The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (42-16-6) at the Montreal Canadiens (26-33-6). Opposition Blog: Habs Eye on the Prize
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV — MSGSN
According to head coach Martin St. Louis, the Devils will be facing goaltender Jake Allen tonight. Jake Allen is 14-20-3 this season with an .898 save percentage and 3.35 goals against average. This is the worst season to-date for the 32 year old goaltender, but he does not have much to work with in Montreal. On the other side, there has not been any word from Lindy Ruff on who will start for the Devils, but the team had a day off yesterday. They will have a morning skate at 11:30 today.
The Canadiens' injury woes have been difficult. Cole Caufield and Arber Xhekaj are out until training camp, while Brendan Gallagher is out for another few weeks. Gallagher and Juraj Slafkovsky may return from their injuries for the last few games of the year, but at this point that is no certainty. Kirby Dach is also listed as being out infefinitely, and Christian Dvorak missed their last game against the Rangers. Without much of their lineup, the Canadiens have had to turn to AHLers to fill the roster. One such player is Alex Belzile, the 31-year old captain of the Laval Rocket. He has four goals and six assists in 19 games this season. 24-year old and 2019 7th round draft pick Rafaël Harvey-Pinard also has eight goals and four assists in 21 appearances so far for the Canadiens. Harvey-Pinard had over 23 minutes of ice time in his last game played, showing how much the Canadiens are leaning on their organizational depth for breakout candidates.
The Keys to Victory
I do not think it should be remarkably difficult for the Devils to handle the Canadiens tonight. Montreal already has many of their top players out, and their only established offensive threats remaining are Nick Suzuki (49 points), Mike Hoffman (26 points in 52 games), and Josh Anderson (19 goals). If Dvorak is not available tonight, then the Canadiens will only have five of their top ten scorers on the year. And that's already not a very world-beating bunch.
So, the key to victory tonight is to continue dominating possession as the Devils have been. I do not expect the Canadiens to have the quick-strike capability of the other opponents the Devils have been or will be facing over the next couple of weeks. Since the team plays Carolina tomorrow night, it would also behoove Lindy Ruff to get the BMW line as much ice time as possible if (and only if) the Devils get out to a 2-goal lead. Otherwise, keep the scorers out there until the team is safely ahead.
What do you think of tonight’s game? How should Lindy split the games for Schmid and Vanecek? Will Timo Meier have a multi-point night tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.