The Devils’ journey to turn the season around isn’t going to get any easier as they take on the Golden Knights.
The New Jersey Devils are still stuck in a rut.
They’re on a three-game losing streak, have won just two of their last 10 games, and are coming off an atrocious 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, whom they had played incredibly well this season prior to this game.
Captain Nico Hischier and LHD Ryan Graves are on COVID-19 protocol and their absences have been noticeable. The Devils will look to end yet another losing streak without these important players against a tough opponent on Thursday.
They’re going to host the Vegas Golden Knights, who have looked much better lately. Vegas has won two in a row and is getting back on track after a slow start to the season.
This season’s Golden Knights have been quite different from the Golden Knights that we’ve grown accustomed to watching. Over the past few seasons, the Golden Knights have been one of, if not the, best defensive teams in the league.
This season, it’s the opposite.
They’re one of the league’s top offensive teams, but are below-average defensively. They’re also below-average on the penalty kill and have been bad on the man-advantage. Their goaltending has been about average.
The Golden Knights are, by far, the superior team and are the heavy favorites, but the fact they haven’t done well on special teams is fabulous news for the Devils.
The Devils notoriously have the worst power play in hockey as well as a below-average penalty kill.
Teams that are much better on special teams usually have a great advantage against the Devils, so it’s good for New Jersey that that won’t be the case on Thursday.
This could even be the game that gets the Devils’ power play going. The Devils have been below-average offensively and defensively, in general. They also have had below-average goaltending.
A win is unlikely for the Devils, but several factors are going to come to their advantage and they have beaten much better teams before. They’ll play on home ice and their opponent doesn’t really have the benefit of elite special teams.
But a team that’s been struggling defensively, both at even-strength and while short-handed, against an elite offensive team won’t be expected to have much success.
Can the Devils shake off Tuesday’s ugly loss with a big win on Thursday or will their losing streak be extended to four-straight?
Expected goaltending matchup:
VGK: Robin Lehner
Last 5 games: 3-1-0, .874 SV%, 3.00 GAA
Career vs. NJD: 13 GP, 4-6-1, .922 SV%, 2.36 GAA
NJD: MacKenzie Blackwood
Last 5 games: 1-2-1, .897 SV%, 2.00 GAA
This season: 14 GP, 5-5-3, .904 SV%, 3.07 GAA, 2 SO, -3.2 GSAA
Golden Knights skaters to watch:
C Chandler Stephenson
Last 5 games: 1 G, 9 PTS
This season: 27 GP, 9 G, 29 PTS
LW Max Pacioretty
Last 5 games: 7 G, 10 PTS
This season: 11 GP, 12 G, 19 PTS
RW Mark Stone
Last 5 games: 3 G, 10 PTS
This season: 16 GP, 4 G, 21 PTS
RHD Alex Pietrangelo
Last 5 games: 1 G, 6 PTS
RW Yevgeny Dadonov
Career vs. NJD: 11 GP, 2 G, 9 PTS
LW Mattias Janmark
Career vs. NJD: 8 GP, 1 G, 6 PTS
Devils skaters to watch:
RW Tomáš Tatar
Career vs. VGK: 5 GP, 2 G, 5 PTS
RW Jesper Bratt
Last 5 games: 2 G, 5 PTS