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Here are five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Edmonton Oilers:
1. A response game
Cory Schneider’s last outing was not exactly a good one. He conceded seven times on just 23 shots and 1.82 expected goals. I know luck was not on his side but it was legitimately one of the worst goaltending performances I have seen in some time. The Devils elected to give Mackenzie Blackwood a good run in recent weeks – understandably so – but they have to go Schneider tonight in a back-to-back situation. It’s an absolute must Schneider has a decent start and provides some stability. He owns a .847 save percentage through five games and is yet to record a win. He’s only going to get so many chances. If he throws up another dud tonight, he might take the backseat for a while. And it’s hard to argue against it.
2. Tightening up
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are almost unstoppable. They rank No. 1 and No. 4 in 5v5 points and both rank inside the top-10 in terms of generating scoring chances at full-strength. Now, they get to take on a tired Devils team that is trotting out the goaltender with the league’s worst 5v5 save percentage (min. 200 minutes played). If the Devils aren’t much tighter defensively – they gave up 37 chances vs Calgary, 15 of which were high-danger – this duo is going to light them up like a Christmas tree. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge.
3. Top line Hughes?
We may or may not see it. I think we should. For one, Jack Hughes has eight points over his last eight games and is really settling in as a top-6 forward in the NHL. I think he can handle a little more on his plate. Hughes has shown flashes on the top line and Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt (expected to return) were nothing short of spectacular in their time together before Bratt went down. I think going back to that trio, rather than putting Hughes with another undersized forward who isn’t great defensively (Bratt), is the way to go.
4. A good spot for New Jersey’s power play
It feels like most of the teams the Devils have faced lately either a) take a lot of penalties or; b) give up a ton of chances while killing penalties. The Oilers are no different.
While their standard PK numbers aren’t all that bad, they are bleeding high-quality looks. As such, they rank 28th in Expected Goals Against/60 – ahead of only New York (R), Winnipeg, and Detroit. That’s not good news considering just four teams have spent more time shorthanded. I could see the Devils doing some damage on the man advantage in this one.
5. Snail’s pace
If there is a team you want to see in the latter half of a back-to-back, it might be Edmonton. Why? They play slow, low-event hockey. Though the Devils are in a pace-up spot (by default), it’s not a big one. The Oilers rank 27th in Corsi pace and 25th in Expected Goals pace. Top line aside, they don’t really generate or allow many chances. They’re not looking to speed up the game and trade chances on the rush. I think that benefits the Devils. If they can hang around at 5v5 in what should be a slower game, and get a goal or two from their power play, a win is certainly not out of the question.
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier/Jack Hughes - Kyle Palmieri
Pavel Zacha - Jack Hughes/Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt
Jesper Boqvist - Travis Zajac - Blake Coleman
Miles Wood - Kevin Rooney - Wayne Simmonds
Damon Severson - P.K. Subban
Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher - Matt Tennyson
Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Alex Chiasson
James Neal - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaiara - Riley Sheahan - Josh Archibald
Patrick Russell - Gaetan Haas - Sam Gagner
Darnell Nurse - Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom - Kris Russell
Brandon Manning - Matt Benning
Puck drop is just after 9:00 p.m. and can be seen on SNW and MSG+.
numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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