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Game Preview #57: New Jersey Devils vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Devils have had a decent run lately. Can they keep it up against one of the league’s best?

Colorado Avalanche v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (20-31-5) versus the Colorado Avalanche (41-11-5). SBN Blog: Mile High Hockey

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

A Test for Nico Daws and the Devils

Since the Devils had normal rest for this game, I expect Nico Daws to get the start against the Avalanche. This could be rough for Daws, as the Avalanche score nearly four goals (3.93) while averaging over 35 shots per game. Among Devils goaltenders this season, Daws has the best save percentage (.908) and goals against average (2.70), while his five-on-five save percentage is a respectable .918. Tonight’s game would be his 10th appearance, tying him with Jonathan Bernier for games played this season.

The offensive disparity between these two teams is quite striking. Only Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes have broken 40 points for the Devils, with Bratt past the 50 mark. The Avalanche, meanwhile, have seven players with 40 or more points, with Makar, Rantanen, and Kadri each above 60 points. Gabriel Landeskog got his 30th goal of the season before a single Devil got to 20. Just last night, the Avalanche beat the Islanders 5-4 while putting 49 shots on goal. They are a scoring machine, and the Devils will need to be at the top of their game to hang with them.

This probably seems ridiculous - how can the Devils hang with a team like that? The Devils were the fastest-scoring team in the month of February in the entire NHL. The Avalanche were a cool 14th place. The Devils haven’t put up more than three goals in their March games, but that could change tonight. I think Yegor Sharangovich won’t go too many more shots without scoring after a three-game point drought (hopefully bringing more offensive output to the Hughes line to build off plays like the Mercer goal on Sunday), and the Devils have a fully functional lineup for the first time in...well, a while. Ultimately, the fact that they have a nearly-healthy team puts them in a good position to compete with even top teams in the league.

Since the Avalanche played last night and were backed up by Pavel Francouz, they should be going to Darcy Kuemper tonight. Kuemper, age 31 and an unrestricted free agent (*coughs under breath to get Tom Fitzgerald’s attention*) after this season, is having a great season with a .918 save percentage and a 27-6-2 record in 39 starts. On Kuemper’s 92 goals allowed, he had an expected goals against of 100.78 - thus saving about eight goals above expected. Historically, Kuemper has mostly been a backup goaltender, though he did start for the Coyotes in 2018-19 with a .925 save percentage in 55 games and in 2020-21 with a .907 save percentage in 27 games. While Kuemper is not as rock solid as before he turned 30 years old, he is still a good goaltender and the Devils will have to force him to work - he only faces an average of 28.6 shots per game.

Gender Equality Night

Tonight is Gender Equality Night at The Rock, and it will feature an interesting change to the radio broadcast. Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch, it seems, will be given a night off while Kelly Schultz and Erica Ayala take the reins. From the Devils’ press release:

During the game, for the first-time in franchise history, the Devils will have all-female digital broadcast. The team’s broadcast on the Devils Hockey Network presented by RWJBarnabas Health will feature Kelly Schultz as play-by-play announcer and Erica Ayala as color commentator. Shultz has 15 years of play-by-play experience and is currently the radio voice of the Bemidji State University Division 1 women’s hockey team. Ayala is a sports writer who has covered basketball, hockey and other sports for espnW, ThinkProgress, Deadspin, and numerous other publications. She has worked as an analyst on PHF/NWHL broadcasts and is the host of Founding 4 Podcast and co-founding writer of The IX Newsletter.

Since I will be home tonight, I should be watching on TV - though I might check the radio for a bit to hear Schultz and Ayala for their call. I can only hope that it goes well and the two get more opportunities to do NHL broadcasting. The Devils, meanwhile, will also be wearing a warmup jersey designed by Amrisa Niranjan, a local artist.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching or listening? What do you think of the goaltending matchup tonight? Do you think the Devils can hang with the Avalanche? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.