Devils Make Deals at Deadline Then Defeat Habs

Today was a busy day for the Devils and GM Ray Shero. On NHL Trade Deadline day, they shipped off another two cogs in the system and then went on to defeat the Montreal Canadiens at home 2-1.

The first domino fell earlier this morning when news broke that goalie Keith Kinkaid was being sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fifth round pick in 2022. Keith is an upcoming UFA and, quite frankly, with the way he had been underperforming this season, to get anything for him was gravy at this point. That being said, he (along with Taylor Hall) was amazing last season in getting the Devils into the playoffs and that should never be overlooked. Kinkaid really did contribute a lot to the Devils in his time here.

As early as that trade occurred, another one helped to close out the deadline. Marcus Johansson was traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for a second round pick in 2019 and a fourth round pick in 2020. This was a good deal as well as the Devils now posess ten picks in the 2019 Draft in Vancouver and, through these deals and the ones that sent Brian Boyle to Nashville and Ben Lovejoy to Dallas, got five picks alone at the deadline. Draft picks are great assets that can turn into players or trading up at the Draft. This year is also a pretty deep draft, so the more picks the better for the Devils.

WIth the trades and some injuries, there was a little bit of turmoil in the lineup tonight. A bunch of callups from Binghamton including Nathan Bastian, Mike McLeod, Egor Yakovlev, Mackenzie Blackwood and John Quenneville. Add to that that Connor Carrick, who was obtained in the Ben Lovejoy deal, was making his Devils debut and that there were some injuries and you had a whole new lineup for the Devils. In addition, Brett Seney and Joey Anderson were sent down to Binghamton.

Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher were both missing as they are day-to-day with lower body injuries. Add Pavel Zacha to that and you had quite a bit missing. Add in even more as the Devils also lost Miles Wood (who was hit in the ankle by a Damon Severson shot midway through the first period) and Quenneville in the game tonight.

After sorting all of that out, it is important to remeber that they did have a game tonight. To paraphrase Ray Shero from during an interview with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador on the MSG pregame show, these moves will allow the younger players to come in and show management what they have.

In goal, Cory Schneider got the nod, coming off his first loss in five games at the Rangers on Saturday. He made 34 saves on 35 Montreal shots for a .971 save percentage. Facing him as the Devils went for the season sweep of the Canadiens was Carey Price, who stopped 20 of 22 for a .909 save percentage.

On the special teams, the Devils finished the night 0-for-5 on the power play with four shots. They also had a shot on the penalty kill. Montreal was 0-for-4 on the power play with five shots. They also had four shorthanded shots, scoring on one of them.

Nathan Bastian got the goal scoring going when he notched his first NHL goal at the 12:35 mark of the first period. It happened when Yakovlev went D to D with Carrick at the point. Carrick then shot and Bastian, cutting by the crease, tipped the puck past Price to make it 1-0 Devils. In addition to Bastian scoring his first NHL goal, Carrick also got his first point as a Devil on the play and his first of two on the night.

In the second period, Kurtis Gabriel doubled the Devils’ lead to two when he scored 3:06 in. Kevin Rooney worked the puck out of the corner up high to Carrick at the point. Carrick shot and Price made the initial save, but Gabriel was there for the rebound and backhanded the puck by Price to make it 2-0 Devils. Carrick, who wore number 5, had his second assist on the night and ended up being named the game’s third star. Bastian was the second star and Cory Schneider, with the win, was the first. Getting back to Carrick, this was his first two point night since opening night when he was with the Stars.

The Habs got on the board at the 6:30 mark of the third period when the Devils were on the power play. Artturi Lehkonen was called for elbowing Blake Coleman at 5:40 in a play that saw Coleman shaken up. On the ensuing power play, Travis Zajac lost control of the puck just inside the Canadiens’ blue line and Paul Byron grabbed it. He was then off to the races on a breakaway, just beating the backchecking Damon Severson in a footrace. He beat Cory short side to cut the New Jersey lead to 2-1. Phillip Danault had the lone assist on the goal.

Byron was in the thick of it late in the game as he clipped Kyle Palmieri in the knee behind the play with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Byron took an interference penalty on the play, which put the Devils on the power play to end the game, but Palmieri was still upset about the incident and the two had words after the final buzzer sounded with their respective teams trying to keep them apart.

But 2-1 was the final score as the Devils took the season series of three games from Montreal and won their fifth straight over the Habs.

In the game, the Devils were out shot by the Canadiens, 35-22 and Montreal won 51-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils had more hits at 24-10 and more giveaways at 8-5. Both teams each blocked 11 shots.

With all of the young players in the lineup, ice time was pretty evenly distributed for the forwards with Coleman logging the most with 25:45 (including 1:56 on the power play and 4:37 on the PK). Severson logged an impressive 27:05 of TOI (including 6:04 on the PP and 5:12 killing off penalties) as his game and responsibilities continue to grow.

As for the other stats, Nico Hischier, Bastian and Carrick each led in shots on goal with three each. Hits were led by Gabriel with six, blocks by Carrick with three and takeaways by the Jersey boys, Kenny Agostino and Kyle Palmieri, with two each.

Next up, the Devils will face a stiff test as the red hot Calgary Flames come into town on Wednesday. The Flames have had a good season so far and the Devils will try to deny them two points which would go a long way in cutting off their hopes of winning the Pacific Division. We will have coverage of that for you right here and, once again, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below as we really appreciate them.

Hischier the Hero in Devils’ OT Win in Montreal

He just had to keep pace. Nolan Patrick, in the day’s other early NHL game, scored the overtime winner in his game for the Flyers. Nico Hischier topped Patrick’s day by scoring not the just the OT winner in his game, but also the game tying goal in the third period. Nico was the hero of the day as the Devils came away with a 3-2 OT win over the Habs up in Montreal.

But before we get to that, we’ll start with the injuries, which just seem to keep mounting. Travis Zajac was the latest victim of the injury bug, as he did not travel with the team to Montreal following what seems to be a lower body injury versus the Rangers on Thursday. Zajac, a key penalty killer for New Jersey, joins a growing list that includes Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen, Ben Lovejoy, Joey Anderson and others. (Speaking of Anderson, Steve Cangiolosi mentioned during the game that he practiced with the team yesterday and could be close to returning.)

Yes, the Devils are the walking wounded right now, but when someone goes down, it creates opportunity for someone else. Kurtis Gabriel slotted into the lineup to replace Zajac and Blake Coleman was moved up and over to center the second line. Also, Hischier was given the “A” on his jersey to replace Zajac as an alternate captain.

In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood was back and between the pipes. Coach John Hynes felt that he “deserve(d) to have the net today” and they were back to him. He stopped a whopping 37 of 39 shots the Habs threw at him for a .949 save percentage and was named the game’s first star. The Canadiens had a tough situation since Carey Price was suspended for one game for missing the All-Star Game and they turned to Antti Niemi instead. Niemi saved 24 of 27 shots he saw for an .889 save percentage.

This game was also Montreal’s first game in ten days as they were coming off of their bye week. But they were 5-1-0 in their last six prior. One place where the Canadiens have struggled was their power play. They were at 13-percent efficiency coming into this game – good to be tied for last in the NHL. Speaking of the power play, the Devils continued their little roll that they have been on, going 1-for-3 with the man advantage today (four shots) plus adding a shorthanded shot. The Habs were 0-for-3 with seven shots on Blackwood. They also had a shorthanded shot on net.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi got the goal-scoring kicked off for Montreal when he notched one 5:22 into the game. Jordie Benn kept a Devils’ clearing attempt in the zone and Artturi Lehkonen made a slick backhanded pass to Kotkaniemi, who snapped the puck by Blackwood. That made it 1-0 with the Devils behind the eight ball early.

And it would take nearly the entire period to get that one back. Benn went off for tripping at 17:22 and then Shea Weber was nabbed for high-sticking Kyle Palmieri 20 seconds later to put the Devils on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:40. At the 19:16 mark of the period, Marcus Johansson, Palmieri and Will Butcher finished off a nice passing play with Butcher firing one cleanly by Niemi to even the score. With that, the Devils still had 20 seconds of power play time remaining on the Weber penalty, but they could not convert on that and the first period expired.

At the 14:25 mark of the second, Gabriel took a roughing call when he dropped his gloves following some pushing and shoving post-play, but Nicolas Deslauriers would not engage. Although Montreal would not score on that power play, Phillip Danault did connect just as it expired at 16:33. He redirected a Jeff Petry backhand shot in front to give the Habs the 2-1 lead. Max Domi had the other assist.

But from there on, Blackwood would hold the fort down and Nico Hischier would provide the scoring and the Devils would be on their way to two points.

It began midway through the third when Kevin Rooney got on a loose puck in the Montreal zone, getting it to Nico in front of the net. Hischier then roofed the puck past Niemi to tie things at two. It was a good puck battle win for Rooney and paid off when Hischier finished it.

A scary moment late in regulation as Egor Yakovlev took a shot to the back of the head. He went down and Domi, who was battling with him in front of the Devils’ net, signaled to the Devils’ bench to get the trainer out. Yakovlev had a gash on the back of his head, but seemed to be responding to the trainer on the bench. Hopefully he is okay.

Once regulation expired and we headed to overtime, both teams came out full bore. The Devils only had two OT wins this season (with Hischier getting the OT win at home against Vegas and Drew Stafford icing a shootout win in Arizona) while the Habs were 5-5 in OT games.

Montreal hit a post early as the Devils dodged a bullet, but it was Nico Hischier who would finish things off for the Devils. Mirco Mueller bought time in the neutral zone, then connected with his fellow countryman on a pass. Nico came up the left wing with speed and curled wide, roofing the puck from an odd angle to beat Niemi and give the Devils the 3-2 OT win. For his efforts, Hischier was named the game’s second star. Kotaniemi was the third star of the game.

The Devils were out shot by the Canadiens, 39 to 27, won only 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were out hit 28-27. They did, however, block more shots at 24 to six. New Jersey had more giveaways at 20 to the Habs’ 12.

Individually, Damon Severson once again led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:20 logged (1:45 of PP time and 3:47 on the PK). Hischier led the forwards, stepping up for Zajac with 20:28 (2:53 on the power play and 25 seconds shorthanded). Palmieri and Miles Wood led in shots on goal with four each, Blake Coleman led in hits with six, blocked shots was a three-way tie with Brian Boyle, Andy Greene and Butcher each blocking four and takeaways saw Palmieri, Pavel Zacha and Brett Seney each log one.

Next up, the Devils will take on the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday back in Newark for a 7 PM puck drop. I will be attending this game live, so my report may be a little late in getting up. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below as they are always appreciated. Enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow!

Devils Knock Off Habs In Thanksgiving Eve Tilt

If the Devils could play all of their games at The Rock, they’d be set. They play that much better at home than they do on the road. Tonight, they notched another win on home ice by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 the night before Thanksgiving.

Pavel Zacha, a guy who just a few weeks ago was down in Binghamton trying to get back in some kind of groove has found that groove. He scored two goals tonight to improve his goal-scoring streak to three games. But overall, it was a team effort with eleven different Devils notching at least a point with three getting two (Zacha, Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson).

Injury-wise, the Devils had some good news today. Nico Hischier was back in the lineup after missing four games. Those were the first four games he had missed in his (young) NHL career. He had played all 82 games last season. Nico was back centering a line with Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Brian Boyle and Sami Vatanen remain on injured reserve, but did skate today. Steven Santini started a long term conditioning loan to Binghamton of the AHL tonight. He is recovering from a fractured jaw.

The Devils did lose Joey Anderson early in the game. He did not return and there was no word on what happened to him.

Eric Gryba, Drew Stafford and Stefan Noesen were the healthy scratches. Coach John Hynes did say that while Noesen has played well this year, he still needs to work on a few things and taking a night off and looking at video should help him out.

In goal, the Devils were back with Keith Kinkaid. He stopped 24 of 26 shots faced and got some help again from the post. Montreal countered with Carey Price. The former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner made 23 saves on 28 Devils shots.

The Devils kicked off the scoring when Kyle Palmieri connected from Andy Greene and Blake Coleman. It came 6:26 into the game when a relentless Coleman forecheck worked the puck eventually back to Greene. Greene fired a shot from the point that Palmieri was able to bat out of the air behind Price. His redirection gave New Jersey the 1-0 lead early.

But it would not last long. Just 24 seconds later, Jonathan Drouin scored off the rush, going top shelf over Kinkaid, for the Habs. Andrew Shaw had the lone assist on his goal and we were back to square one with a 1-1 game.

But before the first intermission, Hischier would give the Devils back the lead. The goal came at 16:55 and happened off of an offensive zone faceoff for the Devils. Montreal won the draw and the puck went back off the end boards to Hall. He found a seam to Nico, who shot on Price. The puck trickled behind Price to put the Devils up 2-1. It was a nice return present for Hischier and the Devils would not look back from there.

Hall make it 3-1 Devils in the second with a real beauty at the 8:59 mark of the period. Off the rush, Nico bounced the puck off the boards to himself to skate it into the far corner. From there, he found Johansson at the far half wall. Johansson found a nice seam to get the puck to Egor Yakovlev and the Russian took the pass at the near faceoff dot. He made a move toward Price that froze the Montreal goaltender briefly, then passed to Hall in the slot who buried the puck into an empty net. It was a bang-bang play and very nice. The assist to Yakovlev was also his first NHL point (and a nice one to get it on too).

From there, Pavel Zacha took over beginning at 10:01 of the second to make it 4-1 Devils. Jesper Bratt worked hard in the corner to get a loose puck to Marcus Johansson. Johansson directed to puck towards Zacha at the side of the net. Zacha was able to backhand a shot out of midair to shovel it into the empty net. The floodgates had officially opened as the Devils now had a three goal lead.

In their last seven games, the Devils had gone 0-for-15 on the power play. But that was about to change. At the 11:52 mark, Tomas Tatar was called for delay of game for closing his hand on the puck. The Devils were on their first power play of the game and with less than ten seconds remaining on the man advantage, Zacha struck again. He scored at 13:47 from Damon Severson and Brett Seney to make it 5-1. It came when Severson found Zacha through the neutral zone. He split the Canadiens’ defense and went five hole on Price. That ended the Devils’ power play goal drought right there.

Overall, the Devils were 1-for-1 on the power play with three shots. They also registered two shorthanded shots. Montreal was 0-for-2 on the PP, notching just two shots on goal.

The Habs would get one more when Max Domi (who came in with 25 points, the best start for a Montreal player in 100 years) extended his point streak to 11 games. He took a shot that was blocked and fluttered by Kinkaid to make it 5-2 at the 10:52 mark of the third. This came after the Canadiens had a goal disallowed earlier on in the period.

Kenny Agostino, a New Jersey native who played high school hockey at Delbarton and was twice named the New Jersey state player of the year by the Star-Ledger, had one waved off with 17:04 remaining in the game when the net came off its moorings before the puck crossed the line fully. The situation room in Toronto initiated a review, but the call on the ice stood, no goal.

And with the Domi goal, we had our final: 5-2.

The Devils, as a team, lost a staggering 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 19-13. Each team had 11 blocked shots and ten giveaways.

Individually, Andy Greene led the team in ice time with 21:21 (including 3:15 shorthanded ice time) while Hall led the forwards with 20:46 (including 38 seconds of PP TOI). Shots on goal saw four as the most, with Hall, Palmieri, Zacha and Severson each notching that number. Blake Coleman led in hits with three while Greene led in blocked shots with three. Pavel Zacha had five takeaways to lead in that category.

Next up, Turkey Day tomorrow. Following that, the Devils will take on the Islanders at home on Friday (a 4 PM puck drop). That will be the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night and will also feature an angry Isles team, as they were blown out by the Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden. We will, of course, have that game for you right here.

Brian Gionta Retires

According to a story on NHL.com, former Devil Brian Gionta has retired after 16 seasons. The Rochester, New York-native will rejoin the Buffalo Sabres – of whom he was captain while playing for them from 2014-15 to 2016-17 – in an unspecified role.

Gionta, 39, was chosen 82nd overall in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Devils out of Boston College. He joined the team in 2001-02 and won the 2003 Stanley Cup with the team. In 2005-06, he broke the Devils’ single-season goal scoring recorded with 48. He broke Pat Verbeek’s mark of 46 set in 1987-88.

He signed as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, where he also served as a rare American-born captain of the famed French-Canadian team. He played with the Habs from 2009-10 until 2013-14. He signed with Buffalo as a free agent in 2014, his hometown team.

He would sit out most of the 2017-18 season in order to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics with Team USA and signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins on February 25, 2018. He played in 20 regular season games for the Bruins last year, scoring two goals and five assists for seven points.

He also represented the United States in the 1999 World Juniors, playing six games and scoring six goals and five assists for 11 points over the tournament.

According to Hockey-Reference.com, his Devils career statistics saw him play in 473 games over his seven years with New Jersey. He notched 152 goals (including 48 on the power play and five shorthanded) and 160 helpers for 312 points total. He had 227 penalty minutes to go with all of that. He also finished with 30 game winning goals.

Playoffs-wise, he appeared in 113 total games, with 32 goals and 36 assists for 68 points. With the Devils, he appeared in 67 playoff games, netting 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. He got into one playoff game, his final one, last season for Boston.

His career NHL regular season stats saw him appear in 1,026 games, scoring 291 goals and 304 assists for 595 points.

Gionta was quoted in the NHL.com article as saying: “I’m announcing my retirement today. Looking forward to spending more time with my family and also playing a small part in the organization. Looking forward to that next step of my career.” He also added, “Playing with my childhood team, the Sabres, was a highlight of my career.”

In the NHL.com article, Sabres star center Jack Eichel was quoted (via The Buffalo News) as saying, “He’s somebody I grew up watching and all of a sudden I’m sitting a few stalls away from him my first years in the NHL. That was cool. It’s an unbelievable career and I’m just happy I was able to be a part of it.”

Congratulations to Brian Gionta on a fantastic career and good luck to him in retirement in the Sabres’ front office.

Preseason: Devils Drop Both Games of a Split Squad Outing

The Devils opened their 2018-19 preseason with a pair of split-squad games tonight with half the team home against the Rangers and half up in Montreal taking on the Canadiens. There was a difference of a half hour between the games, as the Rangers puck drop was 7 PM while the Habs game started at 7:30 PM.

Rick Kowalsky was coaching the Devils in New Jersey with John Hynes staying at Prudential Center to observe both games from a management suite. Alain Nasredine coached the team up in Montreal, I am going to assume.

First the Rangers game. The Devils dropped the game to their arch rivals in overtime 4-3 despite holding three leads on the night. Nick Lappin scored two goals while John Quenneville completed two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hatrick with a goal and a fight.

Lappin lifted the seal on the new season when he scored just 5:14 into the game from Blake PIetila and Eric Gryba. The goal came when Pietila rushed up the left wing boards, beating a Rangers player to a loose puck. He fed a wide open Lappin in the slot, who did not miss, beating Rangers goaltender Alexander Georgiev to make it 1-0 Devils.

But in what would become a pattern throughout the night, New York tied things up at the 14:00 mark of the first when Lias Andersson scored his first of two, shorthanded on a breakaway, to tie things at one. The goal was unassisted.

Before the first period was out, however, the Devils would retake the lead. On the same Devils power play that Andersson scored shorthaned – a Steven Fogarty holding penalty – Quenneville scored a power play goal. It came with assists to Ty Smith and Brian Boyle at 14:52. It came when Quenneville curled around at the far half wall and gave to Smith at the point. They played catch before Smith gave the puck back to Quenneville who fired one from the top of the far faceoff circle to give the Devils back the lead, 2-1.

Prior to his goal, at the 5:34 mark of the first, Quenneville had come to the aid of a teammate who was rocked on a thunderous (but clean) hit by the Rangers’ Rob O’Gara. They dropped the mitts and Quenneville would get the extra penalty, a cross checking penalty, to put the Rangers on the power play. The two teams would seemingly beat a path to the penalty box all night, as the Rangers racked up 19 penalty minutes on the night while the Devils got 17 PIMs as a team.

The Devils entered the second period with a 2-1 lead, but the Rangers were on the power play. Egor Iavkolev had been called for slashing at 19:00 and just 17 seconds in to the new frame, Kevin Rooney went off for hooking. That gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 power play that the Devils would kill off.

But New York would tie the game up on the power play anyway at 9:12. Rooney was serving another hooking penalty when Pavel Buchnevich scored to tie the game at two apiece. He got an assist from Kevin Hayes. That was the only scoring of the second period, but the Rangers would switch their goalies out in the middle session. They took out Georgiev, who made 16 saves on 18 shots against and put in Marek Mazanec. He would go on to stop 8 of 9 Devils shots.

The Devils would make a goaltending change of their own at the beginning of the third period when they took out Keith Kinkaid who made 14 saves on 16 shots on goal through 40 minutes and swapped him for Cam Johnson. He ended up stopping 10 of 12. The Rangers finished the game with 28 shots on goal while the Devils were right there with them with 27.

The third period was a period of the power play units. First, Lappin scored his second of the game on a power play at the 5:24 mark from Michael McLeod and Smith (who also finished the night with two points – the two assists). It came when New York’s Tony DeAngelo was called for interference at 4:20 of the third and, with the extra man, Smith gave the puck to McLeod at the near half wall. He found a seam and made a nice pass to Lappin in the slot, who fired a snap shot by Mazanec to make it 3-2 Devils.

But less than a minute later, at 5:42, Gryba took a hooking call and the Rangers were back on the power play. Here, Andersson scored his second of the game from Chris Kreider and Hayes to tied things up at three. The Devils just could not shake the Rangers all night.

Midway through the third, Gryba would rock Boo Nieves with a big hit where their heads unintentionally collided. Nieves would leave the game for the Rangers’ locker room and would not return.

Taylor Hall had a chance to give the Devils the lead late when he fired a shot on a partial breakaway that beat Mazanek and trickled by him, but was swept away by a Ranger before it could cross the goal line.

Cam Johnson looked good late in the game with a few good saves, including a some early in the overtime period. Neal Pionk would win it for the Rangers in the OT off a nice feed from Buchnevich. Jesper Fast had the secondary assist. The Devils had fallen in this game 4-3.

In a game filled with penalties, New York ended the night 2-for-6 on the power play while the Devils were 2-for-7 with the extra attacker. The Devils played the more physical game, out-hitting the Rangers 25 to 15. Sami Vatanen led the Devils in ice time in this game with 22:17 while Jesper Bratt led the forwards with 21:31. Vatanen also led in shots with four.

Now up to Montreal, where the Devils fell 3-1 to the Habs. This one saw the Devils grab the early 1-0 lead and then squander it by giving up three in the third period.

Blake Speers opened the scoring for the Devils in this one, scoring unassisted at 6:42 of the first shorthanded. Marcus Johansson was called for holding at 5:58 and, on the ensuing penalty kill, Speers picked off a point-to-point pass in the Devils end and raced up ice, beating Montreal goalie Anti Niemi to make it 1-0. Niemi would make eight saves on nine Devils shots in 30:56 of work while Charlie Lindgren played the rest of the game for the Canadiens and stopped all eight shots he faced.

For the Devils in net, Eddie Lack started and stopped all 13 shots he saw while Mackenzie Blackwood came in in the third period and made nine saves on twelve shots against. In total, the Devils had 17 shots on net while the Canadiens had 25.

The score remained the same through to the third when the wheels fell off for the Devils, all in a span of about two minutes. At 3:08, Victor Mete scored to tie it up from Michael Chaput and Jacob de la Rose. At 4:11, Charles Hudon scored to give the Habs the 2-1 lead and Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored an insurance goal at 4:40 from Rinat Valiev and Simon Despres to give us our final of 3-1.

Neither team scored on the man advantage, the Devils going 0-for-4 and Montreal going 0-for-3. Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 24:01 while Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 20:40. No player had more than two shots on goal for the Devils. Proof that the Devils want to see more from these two players by giving them more responsibilities.

A disappointing night (in terms of final score) for Devils fans, but the Rangers game in particular showed some signs that the younger kids might just have what it takes to compete and gave some hope. Next up, the Devils travel to Brooklyn for a preseason tilt against the Islanders on Thursday. The Rangers game was the lone home preseason game the Devils will play this year.

Who Is Going Where For Tomorrow’s Split Squad Games

As many of you are aware, hockey season kicks off tomorrow for the Devils. New Jersey will be playing a pair of split squad games, one at home against the New York Rangers that begins at 7 PM and one up in Montreal against the Canadiens that starts at 7:30 PM. The Rangers game is being televised on NHL Network outside of the New York metropolitan area and locally on MSG+.

For the game at Prudential Center versus New York, the forwards will consist of Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt, Kurtis Gabriel, Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Stefan Noesen, Blake Pietila, John Quenneville, Kevin Rooney and Eric Tangradi with Yegor Sharangovich as a healthy scratch.

The defense corps for the Ranger game will be: captain Andy Greene, free agent pick-up Eric Gryba, Steve Santini, 2018 first round pick Ty Smith, Sami Vatanen and Egor Yakovlev. Colby Sissons will be available but will not likely dress.

The goalies will be Keith Kinkaid and Cam Johnson.

For the game in Quebec, Joey Anderson, Brandon Baddock, Blake Coleman, Brandon Gignac, Marcus Johansson, Kyle Palmieri, Brett Seney, Blake Speers, Drew Stafford, Marian Studenic, Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac will play up front with Nate Bastian as an extra.

The defense in Montreal will be Will Butcher, Josh Jacobs, Ben Lovejoy, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson and Brian Strait. Xavier Bernard will be on the trip but likely will not dress.

The goalies for the Habs game will be Eddie Lack and Mackenzie Blackwood.

This information comes from the Devils’ official website. We will, of course, have coverage of the Devils-Rangers game here and will try to do something with the information we can get on the Devils-Canadiens game, too.

Devils Reveal 2018-19 Preseason Schedule

With the NHL’s regular season schedule being revealed this Thursday, the Devils decided to whet our appetite by revealing their 2018-19 preseason schedule today.

There will only be one home preseason game, the preseason opener against the Rangers on September 17. That will be a split squad game, as part of the team will also be up in Montreal at the Bell Centre playing the Canadiens a half hour later. (The Rangers game at Prudential Center begins at 7 PM while the Montreal game is at 7:30.)

Three days later, on September 20, the Devils will take on the Islanders in Brooklyn. On the 24, they will finish up the local part of their preseason schedule at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. Both New York games are at 7 PM.

On the 27th, they then travel to Western Canada to take on the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg. That game begins at 8 PM ET.

From there, the Devils have quite a bit of traveling to do. They will go from Winnipeg to Bern, Switzerland to take on SC Bern on October 1 (a Monday according to the Devils’ press release). This is part of the NHL Global Series Challenge and is still an exhibition game. The game will take place at PostFinance Arena at 1:30 PM ET here in the United States and 7:30 PM CET in Switzerland.

The press release mentions Nico Hischier (a native of Brig, Switzerland) and Mirco Mueller (Winterhur, Switzerland) getting to play in front of their countrymen for the first time as NHLers.

The Devils will then kick off their regular season in Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday, October 6 at the Scandinavium against the Edmonton Oilers. Puck drop for that game is 1 PM ET. That game will be a part of the NHL Global Series.

Hall Strikes With Late Shorthanded Goal, Devils Win in Montreal

Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall acted as the Devils’ one-two punch in their 2-1 victory in Montreal. Photo: The Canadian Press (downloaded from TSN.ca)

The Devils are inching closer and closer to that elusive playoff spot. Tonight, they came away with a close one in Montreal, defeating the Canadiens 2-1 on a late Taylor Hall shorthanded goal.

The Devils now stand with four as the magic number: any combination of four points lost by the Florida Panthers (who were idle toinght) or won by the Devils will get them in. Florida does have two games in hand, but they come against teams like Nashville and Boston as well as Buffalo and Carolina. Not easy sledding for them, or for the Devils for that matter. The Devils just need to put their head down and go about their business and things will fall into place.

But first, tonight’s game. Some injury news to begin: Kyle Palmieri, who was clipped by an errant Andy Greene stick last night and was cut. The Devils wanted to take all precautions with him so he did not travel with the team to Montreal, however he was flown in once he was cleared and good to go. He wanted to play and was eager to be in the lineup. Also, some other good news as Marcus Johansson was cleared to play and taken off of injured reserve today. He was a healthy scratch for this game, along with Jimmy Hayes, Drew Stafford, Brian Gibbons and Damon Severson, as the coaching staff want to make sure he’s just right to get in. He did travel with the team to Montreal.

With Gibbons out, Jesper Bratt slotted back in at forward and with Severson out, Ben Lovejoy was back in on the blue line. Palmieri played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Michael Grabner while Patrick Maroon moved up to the top line with Nico Hischier and Hall.

In net, Keith Kinkaid made his third back-to-back start in as many weeks. He made 25 saves on 26 shots and was again brilliant at times. Opposing him was Carey Price, who tied Jacques Plante on the Canadiens’ all-time games-played list with 556. He was also fantastic for them, stopping 30 of 32 shots.

Special teams played a huge role in this one, as the referees certainly did not put the whistles away. The Devils ended the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage, with 11 power play shots. They also scored on their only shorthanded shot of the night, which we will get into in more detail later. Montreal was 1-for-4 on the power play with nine shots.

The Habs are on pace to finish with the fewest points by a Montreal team since the NHL went to an 82 game schedule in 1995-96. The Devils pushed the pace for most of the game, but things looked bad early on as Montreal got on the board first. It was the power play goal, scored at 19:51 of the first when Kinkaid drew a tripping penalty. Travis Zajac and Grabner were on a shorthanded 2-on-1 and Grabner’s pass was blocked, allowing Montreal to take the puck up the other way. Daniel Carr buried one from Arturi Lehkonen and Mike Reilly then.

But the Devils used their coach’s challenge, claiming offsides. The review was inconclusive to the linesmen who watched the replay, and, thus the call on the ice stood. It was a good goal and New Jersey was assessed a delay of game penalty. This was the first time coach John Hynes had tried to challenge for offsides against an opponent, but the Devils were right back on the penalty kill. Plus, they were down 1-0, the first time this season the Devils had trailed the Habs in regulatioin according to Deb Placey of MSG+.

The Devils had their chances to break through, but it was not until the third period that things would begin to click for them.

First, they tied things up 26 seconds into the third stanza. Nico Hischier scored from Sami Vatanen and Kyle Palmieri to even things up at one. Hall won a board battle in the far corner, pushing it towards Palmieri, who quickly wound it around the boards to Vatanen at the near point. He fired a quick one and Hischier, who was camped out in the slot, was able to get a stick on it and redirect it by Price.

The game was knotted up and for the next few minutes, it became the Nico Hischier show. He began by coming in on a breakaway midway through the third. Price stopped him as Nico elected to shoot instead of deking. A few minutes later, Nico would clang one off of the iron on another glorious chance.

But the game winner was set up by a penalty, or rather two penalties. Not to the Canadiens, but to the Devils. At the 13:45 mark of the third, the Devils were given a bench minor for too many men on the ice. That would be served by Hall (which would turn out to be a brilliant move on Hynes’ part). A little over a minute later, at 14:53, Lovejoy was called for cross checking Brendan Gallagher on a play in front of Keith Kinkaid’s net.

The Habs would have 52 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time and it looked like the game hung in the balance. The Devils would kill off the too many men penalty with Zajac blocking one final 5-on-3 shot by Montreal. He calmly gathered the puck and saw Hall coming out of the box. He saucered a pass directly to him, springing Hall for a breakaway. All alone in on Price, Hall beat him stick side to put the Devils up 2-1.

It was a well-timed play by both Zajac and Hall, and a nice one. Credit to the Devils’ PK unit for keeping the puck out of their own net. It was also a smart move by Hynes. Having a choice of who to put in the box for the bench minor allowed him to get his best offensive player, who does not generally kill penalties anyway, a jump start to come out of the box on a break. Zajac timed the block and pass so well and Hall was there to finish.

The goal came at 15:53 of the third with the only assist to Zajac. It was shorthanded, so the Devils still had the Lovejoy penalty to kill off, which they would.

With that shorty, the Devils notched their 12th shorthanded goal of the season, taking over the lead in the NHL.

Price would be pulled with about a minute left in the game, while Montreal was killing off a Nicolas Deslauriers slashing penalty, but were unable to tie things up. The Devils came away with points 92 and 93, putting them one behind the Flyers for the first wild card spot and seven ahead of the Panthers.

Statistically, the Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out shot Montreal 32-26. They were out hit 40-18 by the Habs, but the Devils had more blocked shots with 17 to Montreal’s 15.

Greene led the Devils in ice time with 23:15 (inlcuding 45 seconds of power play time and 4:50 on the PK). He narrowly edged Vatanen, who had 23:06 of ice time. Vatanen did lead in shots on goal with seven, while Stefan Noesen and Zacha led in hits with three each. Greene and Mirco Mueller led the team in blocked shots with three apiece while Grabner, Lovejoy and Vatanen each had one takeaway.

So, next up, the Devils take on their rivals, the Rangers, Tuesday. While the Rangers are long out of the playoff race – having been eliminated the night the Devils beat the Hurricanes at home – you can bet that New York will be looking to play spoiler against the Devils. This will not be an easy one, but if the Devils come away with the two points, it will be very much worth it.

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Hall Extends Point Streak; Devils Hang on to Beat Habs

The New Jersey Devils had lost three in a row with a rough stretch of games staring them right in the face. There was this homestand where the Devils faced high-powered teams like Vegas and Winnipeg. And then there is the western road trip against Nashville, the California teams, Vegas and then ending in Pittsburgh that could make or break this season.

Coach John Hynes did not want to use the word “desperate” – saying that that sounded like the Devils were not in control – and preferred the term “urgent” instead. But simply put, the Devils needed this game tonight against a weak and depleted Montreal squad. They got the two points, defeated the Canadiens 6-4 following a late surge by the Habs.

It was a special night at The Rock as the Devils were honoring the women’s US Olympic hockey team who won gold in South Korea last month. The eleven members of the team that were there talked to young female hockey players before the game and were on the broadcast talking during the pregame and the first intermission to Deb Placey and Bryce Salvador of MSG Network. They also participated in a ceremonial puck drop between Devils captain Andy Greene and the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher and were there to generally promote women’s hockey. With Team USA defeating Canada for their first gold medal since 1998, the women’s game has never been stronger.

The Devils made some changes to their lineup with Jesper Bratt slotting back into the lineup (in for Drew Stafford) and back on the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Hynes switched up some of the lines with the second line consisting of Michael Grabner and Kyle Palmieri centered by Pavel Zacha.

The Canadiens were without the injured Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber (who will be missed for the rest of the season). They were also missing goaltender Carey Price to injury. In his place started Charlie Lindgren who stopped 27 of 33 shots faced.

For the Devils, Keith Kinkaid went as Hynes said that he wanted Cory Schneider to practice more to get some of the rust off of him. He also felt that Kinkaid deserved another start (his career high 28th appearance) in light of how he has played of late. He made 29 saves on 33 shots.

So with the Canadiens making their only trip to Jersey this year, the Devils were ready to go. It only took to the 8:25 mark of the first period for Stefan Noesen to get the Devils on the board, getting assists from Will Butcher and Travis Zajac. The goal came when Zajac won a battle along the boards in the far corner. He slid it to Butcher at the far point. Butcher fired a shot on goal that was tipped in front by Noesen to make it 1-0 Devils. As Ken Daneyko pointed out on the MSG telecast, it was all made possible by Zajac’s strong play along the boards.

Butcher’s assist on that goal would be his first point in 12 games. He had a good game and also took a puck to the face for which he would leave briefly to get repaired, but would return.

The Devils’ other Plano, Texas import, Blake Coleman, would give them their second goal at the 16:33 mark of the first off assists from Butcher and Brian Boyle. That one developed when Boyle came down the right wing and made a move to drive around the Montreal net, coming out from behind and giving the puck to Butcher at the far point. Butcher fired on net again (something Hynes said that the coaching staff had asked him to do more of) and Coleman buried the rebound to make it 2-0.

The Devils’ onslaught would continue in the first period as Zajac notched his first of two at 18:08 of the first from Palmieri and Sami Vatanen. That one came on the power play – set up when Jacob de la Rose was called for slashing. On that one, Hall stickhandled into the Habs’ zone along the near boards. He dished to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen gave to Palmieri at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired, with Zajac tipping the puck by Lindgren with Patrick Maroon providing a screen in front. It was now 3-0 Devils.

The Devils would build up a 4-0 lead with Zajac’s second of the game. He scored with 12 seconds remaining in the first from Hall and Vatanen. This one also came on the power play, as Montreal’s Andrew Shaw had gotten a double minor for high sticking Greene and cutting him at the 19:39 mark. This one came when a faceoff was won back to Vatanen at the far point. He one-touch passed to Hall, who was set up at the other point. Hall fired on goal and Zajac cleaned up the rebound in the slot. That assist for Hall extended his personal point scoring streak to an amazing 26 games.

According to Steve Cangialosi on MSG, the last time Hall failed to register a point was December 30 at the Washington Capitals. He has scored a point in every game he has played in the 2018 calendar year. This was also the first time this season that the Devils had scored four goals in the first period of a game.

There would be some crossover penalty time into the second period, as only the first two minutes of the double minor were extinguished when New Jersey scored their second power play goal. Overall on the power play, the Devils were 3-for-5 with eight shots while the Habs were 0-for-2 with three shots on goal. The Devils power play had had some struggles, but now seems to be back on track somewhat.

The second period would see four more goals. The first came off the stick of Gallagher, who made a nice power move on Kinkaid’s net to make the score 4-1. He got assists from Jeff Petry and Paul Byron at 10:27 of the second.

Patrick Maroon had his first goal as a Devil. Brian Boyle also scored a goal on the night. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Devils would get that one back less than a minute later at 11:36 when Maroon scored his first as a Devil. He got assists from Hall and Palmieri on the power play to make it 5-1. It came when Hall won a draw back to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen faked a shot and passed to Palmieri at the near half wall. Palmieri found a nice seam to Hall at the far faceoff dot. He fired and the rebound came right to Maroon, who gobbled up the rebound and put it home to extend the Devils’ lead to four.

That was not all for the Devils’ scoring in the second, either. At 15:14, Brian Boyle scored from Coleman to make it 6-1. It came on the rush with Coleman trying to pass to a cutting Grabner in front of the net on a 2-on-1. Instead, the puck came to a trailing Boyle, who scored his first goal since prior to the All-Star break. The Devils had put up a half dozen on the Canadiens, but that was it for their offense on the night.

From there, it was the Habs who were in comeback mode. That started when de la Rose scored with 14 seconds remaining in the second period from Phillip Danault and Jordie Benn. It was 6-2 New Jersey.

In the third period, de la Rose would strike again, this time from Andrew Shaw and Mike Reilly at 14:40. The Devils’ lead was now cut in half at 6-3.

Byron Froese would score the final goal of the game at 19:01 from Daniel Carr and Reilly. On this one, the Devils did use their coach’s challenge to see if there was goaltender interference, but review showed that the Habs player was pushed into Kinkaid by the Devils’ defender which meant that the call on the ice stood: it was a good goal. It was now 6-4 Devils.

Monteal coach Claude Julien would pull Lindgren with about a minute remaining to get the extra attacker, but a well-timed clear and then some pressure from the Devils would result in a win, the 100th of John Hynes’ NHL career.

In the end, seven Devils had a multi-point night: Hall, Boyle, Zajac, Coleman, Palmieri, Butcher and Vatanen. Butcher was named the game’s third star while Hall was second and Zajac first, with two goals and an assist for three points.

Vatanen would lead the team in ice time with 23:26 total, including 3:10 on the power play and 1:24 on the penalty kill. Hall led in shots on goal with four. Boyle, Stefan Noesen and Ben Lovejoy all had three hits to lead the Devils. John Moore and Greene each had three blocks to lead in that category. Hall led in takeaways with two. The Devils won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, the Winnipeg Jets come to Prudential Center on Thursday in the next stiff test for the Devils, who got points 75 and 76 tpnight. The Jets beat the Rangers tonight off a Patrik Laine hat trick. The Devils will then go on a two week road trip that will see then play some of the best teams, not only in the Western Conference, but in the entire NHL. Hopefully they can play well agaisnt Winnipeg and come away with at least a point in a crucial time in their schedule.

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Note: the photo of Taylor Hall at the top of this post is copyright Adam Hunger/Getty Images.

Devils Drop OT Game to Habs

It could have been a lot worse. The Devils fell in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre 2-1 after being shutout by Carey Price through two periods and part of the OT period. But it could have been a lot worse than it was. The news came down today that Taylor Hall is day-to-day following his knee-on-knee hit with the Kings’ Kurtis MacDermid and did not make the trip with the team to Montreal. The Devils did say that there was no structural damage and it was a knee contusion, so they did dodge a bit of a bullet there.

But the Devils were still missing most of their offensive firepower: Kyle Palmieri has resumed skating with the team, but is still some time away from returning from his broken foot; Marcus Johansson was placed on IR, eligible to come off on Saturday, with his bruised ankle and now Hall is day-to-day with the knee contusion.

Filling in for Hall would be Nick Lappin from AHL Binghamton. He became the first forward call-up this season for New Jersey (Scott Wedgewood was a goalie call-up earlier in the season before he got traded to Arizona). Lappin played the majority of the night on a line with Brian Boyle and Jimmy Hayes. Other than that, the lineup remained largely the same, with Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout being the healthy scratches.

Between the pipes for the Devils was Cory Schneider. MSG’s Deb Placey reported that John Hynes was strongly hinting that should Cory play well tonight, he would end up getting both games of the back-to-back (the Devils have the Dallas Stars at home tomorrow night). He did, making 34 saves on 36 shots on goal by the Habs. Montreal had Price going for them. He had had a rough outing in his last start on Saturday, being pulled in that game against Edmonton after giving up four goals. He ended up making 31 saves on 32 shots, including stopping three shots while the Canadiens were shorthanded, which included a breakaway by Nico Hischier.

Cory began the game with a nice glove save right off the bat on Max Pacioretty. The Devils also got on the board early, with Stefan Noesen scoring at 1:21 into the first period. That goal came when Montreal was on a delayed penalty and the Devils had pulled Schneider for the extra attacker. The Devils played with the puck in their own end until the play developed. Pavel Zacha finally made the outlet pass to Jesper Bratt and Bratt gave to Andy Greene just inside the Habs’ blue line. He pushed forward to Noesen in the slot, who fired a wrist shot top shelf to beat Price and make it 1-0 Devils.

But that was it for the Devils’ scoring for the night. Will Butcher hit the post late first period, the first of a few that the Devils would nick. Finally, at 13:31 of the first period, the Habs tied things up when Andrew Shaw scored his eighth of the season from Jordie Benn and Phillip Danault. Interestingly, the Devils will see Benn’s brother, Jamie, when they play Dallas tomorrow night.

The Devils had a nice opportunity to regain the lead early in the second period when Byron Froese was called for tripping at 2:52 and then Karl Alzner went off for slashing at 3:47. The Devils would have 1:05 of 5-on-3 power play time. New Jersey had a lot of zone pressure throughout the entire man advantage, but ultimately the Habs killed things off. Just following that power play, there was a mad scramble in front of the Montreal net where the Devils somehow failed to score.

Overall, on the power play, both teams went 0-for-3. But that is where the similarities stopped. The Devils fired five shots on goal during their power play attempts while the Devils’ penalty kill completely stifled the Habs power play. The Canadiens ended up with no shots on the power play for the game.

Following that 5-on-3, the Devils had an attempt to score, but Blake Coleman hit the iron. The Devils would end the second period with 13 scoring opportunities on 12 shots.

Midway through the third period, Hischier broke in on a 2-on-1 with Coleman and ended up missing the net completely. It was a frustrating reminder that the Devils were missing some of their best offensive weapons.

With no scoring through the two remaining periods, it was on to overtime. It was there, just 1:52 in, that a Devils breakdown in their own zone allowed Tomas Plekanec to score to give Montreal the full two points. He got assists from Charles Hudon and Alex Galchenyuk.

The Devils had escaped with one point, at least and they did so while missing a guy like Hall. They also kept pace in the Metropolitan Division, staying in third place and in a playoff position, but teams like Philadelphia are creeping up, so their next homestand will be very crucial.

Individual stats saw Steven Santini lead in ice time with 21:54 (just narrowly edging out Sami Vatanen’s 21:43), Damon Severson lead in shots on goal with five (he was also named the game’s second star for his efforts), Severson and John Moore tying for the hits lead with five hits each and Greene leading in blocked shots with four.

Next up, the Devils faceoff with the Dallas Stars tomorrow night at Prudential Center. Dallas has been in the metropolitan area for the last week, so they are already in New Jersey waiting for the Devils. They have gotten wins over the Rangers in a shootout and the Islanders in regulation. It should be an interesting matchup and, hopefully, the Devils can pull out two points tomorrow night in the backend of a back-to-back.