The Matchup: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: MSG, MSGSN, NHL Network
The Opposition: Blueshirt Banter
Last Devils Game
The Devils welcomed the New York Islanders to town on Monday night, coming away with a 6-5 victory to move to 5-0 during preseason action. Splendid nights all around for Jesper Bratt, who registered a hat trick, and noted offensive juggernaut John Marino, who scored two goals of his own.
Last Rangers Game
It’s been a while since the Rangers played a game (last Saturday to be exact), but funnily enough the last time they took the ice was also against the Isles. The Rangers lost 5-3, though they at least made it interesting after falling behind 4-0. After the Rangers clawed back to make it a 4-3 game, Anders Lee scored with eight seconds left in the third period to seal the victory for the Islanders.
An Update on Cuts
After New Jersey’s most recent game, the team announced another series of cuts:
#NEWS: We have assigned the following players to Utica (AHL): forwards Graeme Clarke, Kyle Criscuolo (cleared waivers today), Chase Stillman and defenseman Daniil Misyul.— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 3, 2023
Goaltender Erik Kallgren was placed on waivers with intent of being assigned to Utica.
The most disappointing name on that list is probably Graeme Clarke. The young forward has been plugging along in the AHL the past couple years, and while nobody was expecting him to play his way onto the first line this preseason, I think many Devils fans expected him to put up a good fight for an opening night roster spot. Unfortunately for Clarke and the Devils, his showing in the exhibition slate was viewed as subpar, and thus back to Utica he goes. It’s entirely possible we still see Clarke in a Devils sweater at some point this season, whether that be through injury replacement or a call-up due to stellar play for Utica. But for now, he’ll have to hone his game a little more in the minors.
Potential Line Combos and Defense Pairings
According to Amanda Stein, the Devils rolled out these lines and defense pairs during their practice yesterday:
I think it’s safe to say based on the commentary she added to her tweet, Stein was impressed. And quite frankly, I don’t blame her. Those lines look terrific, and while some may want some tweaks here and there (like, for example, flipping Alex Holtz and Dawson Mercer, which was a popular projection over the summer), this has the makings of an excellent forward group. We’ve already seen the Tyler Toffoli-Jack Hughes-Jesper Bratt line work some serious magic this preseason...
And while the Timo Meier-Nico Hischier-Alex Holtz line wasn’t great their last time out against the Flyers last Saturday, Holtz did score thanks to some great work from Hischier and Meier. Which, by the way, happened to be the second time in as many games played that Holtz has buried a slick pass from Meier. Having two solid veterans in Ondrej Palat and Erik Haula and a budding star in Dawson Mercer on your third line is just icing on the cake. This Devils team is deep up front, and if all goes according to plan, this lineup will put up a boatload of goals this season.
Meanwhile on the backend, the Devils’ young guns have put forth some notable performances this preseason. Kevin Bahl has largely earned rave reviews, especially for his work with Marino. If he can find a way to replace Ryan Graves adequately enough, New Jersey might just have it’s next big shutdown pair for the foreseeable future. Elsewhere, check out that Luke Hughes-Simon Nemec pairing! The twin stud defense prospects have been up and down this preseason, with flashes of brilliance accompanied by classic rookie mistakes. Colin Miller has had a bit of a rough go of it so far, and while I personally find it hard to believe his roster spot is in any danger, I would guess I’m not alone in thinking a potential Hughes-Nemec third pairing would be wildly entertaining (though not necessarily always in a good way for the Devils).
A View Across the Hudson
It’s been a bit of a struggle for the Rangers this preseason, as they’ve only notched one win in four tries thus far. The Devils are partially to blame for New York’s 1-3 record thanks to a 3-2 victory in Manhattan last week. Obviously won-loss records don’t mean anything in preseason, it’s more about finding chemistry and getting up to speed for the regular season ahead. To that end, here’s how the Rangers lined up in practice a couple days ago according to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple:
#NYR practice lines/pairs for Monday— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) October 2, 2023
Chytil (upper) still not practicing
And according to Larry Brooks, it appears that New York will start Johnathan Quick tonight:
Should amend this. Garand will dress as backup in NJ behind Quick with Igor in net following night. https://t.co/DeHvlaMmyL— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) October 3, 2023
I’m not following the Rangers closely every day like I am the Devils, but from what I can gather, those defense pairings should be pretty close to New York’s opening night blueline. As for the forwards, it’s a bit of a jumbling of bodies. There are plenty of familiar names in prominent spots, such as Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck on the top line. We also see a line of Artemi Panarin-Mika Zibanejad-Kaapo Kakko, which I assume is a line new Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette is taking for a test drive for potential use in the regular season. If this is close to the lineup the Devils will see this evening, it might serve as a good test against basically the entire Rangers starting defense corps, plus most of their regulars up front. Quick obviously won’t be New York’s main netminder, not while Igor Shesterkin lives and breathes. But the Devils already saw Shesterkin this preseason (not to mention their numerous encounters with him over the past handful of seasons) so it’s not like New Jersey won’t be prepared for him come regular season time.
We’re getting close to the end of the preseason, with just one more game left after tonight. What will you be looking for this evening? Who do you think has the most to gain (or lose) during this game? Is there anyone on the Rangers that you will be keeping an eye on? As always, thanks for reading!