The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils () versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. SBN Blog: Raw Charge
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
Johnsson, Bratt, and Kuokkanen Update
Following the news that Janne Kuokkanen and Jesper Bratt would both be out with injuries, Andreas Johnsson joined them when he left the game early on Sunday when the Devils played the Penguins. This could be rough for Andreas Johnsson, as this has been a much better season than last and it would suck to see him miss games as he's trying to put together a cohesive, full season.
No Andreas Johnsson today at #NJDevils practice. He left yesterday's warmup with a lower-body injury and did not play against the Penguins.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) February 14, 2022
Janne Kuokkanen and Jesper Bratt are also not at practice. Janne was placed on IR yesterday, Bratt is currently day-to-day.
Later, Stein added that Ruff said Jesper Bratt and Janne Kuokkanen both skated yesterday before practice. Missing more time would also be bad for Janne Kuokkanen, as he has found himself stapled to the bottom six with a slew of Devils prospects waiting for chances in those roles. In any time that he misses, another young Devil might force themselves into the bottom six conversation.
Practice Lines Looking More Like Normal, Injuries Aside
While last game featured the promised return of Jack Hughes on the wing, Lindy Ruff has shifted gears and decided to go to a more usual usage of his players. As you can see below, Zacha has returned to Nico Hischier's wing. I think this is a better way to go about using Zacha, though I did not think he was bad in his return to center (though I did not see the game on Sunday).
Today at #NJDevils practice… here’s how the lines shaped up: pic.twitter.com/Zf2sCAwme5— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) February 14, 2022
I am also happy that Ruff is willing to play Dawson Mercer as a top six winger. Especially with Jesper Boqvist trying to carve himself a role in what seemed to me like his last chance with the team, playing Mercer higher in the lineup with Jesper Bratt out gives the team an opportunity to give potential bottom sixers a chance. I also think there was room for discussion going into this season about whether Mercer would be better at wing or center. As one of the two players who has played every game so far, I think the Devils can afford to give him looks at wing to see which long-term positional fit would be best.
Don’t Put Daws in the Line of Fire
While Amanda Stein did not indicate a planned starter for tonight's game, I would not recommend Nico Daws getting the nod with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming to The Rock. The Lightning have a rather high shooting percentage of 8.7, well above the league average number of 7.7% and the Devils' 7.4%. Jesper Bratt is currently the Devils' goal scoring leader at 14, but the Lightning have four players above that total in Stamkos, Point, Killorn, and Palat. They also have Nikita Kucherov back, so the Lightning are nearly at full strength.
Jon Gillies has been playing steadily lately. He's not too prone to really bad games, and is probably a safer bet against a team of great shooters like the Lightning. As long as the Devils don't let Anthony Cirelli work all alone in front of Gillies or give Mathieu Joseph time and space to get his own rebound while shorthanded, Gillies should do alright for the Devils.
What do you think of tonight's game? Do you think the Devils can avoid a repeat of their last matchup with Tampa Bay? Do you think Dawson Mercer would make a better wing or center? Do you think Pavel Zacha will still be a Devil after the trade deadline? Will Nico Hischier continue his hot streak? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.