New Jersey Devils at Minnesota Wild, 8:00pm
XCel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
TV: MSG+2 Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
Some thoughts on tonight's game:
1. Control the specials team play. The Minnesota Wild are Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to their special teams. Their power play is deadly, converting at nearly 25 percent, good enough for third in the league. Their PK is a different story, however. Their PK rate is at a less-than-mediocre 75 percent, which is third-worst in the NHL. Devils need to have the slight edge in the special teams world if they want to win tonight.
2. Re-gain the chemistry - It's not easy when a pair of top-two line players are scratched on the same night. Their absence showed last night against the Flyers. There was little-to-no chemistry between any of the lines not nicknamed CBGB. Jaromir Jagr had no shots on goal. Heck, six of the Devils' 14 shots came from defensemen last night. That's never going to win a team hockey games. Hopefully a game under their belt with a shaken-up roster will help them be a little crisper tonight.
3. Will Cory Schneider be rusty? He hasn't played a hockey game in nine days. He's been very good when he's taken on Minnesota. He's 6-4 with a 2.13 GAA and .922 save percentage all-time. Schneider has consistently had good starts, allowing two goals or so per contest. He's only had one game allowing one goal or less in his six starts. Going against a team with a very top-heavy offense, he'll need to be at his best.
4. Have to win some draws - The Wild are fourth in the league in the faceoff dot. The Devils are 28th. They are separated by 9.6 percent. Last night, the likes of Andrei Loktionov, Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson combined to go 18-for-48 in the faceoff circle. For you non-math majors, that's 37.5 percent. Yikes. They need to at least not get blown away in the faceoff numbers tonight.
Prediction: Devils 3, Wild 2 SO
The Devils will be motivated tonight. Getting right back on the ice after a tough home loss is a good thing. The fact that they're playing a talented Wild team will raise their level of play as well. We'll see if Jon Merrill cracks the lineup tonight. He appears to be insurance in case Eric Gelinas' hand acts up. Otherwise, he'll probably sit. It'll come down to shooting the puck more. The Devils actually had some good chances for ONLY having 14 shots on net. That shot total needs to rise with help from the forwards, not like last night with the D having nearly 50 percent of the shots.
I'll say the Devils jump ahead early, give up a pair of goals midway through the game, rally with a late goal to send it into overtime. Then, the team finally gets a goal in the shootout AND gets their first win in the shootout. A win tonight would give NJ a 2-1 week. If you win two out of every three games you play, you're going to make the playoffs.
Enjoy the game, everyone.