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Game Preview #20: New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins

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After winning two in a row, the Devils look to make it three against a team that shut them out earlier this season.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (7-8-4) vs. the Boston Bruins (12-3-5). SBN Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder.

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - MSG

Return: In the past few games, the Devils have missed defensemen Sami Vatanen. He’s been out with an injury after taking a high hit against Edmonton.

Vatanen has led Devils defensemen in goals and total points with four goals and four assists on the season despite only playing the fourth most total ice time due to him missing most of the Edmonton game and four other ones. But when he has been healthy, he plays a lot of minutes. Prior to the game in Edmonton, Vatanen was averaging 22:55 of ice time per game. For a player who is not known to be much of a possession driver, Vatanen has been a totally different defenseman this season. He has a 50.8 Corsi for percentage at even strength, which carries a +4.9 relative rate. His pairing with Andy Greene has also been one of the best pairings of the season in terms of expected goals for percentage.

Schneider and Domingue: Yesterday afternoon, the Devils waived Cory Schneider and recalled Louis Domingue from the Binghamton Devils. This move was likely for the best, as Schneider’s save percentage sits at .852. After being lights out for the first one and a half periods of the season versus Winnipeg in the opener, Schneider gave up two quick goals and appeared hurt, leaving the game. It was later reported he was experiencing “dehydration”. Regardless of the veracity of that explanation, Schneider went 0-4-1 in the next five starts, allowing 24 goals with a .845 save percentage. In large part, I felt this was overdue as Schneider only played twice between October 15 and today - and that seems like a good way to run MacKenzie Blackwood into the ground. Losing is one thing, but anything that sacrifices the long-term health outlook for a young goalie needs to be corrected. Hopefully, Schneider finds a way to return, but I don’t know what to expect.

The Last Time the Devils and Bruins Played: The Devils got shutout, 3-0 in a rather pitiful performance. Mind you, this was when the Devils were off to the worst possible start to their season anyone could imagine. Ironically, it was Schneider’s only decent game after the season opener. He allowed three goals on 32 Bruins shots. The game was not short of Devils shot attempts - as they put 31 on Rask. However, after playing a good second period, the Devils fell apart in the third period, not even registering a high danger scoring chance in the final 20 minutes of the game. Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, and Patrice Bergeron had the goals for the Boston Bruins. It was not a good night for the Gusev-Rooney-Bratt line, which had a 10.00 CF% and 0.00 xGF%. Thankfully, the Devils have figured out much better places in the lineup for Jesper Bratt and increasingly so Nikita Gusev. Their continued improvements are a key to competing with teams with the firepower of the Boston Bruins. Coming into tonight, they are lead by David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in scoring - each with 32 points in 20 games. Pastrnak has 17 goals to Marchand’s 13.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils have a chance of winning? Do you think they can string together wins and reverse their early-season debacle? Who do you think should sit from the defense with Sami Vatanen returning? When do you think we will see Louis Domingue play for the Devils? How do you think the team is taking the news of Cory Schneider’s reassignment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.