The Time: 7:00 PM ET
Preseason Debut for Both Teams
Both the Devils and Canadiens will be making their preseason debuts this evening. I won’t bore you with the details of what happened the last time these two teams met (it went poorly and exactly as you’d expect most bad games from last season to go). That was then, and this is now.
The two teams are looking to put the miserable campaigns of 2021-22 behind them and bounce back to respectability. After a fluke Stanley Cup Final appearance during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020-21, Montreal regressed in a major way and finished last season with a league-worst record of 22-49-11, 55 points. Carey Price spent most of last season in the NHL’s Player Assistance Program, Shea Weber retired due to various injuries, and the Habs sunk to the bottom of the standings. No team gave up more goals than the Habs last year, and they wound up picking first in the NHL Draft (Juraj Slafkovsky) as a result.
The Devils weren’t much better, finishing 27-46-9 for 63 points. That was the 5th worst record in the league, which is unacceptable for a team that before the season talked about playing meaningful games later in the season. Fortunately for the Devils though, injuries to the goaltending position and key players partly explain why they finished where they did. The ping pong balls fell New Jersey’s way once again in the Draft Lottery and they won the right to pick second in the NHL Draft. As you know by now, they selected Slovakian defenseman Simon Nemec.
Will we see Slafkovsky and/or Nemec debut for their respective teams? There’s a good chance we do.
As of this writing, the Devils have yet to announce their gameday roster for this evening. John pointed out in his guide to the preseason that the CBA requires the Devils to dress 8 veterans for a preseason contest.
As for the Habs, Renaud Lavoie from TVA Sports noted that Slafkovsky should be among the players who suit up for Montreal tonight.
Juraj Slafkovsky not playing in the Red-White game today. That means that he should play tomorrow vs the @NJDevils. Martin St-Louis said yesterday that the players that are not playing Sunday will play on Monday. @CanadiensMTL— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) September 25, 2022
Assuming that Martin St. Louis isn’t being coy and deceptive with the local media in Montreal, one can assume that Cole Caufield, Mike Hoffman, Kirby Dach, Mike Matheson, and Jake Allen will be among the Canadien contingent who will join Slafkovsky and play this evening.
Don’t expect to see newly-anointed Habs captain Nick Suzuki as he’ll miss a couple weeks with a lower-body injury. Josh Anderson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and Joel Edmundson is out indefinitely, so there’s a reasonable chance they both sit out as well. There’s no sense in pushing veterans who are less than 100 percent in otherwise meaningless contests.
UPDATE #1 - It appears we have lineups for this evening, so I removed my highly speculative Devils lineup.
The #NJDevils are using the following workflow at morning skate…— Sam Kasan (@samikasan) September 26, 2022
Tatar – Hischier – Bratt
Johnsson – Boqvist – Zetterlund
Foote – Thompson – Clarke
Laberge – Talvitie – Halonen
Graves – Severson
Okhotiuk – Bahl
Vilen – Walsh
Ce soir face aux Devils— Luc Gelinas (@LucGelinasRDS) September 26, 2022
Caufield - Beck _ Hoffman
Pitlick- Dach - Slafkovsky
Harvey-Pinard - Mesar - Richard
Pezzetta - Mysak - Roy
Mattheson - Barron
Guhle - Harris
Fairbrother - Norlinder
What to Look For?
There are two major things I’ll be looking for.
First and foremost, NO INJURIES. The Devils may have dodged a bullet in Sunday’s scrimmage with Andreas Johnsson avoiding an injury after getting tangled up with Nikita Okhotiuk in the corner (On a related note: expect the Devils to hold Johnsson out tonight). Regardless of how you feel about any player in camp competing for a spot, nobody wants to see a rash of injuries before the season even begins.
The second thing for me is that I want to see the guys who are on the roster bubble state their case and make life as difficult as possible for Tom Fitzgerald and Lindy Ruff.....in a good way, of course. I want to see Simon Nemec prove that he doesn’t need AHL seasoning. I want to see Kevin Bahl, Tyce Thompson, and Nolan Foote show that they have nothing left to prove at the AHL level. Whether they’re capable of doing that and beating out some of the other young players and veterans for a roster spot remains to be seen, but I’m a big believer in looking the part and leaving no doubt. We saw last preseason Dawson Mercer give the Devils no choice but to put him on the Opening Night roster. From the little bit of Alex Holtz we’ve seen in the prospects tournament and intra-squad scrimmages, we may be seeing that again this preseason.
Other than that? It’s preseason hockey. The win-loss record doesn’t matter, although winning is preferable to losing. There’s no reason to panic if Dawson Mercer goes scoreless in 4 preseason games or Vitek Vanecek lets in 3 goals in the first period. The whole purpose of preseason is to work out the rust and get ready for the season. Keep that in mind if your favorite veteran player struggles in a small sample size.
What do you think about tonight’s matchup? What will you be looking for, and what players would you like to see make an impact and state their case for making the NHL roster? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!