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Game Preview #31: New Jersey Devils at Colorado Avalanche

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Taylor Hall is still a Devil as of this posting, so that’s probably a good thing.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-16-5) at the Colorado Avalanche (20-8-3). SBN Blog: Mile High Hockey.

The Time: 9:00 ET

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The Supposed Future Destination of Taylor Hall: When the trade buzz for Taylor Hall hit its peak about a week ago, it seemed many people thought he would end up in Colorado. Well, how well does he fit in with the Avalanche? Colorado has plenty of producing left wings (Andre Burakovsky leads them with 23 points), and their wing situation has been bettered by the signing of Joonas Donskoi, who has 27 points in 31 games in a top six role for Colorado this season. Donskoi has 13 goals on a 22.8 shooting percentage, and he seems ready to shatter his former career high of 14. Donskoi was a free agent in the summer of 2019, known as a good third line two-way player that cost just a bit too much for San Jose to keep. I thought Ray Shero would have targeted him due to his relative youth for a free agent (he had turned 27 in April), but the Devils ended up with Wayne Simmonds.

Taylor Hall could give the Avalanche the best group of wingers in the league if he were traded there, as Mikko Rantanen also has 20 points in 15 games.

The goaltending situation in Colorado is apparently far better than it is in New Jersey, with Philipp Grubauer at 10-5-2 in 18 starts with a .914 save percentage and 2.78 goals against average. 29 year old former Czech league and KHL goaltender Pavel Francouz has an 8-2-1 record in 10 stars and 13 appearances with a .927 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average. If the Devils were to make a trade with Colorado, I would hope that the Devils get a goalie from their prospect pipeline as one of the pieces, as Colorado seems relatively set here.

Potential Nico Hischier Return: Nico Hischier has been on IR and missed the last three games with an illness. Yesterday, he returned to practice.

I think it would be interesting to see Michael McLeod at left wing, it Alain Nasreddine is willing to play him for a game. If not for the rumors that the team is shopping Miles Wood, I would point him out as a possible candidate to sit so McLeod can get a game.

Also, while the puck movement on the Zacha line can be quite good sometimes, I think that Hischier needs to center Zacha and Bratt. Having Boqvist on the line might be just a bit too much NHL inexperience, and it has lead to the line not generating enough offense as it needs to. Zacha’s line has generally been the most unlucky this season, with Pavel Zacha currently sporting a 77.9 on-ice save percentage. Having a player like Nico Hischier who doesn’t get rattled by how bad the goaltending is on the team on the line can help improve and stabilize its in-game performance.

It was a lot harder to watch this team play without him.

Show Some Heart: Wayne Simmonds apparently is starting to temporarily take some of the Drew Stafford role within the team.

I think Simmonds has the right idea here. While Miles Wood still has no problem crashing into goaltenders on breakaways, he doesn’t exactly look like the same player he has been the past few seasons. He doesn’t go for the big hit as often, and his board play seems much more focused on his stickwork, which isn’t that good, and less on the use of his body than in years past. Wood needs to remember that his speed and strength can make him an absolute hell for a team to deal with when he comes in blazing to support his linemates. Especially with a guy like Kevin Rooney, who will be in the right place in the zone, but doesn’t have the skill to do everything by himself - Wood needs to start helping take the opposition (cleanly) out of the play more often.

Your Thoughts: Will you watch tonight’s game? Is there anything you’re excited for? Do you think the Avalanche would be a good trade partner for the Devils this trade deadline? Do you think the Avalanche are legitimate playoff contenders? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.