The Time: 7:30 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN2
After missing several games with a lower-body injury, Ondrej Palat is returning to the Devils lineup. Palat has five goals and nine assists in 35 games. This is a bit too low production for a player like Palat, but his impact off the puck has been excellent this season. As he should go right into the middle six, he will be in a good position to succeed. I am happy that he will not go onto the Hischier line, as that group looked fantastic with Timo Meier on Monday.
Palat said he had a lingering issue that was bothering him for the few games before he sat out.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 24, 2024
Says he feels good now and ready to go. https://t.co/8FgCd7REhM
Leaves of Absence
While the Devils were riding high from their overtime win Monday and the combination of Tom Fitzgerald’s extension and an off-ice event on Tuesday, yesterday’s news was different. The team announced after practice that Michael McLeod and Cal Foote will be out indefinitely due to leaves of absence. For the time being, McLeod and Foote will be unavailable to the team. If or when more information is made public, we will write about it as the situation requires. In the meantime, I always encourage everyone to stay informed and to keep a level head.
The Goaltending Parade (and Lines)
With a team save percentage of .887, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the few teams in the league that have a similarly rocky goaltending situation to the Devils. This has not stopped them from winning due to their dominance over the puck, but their goalies have been nothing special so far this season. Pyotr Kochetkov, their best goalie with a .900 save percentage in 23 games, is currently out with a concussion. That means that one of Antti Raanta, who has an .866 save percentage and a remarkable 10-7-2 record, or Spencer Martin, who has one win in one appearance for Carolina with 26 saves on 28 shots, will be in goal. Martin was claimed on waivers on January 19 from Columbus, where he had an .887 save percentage in 13 appearances this season.
On the other end, I have a strong suspicion that Nico Daws will be in net. He would be making his eighth start of the season. He currently has a .903 save percentage and 3.19 goals against average, though he has lost his last three starts. But given he has not played since January 20. Vitek also looked rough against Vegas. With only one more game before the break, I imagine that this and the game against Tampa will be split.
In front of them, the team will look something like this:
Here’s the #NJDevils lines and pairings from practice today.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 24, 2024
Biggest change is Mercer to center, in place of McLeod. Palat back on the 2nd line.
Miller back from illness, takes the spot Foote has skated in last game. pic.twitter.com/yIuq9D1kAU
I think the Toffoli-Mercer-Palat line should work well. Palat does good work off the puck, which should set up Toffoli and Mercer to work on offense. And with better righty-lefty balance, their passing should be better. The bottom six, stable from last game, should provide some balance of physicality and skill tonight. I hope that the third line has as great of a game as they had Monday. Defensively, it’s similar to Monday, but with Colin Miller stepping back onto the third pairing. I think these pairings showed promise on Monday, but it will be a different test with the dominant offensive attack of Carolina. The key to this game will be not ceding the defensive zone. Once the Canes get in, they don’t leave.
10:30 AM Update: Dowling and Misyul Recalled
To fill the roster spots left by yesterday’s developments, the Devils have recalled Justin Dowling and Daniil Misyul from Utica.
Misyul, 23, is in his first North American season. He has had three goals and eight assists in 30 games for the Utica Comets, but barring a defensive acquisition, he should be up here for quite some time while Brendan Smith recovers from an injury. Misyul first played in the KHL in 2018-19, when he played three games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl at age 18. The following season, he became a KHL regular. In total, Misyul played 184 KHL games, scoring five goals and 16 assists (though, note, that assists are not counted the same way there). Additionally, Misyul has played 13 KHL playoff games and 27 MHL playoff games (usually joining their lower squad after their KHL team was eliminated). Misyul has a reputation as a solid skating, physical defenseman, and I believe is someone to watch as a potential third or second pair shutdown defenseman.
Dowling, 33, is a 5’10” center who has six goals and 12 assists in 98 games. His NHL gmaes were split across five seasons between 2016 and 2022, playing 76 games for Dallas from 2016 to 2021 and 22 for Vancouver in 2021-22. Dowling has had 19 points in 30 games for Utica this season after scoring 46 points in 56 games (though his goal scoring pace has improved this season) last year for the Abbotsford Canucks. I do not expect to see Dowling unless someone gets hurt before the All-Star break.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils can beat Carolina? Who do you think the Devils should call up to fill their two empty roster spots? Do you think the Devils can finish off with a good couple games before the break? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.