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Game Preview #25: New Jersey Devils vs. Nashville Predators

John Hynes is back, ESPN+ is back. Let’s see how it goes...

NHL: NOV 26 Devils at Predators
Have to be tight around the net tonight.
Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-9-5) versus the Nashville Predators (15-10-1). SBN Blog: On The Forecheck.

The Time: 7:30 PM

The Broadcast: ESPN+

It’s Been a Long Time

The Devils have not had the best of luck against the Nashville Predators. In fact, the last time they won against Nashville was in the 2017-18 season. Against John Hynes, the Devils need to win their first against their ex-coach and break their losing streak against Nashville. Of course, the Predators are flying high after defeating the Islanders with a last-minute go-ahead goal last night.

Both teams should be feeling good about themselves for different reasons. The Devils have to feel good because they just shutout Philadelphia after having some very poor defensive performances. The Predators could be energized by their third period comeback win against the Islanders, as the Islanders took a 3-2 lead just minutes into the third period. They only allowed 21 shots to the Islanders, dominating play at even strength and giving up one goal to the Islander power play in the second period.

The Devils power play could be feeling good about themselves tonight, as well, after the Dawson Mercer goal on Wednesday. When was the last time they worked well? Like their last win against Nashville, I would have to point to 2017-18. That aside, The Predators have an above average power play at 23.29% effectiveness - while their penalty kill is somewhat poor at only 76.83% effectiveness. For comparison, the Devils penalty kill clawed back from a bad start all the way up to 81.01% effectiveness.

Both these teams take a lot of penalties. The league average is 2.96 penalties taken and drawn per game. The Devils take 3.29 - and only draw 2.67 per game. The Predators draw slightly below average at 2.81, and take 3.15 penalties per game. I would not expect penalty-free hockey tonight, and the Devils need to get their power play going more if they want to win tonight.

Last night, David Rittich suited up for the Predators in goal. Juuse Saros last played on December 4 - he is 11-8-1 with a .921 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average. John Hynes reported a few days ago that Saros is out with a non-COVID illness.

While Saros was still out as of last night, Mattias Ekholm returned to the ice and played a touch over 20 minutes. He did well at even strength and was on the ice for two goals for the Predators, and only one against. If Saros returns tonight, the Devils need to make his life difficult. If Saros is not good to go tonight, they could face third-string goalie Connor Ingram, who is 1-1-0 with a .906 and 3.02. In the AHL, Ingram has a .907 and 3.08 in 14 games this season on a 6-7-1 record. With the Devils having a back-to-back with the Predators tonight and the Islanders tomorrow, they need to think about who they want to start tonight. Blackwood is fresh off a shutout and could be the guy they need to hold down a good Nashville team. Otherwise, Jonathan Bernier has not been getting enough action and I worry about him going cold because of Ruff’s reliance on Blackwood.

I also hope the lineup does not change tonight. The forward lines all worked last game, and I would like to see these groups build more chemistry. I still think that Kuokkanen would be a better fit for Hughes and Sharangovich than Johnsson, but if it works it works - don’t change it until it doesn’t.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching? It’s on ESPN, so I’m holding my breath on the broadcasters. Will you be listening to Matt and Chico (Hi, Chico - if you happen to be reading this, since you said you’ve been reading the blogs last game)? Who are you looking forward to watching tonight? Who should start in net? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.