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Game Preview: Devils at Avalanche

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The Devils, fresh off a shootout win, look to further dampen the Avalanche’s playoff hopes with another upset win.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New Jersey Devils
The Devils, mathematically out of the playoffs, look to finish their road trip off strong against an Avalanche team fighting for a playoff spot.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Game: New Jersey Devils (27-36-9) at the Colorado Avalanche (30-29-12)

The Time: 3:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: MSG+

Out But Surging: The good news: After an embarrassing 9-4 loss to the Flames to extend the losing streak to seven games, the Devils have now reeled off two wins in a row. The Devils were able to soundly beat Connor McDavid’s Oilers and squeak by a Jakob Markstrom carried Canucks team. Schneider and Blackwood both played solid games, while players like Stefan Noesen finally got on the scoresheet for the first time in 4 months (15 games) and Kenny Agostino extended his point streak to four.

The bad news: The Devils are officially eliminated from the postseason, so the only thing the team has to play for is reserving a spot for next year/new contracts. Players such as the aforementioned Agostino, Kevin Rooney, Joey Anderson and Mike McLeod are trying to show that they are ready for a permanent call-up next year. So far, Agostino and Rooney have done well to prove themselves, with both being given 1st line playing time due to injuries. Joey Anderson is being trusted on the penalty kill, where he has played admirably. Meanwhile, McLeod has shown flashes of skill, but has been large disappointing in his time with the Devils, as he has been regulated to ice time with Kurtis Gabriel.

Who to Watch: Avalanche: The team is being carried by their big three forwards: Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Mackinnon, last year’s MVP runner up, has followed up with another amazing year. Mackinnon currently has 36 goals and 53 assists in only 71 games, showing that last season was not a fluke. Mikko Rantanen, the dynamic 4th year player, has further improved his play. He is sitting at a career high in goals with 31 and a career high in points with 87. Meanwhile, Gabriel Landeskog prior to his injury, was having the best season of his career. He established a career high in goals with 33 and was sitting at a point-per-game pace.

Devils draft pick Alexander Kerfoot is suffering a bit of a sophomore slump. After recording 19 goals in his rookie season with the Avalanche, he has found himself sitting at only 11 goals and not having scored in 9 games, in which he has only recorded a single point. Other depth forwards on this team include the reliable Carl Soderberg, who has broken the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career. JT Compher has shown improvement in his 3rd season with the Avalanche, recording 15 goals and 31 points in 55 games. However, players like Sven Andrighetto and Tyson Jost have failed to take that next step the Avalanche were counting on, and needed in order to establish themselves as an annual playoff regular.

In terms of defense, lifetime Avalanche player Tyson Barrie is in the midst of a poor offensive season by his standards, as he only sits at 7 goals on the season. This isn’t for lack of trying, as he has shot more this season than last year where he recorded 14 goals. Youngster Samuel Girard seems to have improved defensively, although he hasn’t taken the offensive step forward that was expected of him. After those two, Erik Johnson has never gotten back to his best days where he recorded around 10 goals a game, and is sitting at 5 goals and 15 assists while offering generally alright defense. Nikita Zadorov continues to act as the Avalanche grinder, as he is 17th in hits in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the volatile Semyon Varlamov remains in goal. One season, Varlamov can look like a world beater that can carry the Avalanche into the players, but the next he can act as a hindrance to the Avalanche’s success. Unfortunately, this year he has proven to be the latter. He currently has a 19-18-9 record, with a .910 save percentage, and is allowing for Philipp Grubauer to get more playing time. Grubauer himself hasn’t capitalized, as he has a 11-9-3 record, with a .901 save percentage, though he does have two shutouts in his last four starts.

Projected Lineups:

I’d expect the Devils to look like this:

Agostino - Rooney - Palmieri
Coleman - Zajac - Noesen
Stafford - Pietila - Anderson
Tangradi - McLeod - Gabriel

Greene - Severson
Butcher - Carrick
White - Santini

I’d think Schneider starts, as it has become somewhat of a rotation.

For the Avalanche I’d think this:

Brassard - Mackinnon - Compher
Wilson - Soderberg - Rantanen
Kerfoot - Jost - Calvert
Andrighetto - Agozzino - Bourque

Girard - Johnson
Cole - Barrie
Zadorov - Nemeth

I have no idea which goalie will start in net. I’d guess Varlamov for this one.

Your Thoughts: Who will win? Will Agostino continue his scoring streak? What do you want to come out the rest of this season? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.