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Game Preview: Devils at Canucks

The Devils, fresh off of breaking their 7 game losing streak with a convincing 6-3 win over the Oilers, look to start a streak with a win against the Canucks.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils
Mackenzie Blackwood and the Devils face off against the Canucks, looking for the season sweep.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (25-36-9) vs. the Vancouver Canucks (29-32-9)

The Time: 10:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The final game of the Canada roadtrip is tonight, as the Devils head to Vancouver looking to beat a struggling Canucks team

It’s Kenny: Very quietly, Kenny Agostino has played well for the Devils after being picked up off waivers. In 16 games, he has 3 goals and 5 assists, which would equate to a 41 point season with around 15 goals. On a team void of forward talent, Agostino has stepped up, as he currently holds a three game point streak. He’s playing for a contract next season, which I think he deserves a shot at. He’s been better than, let’s say, Blake Pietila, Kurtis Gabriel or even Joey Anderson offensively as of now, and if he can keep this up he’s worth a look.

Other Devils to Watch: A three game point streak for Travis Zajac, including 2 goals in a row and 3 in five games. Very quietly, Zajac has a chance to record his first 20 goal season since the 09’-10’ season, where he was on a line with Zach Parise. Zajac and Greene are the remaining pieces of old Devils teams, but unlike Greene, Zajac is not declining.

After failing to score in 15 games in a row, including all of February, Blake Coleman has now recorded three games in a row with a goal. In a season where most others have not developed as needed, Blake Coleman has taken a step forwards to become a forward for the Devils. While his play is likely more suited for a 2nd-3rd line forward, he is an essential piece for this Devils team that has needed a pleasant surprise.

While I’m not a fan of his defense, Damon’s Severson only continues to improve by the year. Aside from a year where he slumped as a sophomore, his goal numbers have only continued to improve by the year, hitting 11 as of now this year. With every point he sets a new career high in points, though it remains to be seen if his offensive mindset is causing his struggles defensively.

Lastly, a player who doesn’t light up the scoresheet but continues to play his game effectively is Kevin Rooney. His offensive ceiling is likely very low, though Ken Daneyko has mentioned that Rooney looks like a player who can become a regular for this Devils team next season. He is a very defensively responsible player where others Devils may not be, and is looking for a spot on the 4th line next season. Will he become a regular? Personally, I wouldn’t mind. There are worse options (cough.. Kurtis Gabriel).

Vancouver Woes: The Canucks, in their last 10, sit at an ugly 3-5-2. In recent years, they seem to be a team stuck deciding whether to go for the playoffs or tank the season. They have plenty of young talent, with rookie and Calder favorite Elias Petterson sitting at a point per game rate along with 26 goals. 23 year old Bo Horvat and 22 year old Brock Boeser have also played well, with Boeser recording 48 points in 57 games (23 goals) and Horvat setting a new career high in goals with 24 while also recording 26 assists. Aside from them... there isn’t much else. Antoine Roussel is next in terms of points, though he only has 31 points and 9 goals. After that, Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin both hold some promise, but both have less than 30 points. Meanwhile, the extremely disappointing Loui Eriksson has only 10 goals and 21 points on the year, getting scratched as a result of his poor play. Alex Edler, the man who wants to be a career Canuck, is playing well this season with 7 goals and 23 assists in 44 games, including a +3 rating. Meanwhile, they further added via subtraction by getting rid of the defensively poor Erik Gudbranson. Jay Beagle has predictably struggled, with his four year contract only providing 3 goals and 6 assists. While this team is very average, it always feels like the team is too far away to truly compete against teams like the Maple Leafs, Lightning and Flames.

Jakob Markstrom is the Canucks workhorse starter, and he’s been rather average this season. He is 25-20-8 on the season, with a .913 save percentage. I’d expect him to start.

Predicted Lines: I’d expect Blackwood to start for the Devils. His save percentage dropped heavily after being left to die by his defense, and now sits at .919. For the Canucks, I expect it to be Thatcher Demko starting. With a weak Devils offense, Demko can be given an opportunity to increase his confidence. On the year, he is 1-2-0 with a .895 save percentage.

I’d expect the rest of the Devils lineup to look similar to the Oilers game:

Coleman - Zajac - Palmieri

Agostino - Rooney - Stafford

Tangradi - McLeod - Anderson

Noesen - Pietila - Gabriel

Greene - Severson

Butcher - Carrick

White - Santini

Meanwhile, I’d guess the Canucks look like this

Roussel - Horvat - Pearson

Leivo - Pettersson - Boeser

Goldobin - Gaudette - Virtanen

Granlund - Beagle - Motte

Edler - Tanev

Brisebois - Stetcher

Pouliot - Biega

Your Thoughts: Who will win? Who will score? Do you want the Devils to win? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.