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Game Preview #58: New Jersey Devils vs. Winnipeg Jets

It’s Travis Zajac night! Beat the Jets for once, please.

2022 NHL All-Star Skills
Jack Hughes and Kyle Connor are both electric players - but they probably won’t be smiling at each other tonight.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (21-31-5) versus the Winnipeg Jets (25-22-10). SBN Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

No Nico Again

After stunning the Avalanche on Tuesday night, coming back from a 3-0 deficit and handing Colorado their first loss of the season when leading through the first period, the Devils will have to play without their captain again tonight. The Winnipeg Jets are a much less formidable opponent than the Avalanche, but one thing is true about the Jets - they are a very physical team that gets a bit dirty at times. The Devils will have to contend with players like Brenden Dillon and Pierre-Luc Dubois (a guy who just two-handed K’Andre Miller in the helmet a few nights ago) - players who sometimes take a few too many liberties with opposing players. Of course, Mason Geertsen will be in the lineup for the Devils with Hischier out - so this could be an interesting game.

I would expect to see Siegenthaler and Severson deployed against the line of Paul Stastny, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. That line scored two goals in Winnipeg’s 7-4 win over Tampa Bay two nights ago, and they should probably match up with Jack Hughes’ line. The Winnipeg Jets’ second line of Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Evgeny Svechnikov is a much more physical line - and I would prefer to see them playing against some combination of Zacha and McLeod’s line. Connor also leads the Jets in point production with 64 points in 57 games, as he has already surpassed the 30-goal mark and owns a 13.6 shot percentage on 250 shots on goal. By comparison, Jesper Bratt leads the Devils with 141 shots. The Jets might be porous at times defensively, but they know how to get the puck on net.

The Jets are, really, one of the most average teams in the NHL. They have 173 goals for and 174 against. The league average is - you guessed it - 174 for and against. They have near-even numbers in CF%, xGF%, and HDCF%. Their special teams are a net +6, with a 22.04% power play effectiveness (41 goals on 186 chances) and a 77.38% penalty kill effectiveness (38 goals on 168 chances against) with seven shorthanded goals scored by the Jets, with their power play allowing four against. Mark Recchi might want to keep that in mind as he considers how high in the zone he wants his power play to handle the puck - the Jets can easily worsen the Devils’ shorthanded goals against count.

With Connor Hellebuyck already having played four games in the month of March, giving up four goals in each of those starts, I would think it’s time for Eric Comrie to get a start for the Jets. Comrie last played on February 27 when he allowed three goals on 29 shots in a win over Arizona. Hellebuyck has had a bad 2022 calendar year in general, with an 8-11-5 record and a .902 save percentage. Comrie, who the Devils never should have waived, has a 6-2-1 record with a .914 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average for the Jets this season. Fortunately, Nico Daws should be getting the start tonight for the Devils - as I would be disappointed if the Devils lost on a night like this.

Travis Zajac’s Night

You may not see him in the lineup (though he was first on the ice for the morning skate, as he often was in his playing days), but the Devils plan on honoring their longtime top center, Travis Zajac for playing 1,000 games in the NHL with the Devils. When Zajac previously hit 1,000 games played, there were restrictions on game attendance and the ceremony was a bit...odd.

Travis Zajac had mixed success against the Winnipeg Jets. In 37 games against his hometown team, he had eight goals and 11 assists on 70 shots. That’s probably a touch below his career scoring pace, and I do not have many fond memories of the Devils playing the Jets during his career. Still, do relive some of Zajac’s high moments in Gerard’s article.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? How do you feel about the Devils honoring Zajac again? Do you think he will make his official return to the team soon, given the number of practices he has been attending? How do you think the Devils match up with the Jets with Hischier out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.