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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Carolina Hurricanes:
1. Opposites attract
To say there's a large gap in the two team's ability to generate shots would be an understatement. At 5v5, the Devils have been a disaster since Taylor Hall went down with an injury and it simply isn't getting any better. If anything, they're heading south. Over the last 10 games, the Devils have averaged 47.31 shot attempts per 60. That puts them a distant 31st. During that same span, the Hurricanes have piled up shots at a higher clip than anyone, averaging 65.64 per 60. That's nearly 20(!) more attempts. The gap in chances is large, too, with the Hurricanes generating 10 more/60 over the last 10.
While the Devils are hitting new lows, the Hurricanes are reaching new heights. If a lot of this game is played at 5v5, we should expect the latter to dominate the shot clock and perhaps the scoreboard as well.
2. Nino Niederreiter is scorching hot
In the off-season, I suggested buying low (relatively speaking) on Niederreiter
, who was widely reported to be available. The Devils – nor any other team – did that prior to the Hurricanes eventually swooping in and landing the Swiss winger in a one-for-one deal where they only parted with an inefficient 5v5 scorer who doesn't drive play (Viktor Rask). That's a return the Devils (and many others) could have easily matched in terms of value. Nobody did and the Hurricanes are reaping the benefits.
He has scored six goals, added an assist, and helped the team control better than 60%(!) of the attempts and chances at 5v5 through nine games.
While he's not going to continue scoring goals at that clip, he's long been an above average scorer – particularly at even-strength – so it's no surprise he's taking off again after getting a bigger role and a change of scenery.
I think he is the kind of player who could really take advantage of the way the Devils are playing right now.
3. Keith Kinkaid
As mentioned previously, the Hurricanes are generating more shots than any team in the league over the last 10. I wouldn't bet on them slowing down against a Devils team that is a) struggling mightily right now and; b) playing in the latter half of a back-to-back against a rested team.
Kinkaid will be tested early and often, which means he'll need to bounce back in a big way for the Devils to have a shot in this one.
4. Blake Coleman's discipline
He has taken on a larger role – offensively and defensively – with Hall out of the lineup and handled it admirably. With that said, there is one aspect of his game that really needs to be cleaned up: discipline. He has taken seven minors in the last five games and nine in the last 10. This after taking just 20PIMs over the first 44 games of the season. Given New Jersey's struggles offensively, he can't continue taking penalties and risk handing opponents easy extra-man goals. The Devils just don't have enough firepower to overcome a disadvantage they give themselves.
5. Kyle Palmieri's struggles
Palmieri's game has fallen off a cliff, to say the least. The veteran winger has posted a sub 41 Corsi For% in five of his last six games and recorded one chance or fewer at 5v5 in 10 of 13. Oh, and he's recorded only one 5v5 point during that stretch – less than Brett Seney, Drew Stafford, Pavel Zacha, Kevin Rooney, et all. In the grand scheme of things, hitting a wall isn't the end of the world – it helps the tank! – but it's kind of concerning he has gone very quiet at a time the Devils would normally need him to step up (no Hall).
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Marcus Johansson - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Joey Anderson
Jesper Bratt - Pavel Zacha - Drew Stafford
Brett Seney - Kevin Rooney - Kurtis Gabriel
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
Mirco Mueller - Eric Gryba
**Ryan Murphy may draw in
Carolina (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Micheal Ferland - Lucas Wallmark - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
Warren Foegele - Greg McKegg - Saku Maenalanen
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Calvin de Haan - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Puck drop is just after 3:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG and FS-CR.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey
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