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Game Preview #28: Vegas Golden Knights @ New Jersey Devils

The sputtering Devils return home for a date with Pete DeBoer and the Vegas Golden Knights. Can they get back on track after getting routed in Philly?

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NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Toronto Maple Leafs
Hello darkness, my old friend
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-12-5, 25 points) host the Vegas Golden Knights (17-11-0, 34 points). SB Nation Blog: Knights On Ice

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+, ESPN+. RADIO - Devils Hockey Network on Audacy

The last Devils game

The Devils embarrassed themselves against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 6-1 “fire everyone” type of performance. If you like pain and suffering, you can read my recap of that game here.

The last Golden Knights game

The Golden Knights dominated the Boston Bruins 4-1 Tuesday night as they began a four-game East Coast road trip. Max Pacioretty scored twice for the Knights and Chandler Stephenson chipped in with three assists in the convincing win. Robin Lehner stopped 23 of 24 shots he faced.

The last Devils-Golden Knights game(s)

The Devils and Knights last met on March 3rd, 2020 in one of the final games before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2019-20 season. Lehner pitched the shutout that night and Pacioretty and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist in the win.

The last time these teams met in Newark was on December 3rd, 2019, and as you may recall, this was the first game of the Alain Nasreddine era as interim coach. The Devils had lost 7-1 in Buffalo the night before in a loss that looked a lot like the one the Devils had in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Former Devils GM Ray Shero announced the team had dismissed John Hynes as the head coach two and a half hours before puck drop.

As for the game itself, the Knights won 4-3 behind three straight third period goals by Jonathan Marchessault. Kyle Palmieri and Jesper Bratt helped the Devils get out to a 2-1 lead through two periods before everything unraveled in the third. Nico Hischier scored 20 seconds after Marchessault’s third goal to cut the deficit to one, but that was as close as the Devils would get.

What will the lines look like?

The Devils skated the following lines Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Zacha - Hughes - Bratt

Johnsson - Mercer - Tatar

Vesey - Boqvist - Studenic

Sharangovich - McLeod - Bastian

Smith - Hamilton

Siegenthaler - Severson

Bahl - Subban

Blackwood

As I mentioned in my recap the other night, pretty much everybody the Devils dressed was terrible. We haven’t gotten an update on the status of Nico Hischier, Ryan Graves, or Christian Jaros, who are all in COVID protocol, so it would be a safe assumption that they all are unavailable for this game as well.

The Devils have been dealing with an illness going around the team, in addition to the poor hockey they’ve played, so its tough to say who is in and who is out with everything being so fluid at the moment. Per Amanda Stein, the Devils had a light practice and meeting day Wednesday at Prudential Center. If Tuesday was any indication, Lindy Ruff might opt to not have a morning skate again today to let the players rest and conserve their energy. This is most likely the right call for the beleaguered coach in what is becoming a no-win situation.

It’s also possible we might have a new backup goaltender as the Devils announced a trade for Jon Gillies with the St. Louis Blues in exchange for future considerations. No word yet on a potential corresponding move and/or if he’ll start on the NHL roster or in the AHL.

As for the Vegas Golden Knights, they rolled these lines out Tuesday night in Boston. Also, Keith Kinkaid apparently runs their Twitter account, so congrats to him on the new gig.

If you can decipher whatever the heck that is with all the emojis, be my guest. Left Wing Lock has their lines as follows.

Pacioretty - Stephenson - Stone

Marchessault - Karlsson - Smith

Janmark - Howden - Dadonov

Carrier - Kolesar - Amadio

Hague - Pietrangelo

McNabb - Whitecloud

Hutton - Theodore

What do the Knights bring to the table?

Vegas is 16-7-0 since October 26th and might be coming off their best effort of the season against a solid (albeit, shorthanded) Bruins team on the road. They have overcome early season injuries to Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, who are both playing at well over a PPG pace and are mainstays on Vegas’s explosive top line.

Of course, this is all a recipe for disaster for the Devils going into this game. Vegas is hot, the Devils are not. Vegas has an explosive top line, the Devils can’t stop anybody right now. Lehner is playing well while Blackwood is under the weather and not that great when he’s 100 percent.

My recommendation for the Devils. Don’t do what the Bruins against Vegas’s top line because it will not work.

Final Thoughts

Vegas is a team that seems to have found their footing after a slow start and looks like one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Devils look like a team that needs to be put out of the misery and clean house yet again. If the Devils don’t play a full sixty minute effort against one of the top teams in the league, they’ll have no chance of winning for just the fourth time in their last sixteen games.

What do you think about tonight’s matchup? Will the Devils tighten up defensively or are they doomed to get dunked on repeatedly by Vegas’s top six? Will they actually complete a few passes and perhaps score some goals? Will Mackenzie Blackwood be healthy enough to play or will Lindy Ruff run him back out there anyways because YOLO? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!