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Game Preview #34: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins

The Bruins have five games on hand, making this a must-win for the Devils.

NHL: Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (13-15-5) at the Boston Bruins (16-10-2). SBN Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

Doing Better Than Last Time

The New Jersey Devils last played the Boston Bruins on November 13, 2021. That game did not go well, as they lost 5-2. Similar to tonight, the Devils went into that game coming off a three-game winning streak, which was their longest such streak of the season. In Jared’s recap of that game, he noted that the Devils failed to put together a proper 60-minute effort against the Bruins’ top line. In other words, they lapsed.

A look at Natural Stat Trick for that game shows something positive though. The Devils’ top liners - Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Dawson Mercer, and Andreas Johnsson - did not allow a goal against at five-on-five. The problem is that Lindy Ruff played Michael McLeod more than Dawson Mercer at even strength and gave Jesper Boqvist (who was then centering Tomas Tatar and Janne Kuokkanen for the start of the game) entirely too much time on the ice.

When you play a team as top-heavy as the Boston Bruins, you have to play your top liners more minutes than you usually would. Shocker, I know. But Nico Hischier can certainly match against Patrice Bergeron, and is their best hope to contain the Bruins’ top line. That top line has recently been modified to have Craig Smith take David Pastrnak’s place at right wing, so Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer will have plenty to deal with in their own right. Against the Red Wings on Sunday, the Bruins had middle six lines of Foligno-Coyle-DeBrusk and Hall-Haula-Pastrnak. The Red Wings feasted on those lines in terms of quantity and quality of chances, which is a good sign for the Devils if the Bruins do not change approach based on the fact they won 5-1.

Who Might Be In, Who Might Be Out

Dougie Hamilton went to the hospital after Sunday’s game with a facial injury. His status for tonight’s game is questionable, as no update was given by the team other than he went to the hospital. No reporter bothered to mention if he traveled with the team or not. Tomas Tatar, who is his own reporter, posted on his Instagram story that he was traveling to Boston.

Based on what Damon Severson said, Dougie Hamilton might be dealing with a mild concussion. But that hospital visit may have just been trying to discern whether his pain was indicative of a concussion or the fact that his jaw had just been hit with a shot hockey puck. If only reporters could ask the team to find out a day later whether their star player is doing well or if he’s out. It’s not even that we need specific details - a simple “not traveling” or “traveling” would suffice.

So Tomas Tatar might be in, Dougie may or may not be out. Who knows? The Devils have not announced that Tatar is cleared from protocol yet, but the Capitals had five protocol players practice with the team prior to their game against the Devils on Sunday - and those players were lifted from protocol on gameday. So the protocol only matters a little bit at this point. We make it up as it goes along, and it will be good to see Tatar take Boqvist’s spot in the lineup for such a tough matchup regardless.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will the Devils make it four in a row? Will Dougie be alright? How do you think Tatar will do back in the lineup, assuming he clears the protocol? Do you think Mackenzie Blackwood will start again/ Will Alain Nasreddine get another win? Or will Lindy Ruff return and play Michael McLeod more than every other center? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.