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Game Preview #29: New Jersey Devils at Nashville Predators

P.K. Subban returns to Smashville as the New Jersey Devils continue to try saving the sinking ship under Alain Nasreddine. This the start of a four-game road trip for the Devils and this is a short preview of the Devils-Predators game.

Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils
P.K. Subban returns to Nashville, where he was last season.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Apologies for the delay in this post. Technical difficulties came into play.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-14-5) at the Nashville Predators (12-10-5; SBN Blog: On the Forecheck)

The Time: 8:00 PM ET

The Broadcasts: TV - MSG+, ESPN+, FS-TN; Digital Audio - The Devils Hockey Network.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils hosted Chicago last night. It was a fairly even affair where both goaltenders - Mackenzie Blackwood and Corey Crawford - were the stars and both teams’ offense dried up in the third period. Chicago seemingly wanted the point. The Devils seemingly were just more inept. A Taylor Hall PPG in the first period and an Alex DeBrincat PPG in the second period were the only scores in regulation. Overtime provided no answer. Three rounds were not enough for the shootout, the game needed five. Alas, Chicago prevailed. The Devils lost 1-2 through a shootout in a game best described in one word: Blah.

The Last Predators Game: Back on Tuesday, Nashville hosted Tampa Bay. Kyle Turris, who for some reason has not been in favor by the coaching staff, did play in this game. He even picked up a primary assist on Calle Jarnkrok’s tenth of the season in the second period. That goal was good at the time as it tied up the game 1-1; Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the first with a blast by Victor Hedman. Unfortunately for the home team, the Bolts went back up one on the next shift; Ondrej Palat made it so with the help of Nikita Kucherov and Kevin Shattenkirk. Nashville would tie it up in the third period and it was thanks to the aforementioned Turris. Nothing says “Keep me in the lineup” by scoring an equalizer in the third period. He converted a power play around the halfway mark of the period. That would be until about halfway through overtime. Unfortunately, the Lightning would strike thrice with an overtime winner by Kucherov. The Predators lost in OT, 2-3, to Tampa Bay. Nick Morgan has this recap over at On the Forecheck.

The Goal: Make your power plays count! Nashville has one of the better defenses in hockey. Their SA/60 rate in 5-on-5 is below 29 and ranks fifth lowest in the league per Natural Stat Trick. They are also a top five team in limiting both scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances in 5-on-5. In all situations, the Predators can boast an astonishingly good 2.29 xGA/60, the third best in the league. Given that the Devils struggled mightily to attack a Chicago defense that has not defended well all season last night, I do not expect the Devils to somehow steamroll the Predators in their own end in the rink. Having a man advantage would be really useful provided they do something with it. Per Natural Stat Trick, Pekka Rinne has a ghastly 73.7% save percentage on penalty kills this season. A far cry from his actually good 5-on-5 numbers. Should the Devils get Rinne tonight or even if they get Jusse Saros, they really do need to get their PP in order. It could make the difference between winning or losing - or even just keep them competitive.

The Return: P.K. Subban has been a point producer in both Montreal and Nashville. However, that hasn’t really translated so far this season in New Jersey, where he has posted two goals and three assists in 28 games. This would translate to his lowest point total of his career - on track for about 15 points for the whole season, with a previous career low of 31 in 63 games for Nashville last season.

Point production has been weak across the board on defense except for Sami Vatanen, as Damon Severson and Will Butcher also struggle to produce many points. Butcher has been held back by terrible partner play at times, but the personnel that Ray Shero gave this coaching staff needs to be better at creating offense.

Do I think Subban is still “good”? Yes, I do. He is more dynamic in transition play and the team would be even more lost without him right now. But he needs to do better if he wants to turn around his perception as a declining player.

Third Time’s A Charm: Alain Nasreddine is heading into his third game as head coach as the team. In his second game, he got his first point in a shootout loss, and hopefully tonight he gets his first win. But, Nasreddine must realize the importance of getting the winning going now.

Getting Late?: The team is about a third of the way into the season. They’re going to need at least a five game winning streak to appear back in the race, while anything more than that could get them in the playoff bubble.

Taylor Hall scored the lone regulation goal for the Devils yesterday. He has been one of the most snakebitten players in the league this year, so hopefully he starts lighting the lamp more. Another string of losses, and I expect him to be traded. And if he is traded, then I don’t expect Alain Nasreddine to be head coach next season. This may be good to keep in mind when watching Nasreddine’s approach from behind the bench - he’s not going to simply let the team tank.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about tonight’s game? Do you think P.K. Subban will be good in his return to Nashville? Do you expect good things from the goaltending tonight after Blackwood’s performance last night? Do you think the Devils can win? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.