The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (16-11-1) versus the Anaheim Ducks (10-19-0).
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN, Bally Sports SD, Bally Sports SC; Radio - Devils Hockey Network
Vanecek vs. Gibson
After the New Jersey Devils gave the Anaheim Ducks the ability to practice on the ice at The Rock prior to their game against the New York Rangers, the Ducks were kind enough to rest John Gibson and allow Lukas Dostal to post a 5-1 loss on Friday night. Last night, the Ducks had scouts watching the Devils-Jackets game, which was probably not much of a burden, considering the Ducks have been making the rounds in the Metro since Wednesday. While I’m not sure if the Devils had scouts on their games at the Islanders or Rangers, we should see the most important comparison tonight.
The good news for the Devils here is that the Ducks have fallen all the way to 10-19-0 after their 9-6-0 start. For the Ducks players whose only win in their last 14 games have been in a shootout, I think they would welcome a trade in the immediate future. John Gibson, for what it’s worth, has saved about exactly — if not a bit more than — what should be expected of him given the shots he has faced this year.
John Gibson is 30 years old and carries a 6.4 million dollar cap hit for three seasons after this one ends. It’s not the end of the world if the Devils do trade for him, though, as Akira Schmid will likely not be breaking the bank in the immediate future, and Gibson would be an apparent improvement over Vanecek. The question is: is he enough of an improvement to command that money? Gibson may be fighting for a job he doesn’t have yet tonight, while Vitek fights to preserve his current job.
Another Returning Face
Adam Henrique will be returning to The Rock tonight, and he has chugged along despite the team collapsing around him over the past few weeks. He is up to 6 goals and 7 assists in 28 games, with a nice 14.3 shooting percentage, despite a slow start. He is also winning over 50% of his faceoff draws, and his line with Max Jones and Jakob Silfverberg, when they do play together, has been the second best Ducks line by xGF% at 52.94%, for a team-best +6.87 relative increase from the team expectation (their best line is Killorn-McTavish-Terry at 54.99 xGF% but only second best in relative rating at +6.68). I have made every attempt to mention that I think Henrique would really tie our forwards together, especially with a long-term injury to Nosek, a drop in effectiveness from Bastian, and some streaky contributions from Lazar. The Ducks could easily eat half of his cap hit to make it possible. I would look for Henrique to look like one of the most competent skaters on the ice for the Ducks tonight.
Last Night’s Milestone Night
Last night, Jack Hughes scored his 100th goal and had his second career hat trick for the 100th hat trick in Devils history. Nico Hischier scored his 300th career point on a goal from a nice feed from Jesper Bratt. And with all of that, Lindy Ruff secured his 850th win of his coaching career. These are just little marks to these guys in the grand scheme of things, as we know they just care about the victory. Onwards and upwards, as they say: much bigger milestones will come down the line for these guys, but it’s another reminder of how good Nico and Jack have become.
What do you think of tonight’s game and goaltending matchup? What do you think of the Ducks’ losing streak? How far out from competitiveness do you think they are? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.