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Game Preview #74: New Jersey Devils @ Colorado Avalanche

The Devils are 2-0 on this road trip, but face their toughest test yet against the best in the west. This preview touches on what they need to do to have any chance of beating the Colorado Avalanche.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New Jersey Devils
Nathan MacKinnon is one of the best in the world, so slowing him down needs to be a high priority for the Devils
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (26-41-6, 58 points) visit the Colorado Avalanche (53-14-6, 112 points). SB Nation Blog: Mile High Hockey

The Time: 9:00 PM ET

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

The last Devils game

The Devils beat the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 6-2 on Tuesday evening, a game that was most notable for the first career goals by Fabian Zetterlund and Kevin Bahl. Chris had the recap of this game and noted how aside from the power play being abysmal as per usual, it was a good night offensively. Yegor Sharangovich (2 G, 1 A) and Nico Hischier (3 assists) led the way with three points each, the aforementioned rookies each picked up a point and assist, and Nico Daws turned in another solid performance in net, stopping 19-of-21 shots in the win.

The last Avalanche game

The Avalanche destroyed the Los Angeles Kings, who are fighting for their playoff lives and have everything to play for while Colorado theoretically has little to play for until the playoffs start, by a score of 9-3 in a TNT nationally televised game last night. The win set a new franchise record for wins in a regular season for Colorado.

Colorado made short work of veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick, who gave up 3 goals in just over ten minutes of play before being pulled for Cal Petersen. Petersen wasn’t any better the rest of the way, giving up 6 goals on 25 shots against.

Nathan MacKinnon (3 G, 2 A) recorded the fourth hat trick of his career. Cale Makar (1 G, 3 A) had a four point night in the win, while Valeri Nichushkin and Nicolas Aube-Kubel each added a pair of goals as well.

The last Devils-Avs game

These teams met back on March 8th, with the Devils stunning the Avalanche with five straight goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and win the game 5-3.

I noted in my recap at the time that it was an impressive performance all things considered.....the opponent, falling behind, and the nature of the comeback. This was very much a Jack Hughes doing Jack Hughes things and Jesper Bratt doing Jesper Bratt things type of game, mixed with getting some fortuitous bounces off of the opportunities they (and others) created. Let’s see what the Devils can come up with when Colorado is dictating the matchups this time around, but at least the Devils will have Nico Hischier in the lineup this time around. Hischier has been on an absolute tear since Christmas, with 17 G and 24 A in 39 games despite being in and out of the lineup with a nagging foot injury,

Tonight’s Lineups?

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

Nate Bastian made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, stepping in for healthy scratch Andreas Johnsson, but otherwise, those lines are basically what the Devils finished the Dallas game with on Saturday. I’m very much in the camp of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so I would be fine leaving the lines that have worked over the last four periods as is and even starting Daws again in net.

The Devils did not have an on-ice practice Wednesday in Denver, opting to go with off-ice workouts and film sessions in preparation for Colorado, so we’ll see if any potential lineup news comes out during the morning skate later today.

The Avs lines last night are as follows.

Aside from Pavel Francouz getting the start in net, I wouldn’t expect any changes from Colorado’s perspective. The Devils wouldn’t be getting much of a break with the backup as Francouz has posted a .917 save percentage in 18 appearances this season.

Keys To The Game

Part of the reason why the Devils came back to beat the Avs last month was that they took advantage of fortuitous bounces. Tatar was in position to bury a rebound off of a shot that Siegenthaler rang off the pipe. Ty Smith found a tiny hole as Darcy Kuemper was hugging the post and slipped one by. Jack Hughes fired a shot that Kuemper deflected away with his blocker, but the puck hit Nathan Bastian in the chest and he tapped in the loose puck.

I say that to say the Devils need to create their own opportunities, regardless of who is in net for Colorado. It sounds simplistic to say it, but a lot of that comes from getting pucks on the net because weird bounces do happen. Get positioning, get guys in front who can screen the goaltender or redirect the puck, and good things tend to happen.

Other than that, you know who the difference makers are for the Avalanche. You don’t need me to point out how good Nathan MacKinnon or Cale Makar or Mikko Rantanen are. It’s not only imperative for the Devils to play a sound defensive game and get a competent start in net from whoever their goaltender is later today, but they need to avoid giving Colorado’s 5th ranked power play extra chances, or they will pay.

Lastly, the Devils were probably fortunate last time they met that Colorado was on the back end of a back-to-back, got out to a big lead against the Devils, took their foot off of the gas, and already started looking ahead to a matchup two days later against Carolina. The Avs wound up losing that game. Well, this is the same exact situation facing the Avs again. Colorado hosted the LA Kings last night in a TNT nationally televised game, host the Devils tonight on the back end of a back-to-back, and are probably looking ahead to a rematch with Carolina over the weekend. Or at least that is probably what Avs coach Jared Bednar is telling his team so they don’t potentially overlook the Devils yet again. Colorado doesn’t necessarily NEED the two points from New Jersey unless they’re wrapped up in winning an otherwise meaningless President’s Trophy, but I’m sure they haven’t forgotten that this Devils team ran them out of the building five weeks ago either. I’m also sure they have bigger aspirations than an otherwise meaningless regular season game.

Final Thoughts

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