The New Jersey Devils are back home in Newark. The road trip out to Western Canada was ultimately successful. It will not be forgotten easily. After all, tonight’s opponent is the last one from that trip. Only that team played the night before, which is something the Devils should take advantage of in addition to being at home.
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN, SNW; Audio - The Devils Hockey Network
The Last Devils Game & the Last Devils-Flames Game: The New Jersey Devils ended their road trip in Calgary on Saturday night. This one got off to a poor start as Nazem Kadri finished a wraparound to make it 0-1. But the Devils made it a positive first period. Jack Hughes sailed a behind-the-back-through-the-leg pass to the middle of the ice where Nathan Bastian slammed the puck past Jacob Markstrom for an equalizer. Later, Nico Hischier tried to set up Tomas Tatar in front. The puck went off Tatar’s skate and right to Fabian Zetterlund, who finished it for a 2-1 lead. Later in the period, Michael McLeod set up a streaking Miles Wood. Pass, one-touch, 3-1 New Jersey. The Devils tried to extend the lead but accuracy and Markstrom said no. Shortly after a power play ended, a mistake by Damon Severson yielded a 2-on-0 for Noah Hanifin (coming out of the box) and Tyler Toffoli. While Severson tried to backcheck and Vitek Vanecek made the first stop, Elias Lindholm put in a second effort to make it 3-2. The Flames had a 5-on-4, a 5-on-3, and then a 5-on-4 but the Devils killed it. Calgary would tie it up on a goal by Nikita Zadorov from a saucer pass by Blake Coleman not too different from Wood’s goal in the first period. Then the game featured plenty of attempts but few pucks on target for both teams. Overtime was needed. Lindholm knocked down John Marino way away from the play. It was called for interference. The first power play unit did not convert, but the Devils sent out Zetterlund when Jesper Bratt came off. With possession, Hughes made a pass to Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton skated, faked a shot, and sent a pass across to Zetterlund at the right dot. Zetterlund, on one knee, proposed a one-timer to the net. The net said yes as the puck hit the back of the net with authority. The PPG from the Swole Swede lifted the Devils to a 4-3 overtime win. They swept the road trip, swept the week the week, and extended the winning streak to six games. You just love it. Matt recapped the victory here. For the other side, check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for their take.
The Last Flames Game: Calgary spent Monday night at the UBS Arena. They played an similarly hot New York Islanders team. The run of play was pretty much all Calgary. Mikael Backlund opened the scoring for Calgary. Sebastian Aho (the defenseman) tied up the game off a lovely pass from Mat Barzal about a minute later. Then Calgary just tilted the ice heavily in their favor. Elias Lindholm scored to put the Flames up 2-1 as the first period ended 18-4 in shots for the Flames. Yes, on the road. Ilya Sorokin did his very best, but he could not be perfect as the Flames just kept rolling in 5-on-5. Backlund scored again in the second period to put the Flames up 3-1. The Isles showed little fight back save for a couple minutes in the second before Backlund’s second goal. All signs pointed to a comfortable victory. Then the Isles tried to make a push in the third period. And, boy did they push. After facing 12 shots in the first two periods, Markstrom had to face 19 in the third period. Barzal was a force to be reckoned with. The Isles would make their comeback with a pair of goals within a minute: the first from Anders Lee and the second from an individual effort from Kyle Palmieri after he denied a zone exit. The Flames blew the lead. They tried to go up again. They did finish the game with 46 shots on net, after all; but Sorokin held it down late. Overtime was needed. Calgary controlled most of overtime and forced five saves on Sorokin. The Isles just got one shot on net. From defenseman Noah Dobson. With just under a minute left. During a power play in overtime. (Aside: Oh boy, Sutter must be big huge mad about a penalty being called in 3-on-3 again.) And Dobson fired a rocket of a slapshot from the high slot through traffic. One shot, one goal, one win. The Islanders won it in overtime. The Flames lose 4-3 again in overtime. The Flames are now winless in their last five games. Again, visit Matchsticks and Gasoline for their take on another lost game for the C’s.
The Goal: Make it a priority to rush the Flames early, often, and keep them uncomfortable. The Flames just played last night against the Islanders. This is in addition to traveling across the country. Sure, the Devils did that too but had the advantage of being idle on Monday night. The Devils should be a better rested team for this game. Calgary should feel some effects from last night’s game, wherein they were great for two periods and completely blew the game to lose four minutes into overtime. They should be fatigued. And frustrated with the lack of results. The Devils would be wise to take advantage of a fatigue advantage. As fast as they are, New Jersey could and should take the game hard to the Flames right from the start. Make them expend additional energy early. It could make them more tired later on in the game at worst and throw them off at best. If the Devils can get off to a good start, then they could really lock down the game later on. Therefore, I think it is important that they do so in tonight’s rematch.
What’s New About this Matchup?: The Devils just played Calgary. The Flames are coming off a game in Long Island. Rather than go over the Flames in detail, I suggest reading the last game’s preview for an overview of how they have done as a whole this season. It is not like a lot changed between the Devils-Flames game on Saturday for Calgary. They broke a losing streak, which was cool, but it is not like there is a new element to their game that makes them much better, worse, or whatever. This preview will instead just highlight some specific points based on the last game.
- Damon Severson, you really need to be better. One of the main decisions in Saturday’s game was Lindy Ruff benching Severson after the Lindholm goal in the second period. Severson was taken off on the second power play unit, too. The veteran Devil did get regular shifts in the third period but was kept on the bench since 1:27 left in regulation. He received no time in overtime. Severson helped Calgary get their first two goals and I am sure his stupid hooking penalty after Derek Ryan’s goal on Thursday was not forgotten. Severson generally provides more than he costs the team over a long period of time, but his mistakes have tended to be catastrophic and they cannot be ignored. Credit to Ruff for holding Severson accountable. Now it is important for Severson to bounce back in this rematch. As much as I would like to see Kevin Bahl get minutes, I cannot agree that Bahl over Severson is an improvement unless Severson is in Miscue Mode. If he is tonight, expect another benching as you groan at witnessing Severson’s next mistake.
- Other 5-on-5 Improvements I want to see. The fourth line did not do so hot in the run of play, mostly when Michael McLeod was on the ice. But they created a goal. They have been productive with Miles Wood having four goals over the four games last week with Bastian and McLeod chipping in a goal each. I do not seem them as an issue. They can keep doing what they are doing. The Dawson Mercer line, though, was not that good in Calgary. Jesper Boqvist came close to scoring but mostly spent the game in his own half of the rink. Ditto for Yegor Sharangovich and Mercer. With how the Devils have been attacking, this is not a major issue, but if the Devils want a more comfortable game tonight, then it would help if they can at least attack more than the Flames when they are out there.
- Get the Devils power play to be more threatening: The more major issue: the power play. Yes, it won the Devils the game in overtime. But they created four shots total with man advantages, conceded one, and how the third power play ended led to Calgary’s second goal and Severson’s benching. Credit to the team for getting it done in 4-on-3, but a more functional 5-on-4 night would have helped prevent the game going to overtime to begin with. Calgary’s penalty kill was very aggressive, especially from the forwards, in their own end. The Devils should seek to adjust for that tonight.
- Continue getting to the net. The Devils were out-attempted in 5-on-5 in Calgary but only by four attempts. They still out-shot the Flames 25-21, out-chanced them 28-18, and out-high danger chanced them 14-10. All three goals by the Devils in regulation were at the crease or in the slot. While Markstrom and inaccuracy denied a fourth goal, this is something the Devils should keep trying to exploit. Given that both Hughes and Hischier dropped passes into the dangerous areas for scoring plays, this is something the Devils can exploit of the Flames defense. Especially as the Calgary defense is missing Chris Tanev, Michael Stone, and Oliver Kylington due to injuries.
- Keep attacking with the Hughes line. While Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Erik Haula failed to finish some choice chances in the game, the Flames had little answer for this line. When they were on the ice in 5-on-5, the Devils out-attempted the Flames 15-6, out-shot them 7-4, out chanced them 12-3, and out-high danger chanced them 7-0. You and I would have loved to have seen this unit score just to cap off what was a great night for that line. With this game being in Newark, I am hopeful Ruff just forces Calgary to keep trying to find an answer for them. I like their chances to score if they continue to tilt the ice against the Flames as they did on Saturday night.
- Don’t fear Dan Vladar. Jacob Markstrom started in Long Island last night for the Flames. After just 12 shots against by the second intermission, the Isles drilled him for 20 shots and beat him three times for the comeback win in overtime. As this is a back-to-back for Calgary (and the Devils put four past Markstrom on Saturday night), I would expect Dan Vladar to get the start for the Flames tonight. This is where some of the People Who Matter get overly anxious and fear that Dan Vladar is going to have a 46-save shutout or something crazy. Vladar is a wildcard in that he has made just three appearances. Yet, those three games did not go well for him and his last one was the third-period choke-job to Seattle. Vladar was just OK last season. He did backstop the Flames to a win in New Jersey last season but he still gave up three goals on 30 shots in a game where Calgary just crushed New Jersey early. The Flames only needed Vladar to not be a sieve. He is a #2 at best and not really someone who can pull a dominant game out of a hat. Should New Jersey flood him with shots, I think he will concede plenty.
- Really, Devils, don’t do anything stupid... Haula crosschecked Jonathan Huberdeau in the numbers in front of Vanecek during a penalty kill. The puck was not only not near them but it was in the air and well over their heads. It was a very stupid penalty and led to the first two-man disadvantage of the season. The Devils did kill it, thanks in part to the penalty killers and Calgary settling for attempts from over 30 feet away. But the Devils really did not need to do that and would be wise to avoid that tonight. Especially if they are up in the game.
- ...but make them do stupid things and get frustrated. The Flames have this reputation for being Tough and Gritty and Heavy. Whether it is because of Darryl Sutter, how they are constructed as a team, or just reputation, I do not know. We got to see reality on Saturday night. Can they be physical? Yeah. Can they be dirty? Yeah. As evidenced by their four penalties in regulation, Jonas Siegenthaler getting elbowed before he took a retaliation call, Markstrom kicking the net away while the Devils were on offense in the second period, Wood being high-sticked by Brett Richie after he high-stuck Rasmus Andersson, and Lucic high-sticking Tomas Tatar which led to a short beef between Tatar and Mackenzie Weegar. What is certainly not Tough, Gritty, etc. was their constant whining. Every call was whined about. Lindholm whined about being caught for interference in OT. Markstrom whined about the OT winner. After the game, Sutter and Zadorov whined about the Lindholm penalty. If you’re calling for the Waaaaaahmbulance after an overtime loss wherein you made the comeback despite handing the opponent five power plays, then I do not think you are all that Tough, Gritty, and so forth. As they got zero power plays against the Isles, I suspect they are going to be salty about officiating again. Calgary is entering this game with five winless games in a row after last night’s botch-job. I think the Devils can really get in their heads further with a fast start and continuing to draw calls from Calgary. The Devils’ speed and attacking nature was good for this on Saturday. They can really make it a point in tonight’s game to try to beat Calgary in Newark.
Any Devils-Specific Notes: The Devils are hot. It’s pretty good. There was some not so good news yesterday. Mackenzie Blackwood was announced as having a MCL sprain. There is going to be further evaluation today to determine the severity of the injury. That matters as it could mean a short layoff or a long one. It should come to no surprise that Vitek Vanecek will start this game and many more for the forseeable future. Akira Schmid has been called up and will backup Vanecek tonight as he did in Calgary. Jonathan Bernier is still practicing, so it remains to be seen if Schmid will be here until Blackwood is healthy or until Bernier is good to be re-activated.
As for the rest of the squad, I would imagine it is going to be status quo in terms of the lineup. I would be curious to see if Fabian Zetterlund gets some power play time after hammering a heavy one-timer for the OT win in Calgary on Saturday.
One Last Thought: The Flames will be playing their third road game of the season in addition to coming from Long Island for tonight’s game. I really cannot stress enough how important it is for the Devils to put the Flames on their heels early. The Flames went to the UBS Arena and pretty much dominated the run of play from the first minute. It is possible that Calgary decided to take their losing-streak-frustrations out on the Isles while maintaining their 5-on-5 profile from this season save for the Devils game. Still, the Flames are a quality team not inhuman. They will likely want some revenge for Saturday night but their bodies are not going to be 100%. Rushing them down early will help them either immediately or later in the game.
Your Take: The New Jersey Devils return home to what will likely be a jubilant home crowd. While the Flames did play last night, their dominance over the Isles makes me think it will still be a tough game. Easily the toughest on paper of the three games this week. What do you think of this re-match? Can the Devils deny Calgary a measure of revenge? Can they build up a lead and keep it over the Flames? Please leave your answers and other thoughts and news about this rematch in the comments. Thank you for reading.