The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (25-12-3) at the Carolina Hurricanes (25-8-7). SBN Blog: Canes Country.
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - ESPN+/Hulu
Bastian, Marino, and Wood on the Road Trip
It has felt like the Devils have been lost without their big bottom six presence in Nathan Bastian, who has been out with an upper body injury since November 26. Bastian had eight points in 21 appearances, and has been playing more minutes per game this season than any other year of his career. With how poorly the bottom six has performed over the past several games, it should be an injection of life into their play if Bastian returns to the lineup tonight. However, during practice yesterday, Miles Wood was injured and had to be helped off the ice by Tomas Tatar and Michael McLeod.
Jack’s got new linemates.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 9, 2023
Here’s your #NJDevils lines from practice, considering that Miles Wood left practice. Would imagine that’s where Zetterlund stepped in on the line. pic.twitter.com/t5woZbDVrx
It seems that Bastian may yet sit a game, but there is really no reason that he should not outright replace Boqvist. Nobody wants to see Erik Haula and Jesper Boqvist play on offense at any point together. Regardless, Stein said, in addition to Bastian - Miles Wood will travel on this road trip. Whether he feels well enough to play tonight remains to be seen.
While John Marino did not practice yesterday, Amanda Stein also said that he is traveling with the team. As this is a five-game road trip, hopefully we get to see him by the time they get to San Jose or Seattle (Jan. 16 or 19) - but I’m not hopeful about his availability considering he did not practice. Though the defense has struggled in his absence, this has not been due to the play of Damon Severson on the second pairing.
The NHL season always seems to come and go pretty quickly despite being 82 games. For both the Devils and Hurricanes, they will be halfway through their regular seasons following the completion of tonight’s game. While the Hurricanes sit above the Devils in the standings, there are a few reasons to believe in the Devils’ superiority. With both teams at 25 wins, the Canes have their advantage through four more loser points. The Hurricanes also have three shootout wins. By contrast, each of the Devils’ wins are regulation and overtime (ROW), with 21 of those 25 being in regulation. For the Hurricanes, they have 22 ROW, with 18 of those being in regulation. Carolina leads the league in overtime games played (14). So, I do believe that, in conjunction with the Devils’ better goal differential, that we should expect the Devils to get past the Hurricanes again in the standings at some point. A win tonight would bring them within two points.
Also fun to look at around the halfway point is where everyone on the Devils stands, statistically. Jack Hughes would be on track for 100 points if he gets on the scoresheet tonight. Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier are both on about an 80-point pace, while Dougie Hamilton is around a 70-point pace. After that, Tomas Tatar is the only player that may be on pace to hit 50 points after tonight’s game, unless Dawson Mercer has a particularly excellent game. Those six players are the only Devils with half a point per game or better. Hopefully this improves in the second half, as their depth scoring looks a bit haphazard as a top team. I mean, Carolina even has 20 points in 37 games from Stefan Noesen - so they have seven players with half a point per game or better, and Max Pacioretty will only play his third game with the team tonight.
The Key To Victory
The New Jersey Devils have been doing much better lately. That has finally translated into some wins recently, but they need to be on their A-game tonight. That means that the usual penalty suspects need to stay far away from the penalty box tonight. While the Devils’ penalty kill has been excellent lately, I would not want to test the Hurricanes too much - especially since Pacioretty returned from his surgery.
Today's #NJDevils stat: Devils have turned things back around over the last 5 games. Here are the numbers:— Bill Spaulding (@BillSpaulding) January 10, 2023
GF: 20 (4.0 GPG)
GA: 15 (3.0 GAA)
PP: 5-21 (23.8%)
PK: 16-19 (84.2%)
Shooting %: 12.1 %
Sv Pct: .906
The Hurricanes do not have any particularly excellent shooters. In fact, they are shooting well below expected as a team right now. Still, they have a few scorers to keep an eye on. From HockeyViz, these are the assist-goal pathways for the Hurricanes this year.
As you can see in the right goals column, this has been a rough year for Teuvo Teravainen. He only has three goals so far, as he doesn’t really factor into primary playmaking too much. This is rather disappointing for him, as he had 65 points last season. Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov are really the ones to watch, though. In 360 minutes playing on a line together, they have a 61.35 CF% and outscore opponents 19-11. Both players seem to struggle a bit when playing without the other. Regardless, Lindy Ruff is going to have to be certain to have his best matchup on Martin Necas’ line.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils will come away with a win? How do you feel about this team at the halfway point? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.