The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (11-9-1) versus the San Jose Sharks (5-16-2)
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN
Checking In on Fabian Zetterlund and Mackenzie Blackwood
While Mackenzie Blackwood should be unlikely to start tonight due to his starting last night in Boston, head coach David Quinn did not commit to playing Kaapo Kahkonen against the Devils. Blackwood is having a very respectable season in San Jose, with a .903 save percentage on a whopping 3.56 goals against average. Blackwood gets peppered like few goalies ever do, and he has risen to the task to make some games winnable for San Jose. Last night, he stopped 34 of 37 in a 3-0 loss to Boston.
Meanwhile, Fabian Zetterlund has been one of the best skaters on the Sharks, tied with Mike Hoffman for the team lead in goals while being second in total points behind Tomas Hertl...he has six goals and three assists in 23 games. Surely, he would have better production on a team that’s not built for AHL play. He leads San Jose in shots and is one of the only players on the ice that actually competes with a fire in his stomach.
Two Teams on a Back-to-Back
Though the Devils are near the top of the league in back-to-backs, tonight is one of the occasions that features another team that played the night before. Thankfully, this eliminates any advantage the opposition might have in terms of rest. Both teams also suffered on the back end last night, with San Jose giving up 37 shots to Boston and the Devils giving up 48 to Philadelphia. The Devils are going to have to be sharp tonight, as they more or less ensured that Akira Schmid would not be able to start consecutive nights with their performance last night.
What may be tough for the Devils is that both Luke Hughes and Nico Hischier were banged up at some point last night. Hughes, of course, hit his arm into the boards after Garnet Hathaway charged from center ice to hit him on an icing play. Nico looked dazed after falling to the ice in front of the net as the Devils scored a power play goal, missing about 10 minutes before coming back to help win the game. I hope they are able to handle the turnaround tonight. However, Lindy Ruff noted that Timo Meier may be available tonight.
Possible Discipline Coming for Brendan Smith
To possibly make matters worse, Brendan Smith will have a hearing today for his slash on Travis Konecny last night. I do not know whether he will be suspended, but it would be quite the double standard for the league to not have a hearing for Garnet Hathaway, who came charging from center ice into his hit on Luke Hughes last night. Additionally, this just reminds me of the recent Jacob Trouba incident, where he got a $5,000 fine for a slash to the head.
New Jersey’s Brendan Smith will have a hearing Friday for slashing Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 1, 2023
The Devils cannot really afford to lose another defenseman right now, and I think Smith should be fined for the play. But he should not be suspended if both Hathaway and Trouba get to continue with their dangerous actions on the ice at will. Still, the Devils need to survive the night even if Smith is out. The Sharks are 32nd in both goals scored for and against, with a -57 goal differential through 23 games played. These are games playoff teams can’t lose.
1:20 PM UPDATE: HAMILTON TO IR, NEMEC RECALLED
The moment has arrived, though not exactly for the reason we all wanted. Dougie Hamilton has been placed on injured reserve, retroactive to November 28. He will have to miss games through December 5, at minimum. In conjunction with this move, Simon Nemec has been recalled to the New Jersey Devils, and I assume he will play tonight — though we should find out more about Brendan Smith’s hearing in the near future.
According to Ryan Novozinsky, as well as the #NJDevils website, Simon Nemec is being called up.— Devils Army Blog (@DevilsArmyBlog) December 1, 2023
Novozinsky also reported that Dougie Hamilton is headed to the injured reserve.
Nemec, the team’s 2nd-overall pick in 2022, has eight points in 13 games for Utica (AHL) this year.
If Nemec plays, who do you think he should be paired with? I think he should probably go with a guy with Jonas Siegenthaler, if Smith is either out or moves back to forward, while Hughes should go back with Colin Miller. We will see later tonight.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils will make it a streak tonight? Or will San Jose surprise them? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.