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Game Preview #23: New Jersey Devils vs Minnesota Wild

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The Devils will look to bring some momentum from a home win on Hockey Fights Cancer night against the league-worst Red Wings into tonight’s fight against the Minnesota Wild and former Devil Zach Parise.

New Jersey Devils v Minnesota Wild

The Match-up: The New Jersey Devils (8-10-4) vs. the Minnesota Wild (9-11-4)

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: MSG+

What To Expect from the Devils:

The Devils are coming into this game against the Wild hot off a blowout win!

....against the worst team in the league. So we’ll temper our enthusiasm just a bit, but we’re riding a win nonetheless. The Wild are just one point above the Devils in the standings with a game in hand, so statistically speaking this looks like a relatively even game. Statistically speaking, the Wild are just slightly ahead of the Devils in CF% (+ ~2%), GF% (+ ~5%), xGF (+ ~4%), xGA (- ~4%), and SCF% (+ ~6%). They have a slightly better shooting percentage and save percentage. Basically, they’re a slightly better team in almost every statistical category. But yet, they lost to the Rangers last night, who are a more than slightly worse team in every category, so there is hope for us yet!

Bench Changes: but not the one you’re hoping for. Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald will be leaving his position as an assistant coach and returning to the shiny offices in the sky. This change doesn’t mean the Devils management is saying yay we’re fixed, moreso that they’ve seen enough of whatever they came to see. Fitzgerald didn’t need to come stand on the bench for a month to see the team’s play or check out their Corsis, so his mission was most likely to determine what, if anything, might be impacting the Devils from behind the scenes. Individuals who might have checked out, or a coach who might have lost the room. We don’t know what he found, and I’m not going to speculate, but I will say that based on this move, if trades or changes are going to happen, I’d expect the wheels to be set in motion very soon.

On to tonight’s lineups-

We may see the lines change but based on yesterday’s line rushes at practice we can likely expect something similar to this:

Hall - Hischier - Palmieri
Boqvist - Hughes - Simmonds
Seney - Zajac - Gusev
Wood - Coleman - Bratt*

Greene - Severson
Vatanen - Subban
Butcher - Tennyson

Blackwood (expected but unconfirmed)

*Hayden also played on the 4th line right wing during practice
Zacha did not participate in line rushes yesterday so it’s unfortunately unlikely we see him in the lineup tonight.

The Opposition:

The Wild will enter tonight’s game fresh off yet another minimal travel back to back. Much like the Penguins having played the Islanders the night before the Devils game earlier this week, Minnesota played the Rangers last night so they’re not exactly coming in jet-lagged. They did have to go to OT last night against the Rangers, so at least there’s those few extra seconds of effort from their top players we can thank NY for forcing.

The Wild and Devils are pretty close in most stats but this one stood out to me: Minnesota is top in the league in ratio of high danger scoring chances allowed but somehow right in the middle in ratio of actual high danger goals— they’re capitalizing on theirs at a slightly lower rate than most teams and allowing them at a much higher rate, which is something the Devils should look to take advantage of if possible. Considering we have the third least HDCF in the league, I won’t be holding my breath.

Minnesota’s power play hasn’t been great so far— they’re tied for 18th in the league with about 18% success rate. They’re 14th with an 82% penalty kill rate, which is a relatively decent but not stellar special teams combo. Better than the Devils, but not better than most teams.

The Wild will be rolling out a rookie goaltender for his NHL debut tonight: Kaapo Kakhonen (personally I think they should have started him against the Rangers last night so he could have debuted against the other Kaapo, but I digress). Kakhonen put up a .908 SV% in just under 50 games with the Iowa Wild the past two seasons.

Minnesota’s Lines:

Greenway - Kunin - Erikson Ek
Zucker - Staal - Zucarello
Parise - Koivu - Fiala*
Donota - Rask - Hartman

Suter - Spurgeon
Brodin _ Dumba
Soucy - Hunt

Kakhonen

Your Take: What do you think about the Fitzgerald move? What’s your prediction for the outcome of tonight’s game? How do you feel about Parise at this point? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading!