolute monster on the penalty kill this year, he has 63 takeaways - second on the team to only Taylor Hall (80) - to only 20 giveaways. He’s also massively improved in run of play stats, going from a 43.8 CF% last season (-7.4 rel.) to a 48.3 CF% this season (+0.8 rel.). Blake Coleman has turned himself from a middle-six AHL forward to a penalty-killing machine of an NHL third-liner, and I very much like the line he’s been on with Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen. We’ll see how that line (as well as the others) adjusts to the return of Johansson and Kyle Palmieri’s facial injury last night.

Your Take: What do you think of the impending return of Marcus Johansson? What do you think of tonight’s game? Should the Devils play Kinkaid or Schneider? How do you feel about other games around the league today? Leave your thoughts below.