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Game Preview #73: New Jersey Devils @ Arizona Coyotes

The Devils continue to play out the stretch with a date in the desert against the Coyotes.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Arizona Coyotes
I personally would like to see Nico Hischier continue to score goals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (25-41-6, 56 points) visit the Arizona Coyotes (22-45-5, 49 points). SB Nation Blog: Five For Howling

The Time: 10:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+, ESPN+. RADIO - Devils Hockey Network (Access through NHL.com or the SiriusXM app)

The last Devils game

The Devils defeated the Dallas Stars Saturday afternoon, thanks to a strong performance in net by Nico Daws and a ridiculous goal by Nico Hischier to give the Devils the lead with 1:11 to go in regulation. If you missed that game over the weekend (who can blame you with spring here and the weather getting better in the tri-state area), you can read Matt’s recap here.

The last Coyotes game

Arizona, who is one of the few teams in the league to have a worse record than the Devils through the first 72 games of the season, lost to the Vegas Golden Knights 6-1 Saturday night. Vegas scored early and often against Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka (who stopped 33 of 39 shots), with Brayden McNabb leading the way for the Knights with a goal and two assists. Barrett Hayton was the lone goal scorer for Arizona as the Coyotes also play out the string.

The last Devils-Coyotes game

These teams met earlier this season, with Arizona getting a 4-1 win in their visit to Newark back on January 19th despite the Devils dominating the first period. The Devils season was already effectively over by that point, but that doesn’t make a home loss to the lowly Coyotes, one that really angered this team after the fact, sting any less.

I was particularly critical of Mackenzie Blackwood in my recap of that game. Little did I know at the time that that would be his final appearance before going on Injured Reserve and finally getting off of his injured heel. Blackwood is traveling on this road trip and Chico Resch mentioned the other night in the postgame show that he’s even hoping to get into a game soon. We’ll see if he makes his return against the last team he played an NHL game against.

I don’t think it’ll surprise you if I point out that Nico Hischier scored the only Devils goal in that aforementioned game against Arizona. Nor do I think you’ll be shocked that Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt assisted on it. But if you’ve been paying attention all year, you’d know the Devils offense has basically been carried by those three forwards all season while everybody else has mostly been a passenger.

Lastly, I made a point in my recap to note how embarrassing it was that the Devils had no response against a push by.....(checks notes)......Lawson Crouse, Dysin Mayo, Travis Boyd, and the Arizona Coyotes. The Devils have had plenty of these games this season where they’ve gotten blitzed by the opposition, sit back and simply take it. I’d like to see something closer to a 60 minute effort against a team they should be able to beat.

Tonight’s Lineups?

The Devils skated the lineup you see below vs. Dallas.

With Jonas Siegenthaler and Miles Wood out for the rest of the season, the Devils put recent recall Kevin Bahl on the second pairing with Dougie Hamilton while moving Ryan Graves up to play with Damon Severson. The results were about what you would expect, as the Graves-Severson pairing was heavily leaned on defensive, but the Bahl-Hamilton pairing surprisingly did well on the offensive end. Bahl even picked up a primary assist on the game-winning goal.

I wouldn’t expect the forward lines to stay the same though. Lindy Ruff mixed up the forward lines as the Stars game went along and seemed to find a top line he liked.

The trio of Sharangovich-Hischier-Zetterlund saw just over 5 minutes together at 5v5 against Dallas, a very small sample size, but they made the most of their opportunity late in the game. They were on ice for the first two Devils goals, posting a 75% CF% together and an xGF% of 88.72% along the way.

As for the rest of the Devils lines late against Dallas?

I like the idea of reuniting Bratt with Mercer on a line, as the two had a lot of success with Andreas Johnsson as their wingman over the early portion of the season.

Nathan Bastian returned to a full practice Monday, so perhaps we see him return on the fourth line. I already mentioned Blackwood earlier in this preview, and as Amanda Stein points out, he’s expected to join the Devils during today’s morning skate. I don’t think Blackwood will play against Arizona, but he does look to be on track to play at some point on this road trip.

You can watch Lindy Ruff’s comments following Monday’s practice here.

As for Arizona, here are what their lines look like nowadays.

Keys To The Game

Karel Vejmelka has struggled in net since he stymied the Devils back on January 19th, posting an .896 save percentage since then. I’d like to see the Devils continue to pepper Vejmelka with shots.

There’s not much in the Coyotes lineup that really pops out other than Nick Schmaltz, who is having a career year. Schmaltz is shooting a whopping 22.2%, with 22 goals and 28 assists in 53 games. If the Devils sell out to shut down one player on the Coyotes, I would hope its #8 from Arizona.

Lastly, Arizona has some of the worst special teams in the league, with a power play ranked 30th in the league at 13.6% and a league-worst penalty kill at 73.1%. I’d like to see the Devils take advantage of that if at all possible.

Final Thoughts

What do you think about today’s matchup? Can the Devils get a win against the Coyotes? What do you think about the revised lines? What are the keys to the game for you? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!