Boyle Dealt to Predators

The Devils have sent Brian Boyle to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the Preds’ second pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

The Devils put out a press release on the trade, mentioning that the forward “spent the past two seasons with New Jersey” as he signed as a free agent with the team in the summer prior to the 2017-18 season, coming over from the Maple Leafs.

According to the release, Boyle tallied 26 goals and 42 points for the Devils “in 116 games.” After being diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 2017-18 season and fighting back to compete that same season, Boyle was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for exemplifying “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” He also represented the Devils in the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, replacing an injured Taylor Hall.

According to the press release, the Devils will now have eight selections in the 2019 Draft. They will have all of theirs from rounds four through seven, plus their first round pick, two seconds – theirs and now Nashville’s – as well as Anaheim’s third. Always a good thing to have a stockpile of draft picks.

Ray Shero was quoted as saying “(w)e want to thank Brian for his time here, as he was a big part of helping establish the culture we now have in place. His leadership, dedication and determination served as an inspiration to the entire organization, on and off the ice. We wish him, his wife, Lauren, son; Declan and daughter Isabella the best of luck in Nashville.”

While it is sad to see Boyle go, it is a trade that works for all parties. Nashville gets a proven leader both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Boyle has not missed the playoffs since 2009-10 and has made the playoffs every year since. He has been to two Stanley Cup Finals (2014 with the Rangers and 2015 with the Lightning) and is a proven leader and performer in that tough time of year. The Devils also get a draft pick and get room to get younger while Boyle himself is in a position to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. He goes from a team that is far out of the playoff race to a team that is a legit contender in the West.

Good luck to Brian Boyle as he starts this new chapter in his career.

Devils Fall in Shootout in Nashville

Well, that was some kind of hockey game!

The Devils and the Nashville Predators put on a show of tight-checking defensive hockey with spurts of end-to-end action that was just incredible. In the end, the Devils came back to gather a point only to fall in a shootout, 2-1.

About 24 hours after Nico Hischier became the youngest player in Devils history to score an overtime goal (at 19 years and 344 days according to MSG’s Erika Wachter) in the comeback win yesterday over Vegas, the Devils were right back at it at Bridgestone Arena. This was the sixth back-to-back of the season for the Devils and they have yet to win the second game of one this year.

For the second game in a row, the Devils would be without Taylor Hall. He is still suffering from lower body soreness. Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev were the other scratches for New Jersey as they went with largely the exact lineup from last night against the Golden Knights.

But if the Devils had no Taylor Hall, they would get no sympathy from the Predators. Nashville is still missing some good firepower: Viktor Arvidsson, PK Subban and Filip Forsberg to name a few.

In goal, after Cory Schneider’s debacle in his first home start yesterday, the Devils went back to Keith KInkaid tonight and he was largely brilliant. He made 27 saves on 28 Preds shots and four saves in six rounds of the shootout. Opposing him was “the best backup in the business” in Juuse Saros. He stopped 33 of 34 Devils shots and made a further four saves in the shootout (the Devils had one miss).

Nashville was hot early. They hit the post on their first power play of the night at about the midway point of the first period. On the night, the Preds were 0-for-2 with no shots on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-4 with four shots. Both teams also had a shorthanded shot as well on the special teams.

The Predators finally broke the seal on the game at the 18:43 mark of the first period when Frederick Gaudreau scored from Mikka Salomaki and Mattias Ekholm. On that goal, Kinkaid made the initial save but kicked the rebound into the slot for Gaudreau all alone. The initial shot from Salomaki was from an impossible angle that somehow made its way towards Kinkaid. It was now 1-0 Nashville and in a building like the Bridgestone Arena, where the fans can get loud and really affect the game, that was not a good thing.

The Devils would have about 1:30 of power play time on fresh ice in the second period when Kevin Fiala took a high sticking penalty on Brett Seney. They obviously did not score but it was not just the Devils’ power play that struggled today.

At 10:37 of the second, Ben Lovejoy took a hooking penalty and the Predators seemingly tied it on a Roman Josi goal. Kinkaid immediately went to captain Andy Greene and told him to tell the bench that he was interfered with. Coach John Hynes decided to use the team’s coach’s challenge to see if goaltender interference did occur. The replay showed that Colton Sissons was cutting through the crease and did, in fact, bump into Kinkaid’s glove hand, not allowing the goalie to get set for the shot. The call on the ice of a good goal was reversed and the goal was called back. The game was still 1-0 Nashville.

And that is how it would stay until late in the third. There were some great chances, including midway through through the third period when Marcus Johansson and Nico Hischier broke in on a 2-on-0 on Saros. Johansson tried to pass to Nico only to have the play broken up by a backchecking Nick Bonino. That led to a partial breakaway at the other end that Kinkaid had to stop.

Kinkaid was pulled with about 2:15 left in regulation and the Devils were in for some late minute magic again. This time off the stick of Brian Boyle. It happened when Jesper Bratt made a nice one-handed effort to get the puck over the Nashville blue line to Johansson. Johansson then skated it up the right wing. He fired on net and the rebound came right to Boyle in the slot. Much like Gaudreau’s goal earlier, he made no mistake and buried it behind Saros to tie it up at one with about 1:31 remaining in the game.

When the buzzer sounded on regulation, we were off to overtime for a second consecutive night. And at three-on-three, both teams just let it all hang out. Back-and-forth, end-to-end action that decided nothing thanks to some stellar goaltending and defensive play by both teams. And when OT could not decide things, it was off to the skills competition. The Predators have not lost a game to an Eastern Conference opponent so far this year and things would not change here.

Kinkaid began the shootout with a save on Kyle Turris. Kyle Palmieri went first for the Devils in the bottom of the first and scored. Ryan Ellis evened things out in the top of the next round when he beat Kinkaid. Drew Stafford was then stopped by Saros. In the next round, Calle Jarnkrok was stopped by Kinkaid and Boyle by Saros. Fiala was stopped by Kinkaid next and Bratt missed the net. In the fifth round, Kinkaid saved a shot by Craig Smith and Saros stoned Hischier. Ryan Johansen finally broke through in the sixth round for the Predators and the game was on John Quenneville’s stick. He could not score and that was that, as Nashville pulled out the extra point.

In the game overall, the Devils won 48-percent of the faceoffs, were out hit 34-12 and the Preds had more blocked shots at 15 to 10. Nashville also finished with more giveaways (15 to 12). The three stars were all from the Predators: Saros was the first star while Johansen was the second and Gaudreau was the third.

Individually for the Devils, Sami Vatanen was back to being the workhorse with 25:28 of total ice time (including 4:02 on the power play and 1:43 on the penalty kill). Hischier led the forwards with 21:47 total time (logging 3:33 on the PP and nine seconds on the PK). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with five while hits were led by Vatanen and Brett Seney, who each had two apiece. Greene led in blocked shots with five and takeaways were led at one by Stafford, Blake Coleman and Lovejoy.

Next up, the Devils come back home on Tuesday for an early week tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That game is another stiff challenge and puck drop is at 7 PM on the 18th. We will, of course, have that for you right here.

Predators Defeat Devils in Overtime

The Devils simply did not feel that their compete level was up to snuff. Because of that, coach John Hynes put them through a “training camp-like” practice. If bag skating was not enough to get through to them, what else could?

The wind sprints and grueling practices paid off – mostly. The Devils came out and played better tonight than they had in the last two games. There were few, if any, “passengers.” But the Devils still could not close out the deal, falling in overtime to the Nashville Predators 4-3.

Now, make no mistake, the Preds are an elite team in the NHL and the Devils kept up and skated with them. But they just could not get that kill shot.

Some roster moves saw Steven Santini (fractured jaw), Ben Lovejoy (lower body) and Drew Stafford (upper body) going to the injured reserve while John Quenneville, Eric Gryba and Egor Yakovlev were all recalled from Binghamton to fill in on a roster beset by injuries. Yakovlev was a healthy scratch with Kevin Rooney and Cory Schneider while Quenneville was back on the third line with Miles Wood and Travis Zajac.

Speaking of Zajac, he was listed as day-to-day while missing that game in Philly, so he was back tonight and made an immediate impact, as the Devils won 50-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Zajac, personally won 65-percent of the draws that he took.

One other piece of news was a milestone for Brian Boyle. He was playing in his 700th career NHL game. The centerman, who just received the news that his cancer was in full remission, was honored on the big board in the arena.

Goaltending-wise, Keith Kinkaid and Juuse Saros are the very definitions of a “1A” goalie. A little bit more than a backup and a goalie who can be a starter when needed. With Cory out for the Devils and Pekka Rinne on IR for Nashville, the two would matchup head-to-head. Both were pretty much spectacular most of the night – especially Saros in the third period when the Devils were putting a lot of pressure on the offensive zone.

Kinkaid made 32 stops on 36 Nashville shots faced while Saros turned aside 33 of 36 Devils shots.

Nashville does not have very good special teams, coming into the game ranked 30th in the NHL in power play and 22nd on the penalty kill. The Devils would end the game 1-for-3 on the power play with five shots (and one shorthanded) while the Preds were 1-for-4 with six PP shots and no shorthanded shots. What the Predators, as a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, have is a good 5-on-5 record. They are second in the league in even strength goals coming into tonight. For what it is worth, they also lead in empty net goals – a situation that would thankfully not come up tonight.

The game got off on the right foot for New Jersey with Damon Severson scoring just 2:58 into the first. Severson’s second of the season came when Kyle Palmieri dug the puck out of the corner and passed to Taylor Hall who swooped into the near faceoff circle. Hall one-touched the puck back to Severson, who walked the line with it, backing up along the blue line and firing a howitzer which beat Saros cleanly. With the primary assist, Hall continued his point-scoring streak, now standing at six games.

But in something that would become a bit of a trend durin the night, the Preds would tie things up at the 14:40 mark of the first when Yannick Weber shot a knuckle puck that Kinkaid misread. It fluttered past Kinkaid’s glove hand and in. Kevin Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok had the assists on the goal that tied things at one.

But before the first intermission came, the Devils would retake the lead. It came on the power play at 19:01 (Filip Forsberg was called for interfering with Quenneville at 17:53) and came off the stick of Nico Hischier. This one came when Palmieri swung a pass to Hall at the near half wall. Hall saw Nico in the slot and fired a slick pass towards him that Hischier calmly redirected by Saros to make it 2-1 Devils.

The second period would see a weird play in the midway point of the frame. Hall was called for tripping PK Subban when it was obvious from replays that Subban went down on his own with Hall not even touching him. He simply lost an edge. The officials got together and discussed it and the call on the ice was reversed, meaning play would continue at 5-on-5. This was a good job by the officials to make sure they got the call right and did not make a phantom penalty call.

Nashville, however, would not need the power play. Viktor Arvidsson tied things at two at the 13:06 mark of the second, getting assists from Kyle Turris and Roman Josi. Arvidsson simply ripped a shot by Keith Kinkaid’s glove to get the equalizer.

But the Devils would only need 40 seconds to answer back. They took a 3-2 lead at 13:46 when Hischier got his second of the game. It came when Sami Vatanen banked a pass off the boards to Palmieri, who stepped just inside the Predators’ blue line. He saw Hischier breaking towards the Nashville net and threw the puck up to him. Nico tipped it by Saros on the doorstep to give the Devils the lead.

Some missed opportunities for the Devils in the third period, as Saros came up huge for the Predators. Midway through the period, Palmieri (who had assisted on all three of the Devils goals) seemingly had scored, but the puck had entered the net behind Saros after the whistle had been blown by the referee. It was a seemingly quick whistle, but replays showed that Saros had made the save and the puck trickled in once the whistle blew play dead.

At 12:25 of the third, Marcus Johansson was called for holding and the Predators went on the power play. Blake Coleman was robbed on a shorthanded breakaway by Saros and the Preds took the puck the other way. At 13:40, Forsberg scored from Ryan Johansen and Subban to tie the game at three.

Time would run out with both teams getting a point out of the game, but it would take OT heroics if the Devils were to get their first victory on home ice against Nashville since 2015.

It was the first overtime game for both teams this season and the Devils really pushed the pace the whole session. But in the end, Nashville took the extra point when a Kyle Turris shot redirected off of Andy Greene’s leg and past Kinkaid to make it 4-3 Preds. Mattias Ekholm had the lone assist on that.

So the Devils did not come away with the win, but they did take it to a very good team in the Predators. Stats-wise, the Devils held the edge in hits (16-15) and blocked shots (13-11).

Individually, Vatanen again led the Devils in ice time with a more tame 25:52 (1:31 on the power play and 5:26 on the PK). Hall led all forwards in TOI with 20:04 (3:11 on the PP/one second shorthanded). Hall also had two points – both assists. Palmieri (three assists) and Hischier (two goals) also had multi-point nights. Miles Wood led in shots on goal with seven while Severson led in hits with three. Gryba and Greene tied for the lead in blocks with four each while Johansson, Quenneville, Zajac and Hall each had three takeaways to lead that category. Palmieri would be named the game’s third star while Hischier was the second and Nashville’s Turris was the first.

Next up for the Devils, they take on the Florida Panthers on Saturday at 12 noon at Prudential Center. This is the final home game for about a seven game stretch. I will be attending this game live and will have the recap up as soon as possible.

Devils Knock Off Preds in Shootout

The Devils set off on the road trip to end all road trips tonight as they played the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. They were kicking things off with the Central Division leaders and would, by the time they got back to Prudential Center on March 24, have faced three of the four division leaders in the NHL. That first home game back is against the Atlantic Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning, by the way.

This road trip is also make or break for the Devils’ season, as they are hanging on to a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. Florida beat the Rangers in a shootout tonight, moving them within a point of the second wild card spot, which the Devils occupy now because Columbus moved ahead of them yesterday into the first wild card spot.

So this was the beginning of a couple of must-wins for the Devils. And what did they do? They won, 3-2 in a shootout over a Nashville team that has not lost since February 17.

The Devils would play tonight’s game without both Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac. The two centers are day-to-day with upper body injuries. With that, Drew Stafford slotted back in at forward and Brian Gibbons moved over to center to fill a void there. He played on a line with Michael Grabner and Kyle Palmieri. According to Deb Placey on MSG, Zacha and Zajac could rejoin the team as they head out west, although she did not specify when exactly that would be. Mirco Mueller and Jimmy Hayes were the healthy scratches.

With Cory Schneider’s play slipping a bit of late, the Devils went with Keith Kinkaid in net tonight. Simply put, Kinkaid played the game of his life. He made 34 saves on 36 Predators shots. He also had two saves in the shootout, facing five Nashville shooters. The Predators also went with their number two and Juuse Saros played just as well for them. He made 25 saves on 27 Devils shots against. He also had two saves in the shootout against five shooters.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Nashville as Brian Boyle took the ceremonial faceoff for the Devils. The puck was dropped by a young cancer patient.

There was a playoff-like atmosphere in Nashville as the crowd was just hot and loud all night. And the Preds gave them a lot to cheer early. Mattias Ekholm scored unassisted at just 1:17 into the game. The Devils were on their heels early and it resulted in Ekholm’s goal, just like that it was 1-0 Nashville.

It would take the Devils until the 7:13 mark of the first, but Sami Vatanen would see to it that the game got knotted at one. He scored from Miles Wood and Will Butcher and the goal came when Wood skated up the right wing and chipped the puck by the Nashville defender. He got to it in the far corner and got it to Vatanen at the far point. Vatanen fired and the puck found twine cleanly making it 1-1. For Wood, the primary assist was his first point since February 22 (against Minnesota).

Brian Boyle scored twice, including the game winner in the shootout versus Nashville. Photo: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

The Devils got a break with 19:43 left in the first period when the Predators received a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The power play would be primarily played on fresh ice at the beginning of the second period. They would not score on it technically, but Brian Boyle would make it 2-1 Devils just as the penalty was expiring. It came at 11:24 of the second and Damon Severson and Patrick Maroon assisted on it. The goal occurred when Stefan Noesen chipped the puck deep into the Nashville zone. It went around the boards to Maroon, who went low-to-high to Severson at the point. Severson shot and Boyle, camped out in front of Saros, tipped it by him.

The goal would be reviewed by Toronto for a potential high-stick, but replays showed that it was played below the crossbar. It was a good goal and it was 2-1 Devils.

And that is where we would hang on as Kinkaid made some great saves to keep New Jersey in it. Blocked shots were also key and the Devils threw themselves into keeping the puck out of the back of their net.

They almost succeeded too, clinging to their 2-1 lead. But, with 2:09 remaining in the game, Saros was pulled by Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. With the extra skater on, Ryan Johansen scored his eleventh of the year from Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. Just like that, the lead evaporated and it was 2-2. After a frantic ending, we were headed to overtime.

OT was pure end-to-end, back-and-forth hockey. The Devils seemed doomed when, with a little less than two minutes remaining in the extra session, Grabner was called for tripping Viktor Arvidsson. But with a couple of spectacular saves from Kinkaid, some good penalty killing by Ben Lovejoy and a timely blocked shot by Boyle, the Devils weathered the storm and got to a shootout.

On the power play, both teams were 0-for-3 on the night. The Devils ended with four shots with the extra man while the Predators had four as well.

With at least a point secured, the Devils were looking for the full monty in the shootout. Kyle Palmieri went first for New Jersey, but Saros stopped him. Ellis missed for Nashville, Jesper Bratt missed fot the Devils as well. Kevin Fiala missed for the Preds and Drew Stafford was stopped by Saros. Kinkaid stopped Filip Forsberg to get the shootout to a fourth round. There, Taylor Hall converted for the Devils. Kyle Turris responded with a goal to keep the Predators alive. Finally, Boyle ended things when he beat Saros in the bottom of the fifth round. Kinkaid made one final save and the Devils came away with the two point victory.

On the stat sheet, Vatanen led the Devils in ice time with 26:52 (including 3:48 on the power play and 2:14 on the penalty kill). Taylor Hall led the forwards with 22:19 total and 3:45 on the power play and 21 seconds on the PK. Noesen led in shots with four, Blake Coleman led in hits with three, Ben Lovejoy led in blocks with four and Drew Stafford led in takeaways with two. The Devils won a solid 49-percent of the faceoffs, including some key ones in the OT and on penalty kills.

Next up, the Devils make their first ever trip to Las Vegas as they take on the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday – yes, they have three days off in between games. New Jersey will try to take revenge on the Pacific Division leaders for the loss at The Rock earlier this month. The team will then jet off to California. A couple of big victories (and these would all be big) would go a long way in keeping the Devils’ playoff hopes alive. We will see you Wednesday.

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Note: The photo of Keith Kinkaid at the top of this post is copyright New Jersey Devils, downloaded from NewJerseyDevils.com.

Devils Blanked By Preds 3-0

The Devils streak of bad luck continued tonight as they fell at home to the Nashville Predators, the second time they have been shut out in the their last two home games. Nashville won 3-0.

Injuries were the order of the day for New Jersey. Taylor Hall missed his third straight game with a hand injury, Marcus Johansson was placed on injured reserve due to the elbow he took to the head from Brad Marchand in the Boston game (a move that netted Marchand a five game suspension) and Cory Schneider was out with a groin injury. They joined Brian Gibbons and Keith Kinkaid, who are both on injured reserve – although Kinkaid skated on his own this morning.

There were a few scares in this game, including Damon Severson suffering a knee-on-knee hit from the Predators’ Austin Watson. No penalty was called and Severson would return for the third period.

The morning skate was run by assistant coach Geoff Ward earlier today as head coach John Hynes joined Devils GM Ray Shero and Predators coach Peter Laviolette and GM David Poile in Colorado to pay their respects to USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson, who tragically and unexpectedly passed away last week.

Back to injuries, Kevin Rooney was recalled from Binghamton to shore up the forward ranks with Hall and Johansson out. The goaltender situation was a unique one. For the first time since October 18, 1986 at Pittsburgh, the Devils dressed two goalies who had not started an NHL game yet in their careers. Back then it was Karl Friesen (who got the start) and Chris Terreri. In 2018 it was Mackenzie Blackwood backing up Ken Appleby. Appleby made 24 saves on 27 shots as his NHL shutout streak (remember he had come on in relief in the Philly and Boston games) ended at 93:18 when PK Subban scored at 9:48 of the second period from Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Johansen to make it 1-0 Preds.

For Appleby, this was a tall order, facing one of the top teams in the NHL in his first ever start. The Preds have gotten at least a point in their last seven, going 5-0-2. Facing him was Nashville’s Finnish stalwart Pekka Rinne. He stopped all 27 Devils shots he saw in getting the shut out.

The Devils had actually seemingly taken the lead in the first period when Will Butcher had potted one at 16:14. However, the goal was immediately waved off on the ice as Miles Wood was called for goaltender interference on the play as he crashed the net. That would continue a frustrating trend that saw the Devils hit some posts at times when they could have used a goal in the game and never solve Rinne.

Nashville’s other two goals came in the third period first from Ekholm (from Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson) at 5:36 on a goal that was double tipped by Appleby to make it 2-0. The one that broke the Devils’ back was from Arvidsson shorthanded from Subban off a two-on-one odd man rush. It came at 15:11.

On the power play, both teams ended the night 0-for-2. Both teams also finished with a lone shot on their power plays. The Predators also scored on their only shorthanded shot of the game.

Stats-wise, time on ice was led by Sami Vatanen with 24:10. Nico Hischier and Jimmy Hayes both led the Devils in shots on goal with four. Ben Lovejoy led in hits with four. Butcher and Hischier both led in blocks with two apiece.

Next up for the Devils, it is the much-needed All-Star break. Taylor Hall will not be representing the Devils in Tampa, as his hand injury has prevented that. In his place, representing the Devils will be Brian Boyle. Boyle was officially named today and the former Tampa Bay Lightning should get a good reaction from the Tampa fans and the NHL community in general.

Following the All-Star Game, the Devils will be on the road on Tuesday, January 30 against the Sabres up in Buffalo. In the meantime, good luck to Brian Boyle at the All-Star Game and here’s hoping the Devils can get back on track following the break.

Stanley Cup Final 2017 Preview

After last night’s epic double overtime game seven of the Eastern Conference Final, things are finally set for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins will represent the East while the upstart Nashville Predators will represent the West.

The Final is set to begin on Monday, May 29 and you have to wonder how the layoff will affect the Predators, who clinched their spot this past Monday. They will have a full week off to prepare while the Pens will only have four days.

That could help the Penguins in that they get right back on the horse and do not have time to over prepare for the Preds, but it could also hinder. The Pens are banged up, no doubt about it. Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion earlier on in the Washington series and that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is little doubt that the Pens have had a bit rougher path to the Final, having survived Columbus, Washington and then a seven game series that took two OTs to decide with Ottawa. The Capitals series also went seven games and both the series with Washington and the Senators were wars. How will this grind affect the Penguins in the long run?

By contrast, the Preds cruised by the Blackhawks in the first round and dispatched St. Louis in six games in the second. They took out Anaheim in six to advance to the Cup Final. While those series were just as brutal as anything the Penguins played, they did not last as long and that may give the Predators an edge in the Cup Final.

If there was one team that could have used a week off to recover from their wounds, it would be the Penguins. The Pens also took a regular season’s worth of abuse, playing in the much tighter Metropolitan Division.

None of this is to discount what the Predators have done. They are in the Final for a reason. Although finishing sixteenth out of the sixteen clubs that make the playoffs, they have gotten on a roll at the right time and have gelled. Shrewd trades have allowed the team to get to where they have gotten. Picking up PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster trade last summer that sent the popular Shea Weber to the Habs has paid off in dividends. Subban is a dynamic player who gives any team a bit of energy when he is there. But it was smaller stuff like getting veterans Vern Fiddler and PA Parenteau from the Devils that also built towards this run to the Cup for Nashville.

One thing working in Pittsburgh’s favor is definitely the experience factor. They have been there and they know what it is like to win. Nashville is largely doing this for the first time. They will also be doing it without left winger Filip Forsberg, who injured his thigh in the Ducks series, requiring surgery and will miss the Final.

So, the series will likely come down to who can stay healthiest and whether the Penguins can remain resilient. Also, can the Predators continue the magic in one of the loudest and best atmospheres in the NHL at Bridgestone Arena? Answers to these and more questions will begin to become clearer beginning this Monday night.

Some miscellaneous fun facts about this series are that this will be the first time two teams with yellow as one of their primary colors will be facing off in the Stanley Cup Final. Nashville uses yellow and navy blue while Pittsburgh just switched back this season to yellow and black, traditional colors for Pittsburgh, from black and Vegas gold. Also, Pittsburgh has repeated as Wales/Eastern Conference champions for the third time in their history. All of their trips to the Final have come in pairs: 1991 and 1992, 2008 and 2009 and 2016 and 2017. They are five and one all time in terms of series wins in the Stanley Cup Final.

Congratulations to both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators and their fans for getting to the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s hope it is a great series!

Devils Winless in Seven with Lackluster Outing versus Predators

Coming off the game in New York against the Rangers, the Devils wanted to build on what was a great performance against a tough opponent. New Jersey put forth a good effort in the game against their rivals, losing only in a shootout. Instead, they seemed flat and out of it in a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Prudential Center tonight, losing their seventh straight in the process.

To put it bluntly: the Devils played a really ugly game tonight. The Predators came out with a chip on their collective shoulder after the loss they suffered in Nashville where the Devils came back from a 3-0 deficit and ended up winning in overtime. That chip served them well, as they played a complete game, outskating and outworking the Devils all night.

The Preds were actually playing the backend of a back-to-back, having beaten Philadelphia in a shootout last night. The Devils are starting a stretch when they have 30 home games – including 28 after the Christmas break – the most remaining home games in the NHL.

The Devils were sitting Luke Gazdic and Devante Smith-Pelly. Jacob Josefson was still out with an injury. Sitting for the Predators was former Devil Reid Boucher, Petter Granberg and PK Subban was also out with an upper body injury.

Between the pipes, the Devils again looked to Cory Schneider to right the ship. He made 27 saves on 32 Nashville shots, as the Devils were outshot in a game again. With their back-to-back, the Predators went with backup Juuse Saros, who was near-perfect with 27 saves on 28 Devils shots.

For the first period, it was the James Neal show. The Nashville right wing was injured for the game at the Bridgestone Arena, but he made up for lost time, scoring twice on the Devils 1:32 apart in the period. His first came when Taylor Hall lost an edge inside the Nashville zone. Damon Severson was pinching in and got beat leading to a Predators’ 2-on-1. Neal took a nice pass from Viktor Arvidsson and blasted it by Cory to make it 1-0 Preds at 5:43.

He struck again 1:32 later (at 7:15) when he notched his fourteenth, beating Schneider clean with assists from Roman Josi and Arvidsson. And just like that, it was 2-0 Predators.

The Predators had scored two goals on their first four shots of the game. And they did not look back from there.

The Devils did have some chances in the first frame, first when Travis Zajac, Michael Cammalleri and Hall made a nice passing play in the Nashville zone that resulted in Saros stopping Hall. Then, Beau Bennett hit the post on a redirected PA Parenteau shot. Nashville had dodged two bullets and the Devils had seemingly missed their chances to get back into the game.

The Devils did not build on those chances, coming out flat in the second period. At 5:55, Mattias Ekholm ripped a one-timer from the point to make it 3-0. Craig Smith had the lone assist on that goal.

The Devils did begin to apply some pressure late in the period, but the Predators remained on top. Ryan Ellis, a teammate of both Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall in junior with the Windsor Spitfires (a team that won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010) had a chance in the middle part of the second period, hitting the post.

In the comeback win in Nashville, the Devils scored just 55 seconds into the third period. That would not happen tonight. Instead, at 8:12 of the second frame, Filip Forsberg scored his fifth on the power play (Nick Lappin was sitting for slashing) from Josi and Ryan Johansen. This goal essentially came 5-on-3 as Vernon Fiddler was injured blocking a shot and tried to gut it out. That goal made it 4-0.

The Predators would then add a shorthanded goal to make it 5-0. That came while Adam Pardy was off for hooking. Johansen had that goal, from Arvidsson and Ellis.

Then, just as the Pardy penalty was expiring, Andy Greene fired a shot from the point that was tipped in by Sergey Kalinin. Severson had the secondary assist on that goal. New Jersey had avoided the shutout, but it was too little too late.

The Devils will need to regroup awfully fast. The Flyers come in on Thursday to kick off a back-to-back (they get Pittsburgh on Friday as well). This will be one of the rare Metro Division games that the Devils have played this season, also a rare home game as the Devils are set to play 29 of them coming up. With the team now at NHL .500 (at 12-12-7), they will look to rebound with a good effort against another divisional foe.

Devils Battle Back From Three Goals Down to Defeat Predators in OT

The Devils had a tough hill to climb coming into Nashville for a 2 PM game against the Predators. First, they were facing the Predators, a good defensive team who were 8-1-1 this season at Bridgestone Arena. Second, they were facing Pekka Rinne, the NHL’s first star of the month for November. He finished November with a 1.49 goals against average and has not given up more than three goals at home all season. So, all New Jersey did was go in to Nashville, go down three goals and win the game in overtime 5-4.

The Predators never give up power play goals at home. They were 27-for-27 on the penalty kill this season in their building. So, the Devils went in and scored a power play goal against them. But more importantly than all of that, what this Devils team showed was heart and determination.

Sorting out some roster stuff to begin with, Reid Boucher was placed on waivers on Thursday and did not clear. He was picked up by none other than the Nashville Predators. Boucher, the newest Predator, did not play today against his old team, although he was in Nashville, since he did not return to New Jersey when he was put on waivers as per Andrew Gross via Twitter.

Nashville is missing some of their key players due to injury, including leading scorer James Neal. Scratches for the Predators were Pontus Aberg, Adam Pardy and Boucher. New Jersey scratched Jacob Josefson, Sergey Kalinin and Jon Merrill.

The Devils were coming off of their overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago while the Preds were coming off of a three day layoff after winning in Colorado on Tuesday.

Cory Schneider had a rough outing in Chicago and was visibly upset after he let in the game winner on Thursday. To give him time to clear his head and get some rest, Keith Kinkaid filled in admirably today, making 38 saves on 42 Predators shots. As mentioned, Rinne was the NHL’s first star of the month for November, the first such Nashville Predator to grab that honor. He made 17 saves on 22 Devils shots.

The Devils would go on the power play early, when Viktor Arvidsson was called for high-sticking against Damon Severson at 7:47 of the first period. The Devils did not score on this man advantage but did give up a shorthanded breakaway to Nashville’s Austin Watson. Michael Cammalleri hustled nicely on the back check and was able to get his stick on Watson’s and his shot trickled in on Kinkaid for an easy save. This was a nice play by Cammalleri.

The Predators got on the board first when Kevin Fiala scored his fourth of the season from Matt Irwin and Mike Ribeiro. The Devils were down, but about a minute and sixteen seconds later, at 17:31, Kyle Quincey held the Predators’ zone and fired the puck toward net. The puck became airborne and Taylor Hall was right there in front of the net to bat it out of the air and behind Rinne. The goal was checked for a high stick, but it was clean so the game was tied up at one.

But they would not get out of the first period that way. At 19:20, PK Subban found the back of the net from Colin Wilson to give Nashville the 2-1 lead. Then, to make matters worse for the Devils, Pavel Zacha would take a puck or a stick to the face late in the first and would not return to the game.

And it would seem that the wheels would come off in the second. First, at 6:02, Fiala scored his second of the game from Craig Smith and Ribeiro. It was now 3-1 Nashville. The Predators then went up by three when Roman Josi scored his third of the year from Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok.

To put it simply, the Devils did not play a very good second period. But whatever the coaching staff said in between periods, New Jersey responded.

One of the key moments of the game was late in the second, with 41 seconds left in the period, when Kinkaid robbed the Predators in a big save that kept New Jersey in the game.

From there on out, it was pretty all Devils on the scoresheet. Just 25 seconds into the third period, the puck dribbled out to Andy Greene at point. He fired and the rebound came out to Michael Cammalleri at the far circle. He fired it in and the Devils cut the lead in half to 4-2. Travis Zajac had the secondary assist on that goal. Cammalleri also tied Zajac for the team lead in goals with that one.

Exactly 30 seconds later, Nick Lappin banked a pass off of the boards on the breakout to Vern Fiddler. He carried into the Nashville zone, and fired on net. Greene followed up on the rebound, hammering it home to make it 4-3.

Predators’ coach Peter Laviolette would elect to use his timeout after Greene’s goal and it would settle the team down briefly.

Then, at 12:37, the man who scored the game tying goal and the OT winner last season in Nashville struck again; Adam Henrique fired one in after Hall had given to Palmieri just inside the Nashville blue line, who fed Henrique at the circle for a nice shot on net that connected. The goal came on the power play, as mentioned, the first one the Predators have given up all season at home.

On the night, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Predators were 0-for-2. The Devils came into this game 18-for-18 on the penalty kill in their last four games.

The Henrique goal was set up by a nice hit by Kyle Palmieri in the neutral zone on Mike Fisher. Had he not laid the body on him, Fisher would have been off to the races with the puck shorthanded.

The game was tied at four and that is how things would remain for the rest of regulation. The Devils were headed to overtime for the third time in their last four games.

But this time, unlike the shootout loss in Pittsburgh and the OT loss in Chicago, things would bounce in the Devils’ favor.

The Predators spent the better part of the three-on-three extra session in the Devils defensive zone until Filip Forsberg missed a shot on net and Cammalleri picked it up in the Devils zone and he was off. He found Hall through the neutral zone and the two skated in on a two-on-one odd man rush. Hall waited, then saucered a great pass to Cammalleri, who buried it to end the game.

The Devils had broken their winless streak in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion. The final score: New Jersey 5, Nashville 4.

It was exactly what the Devils needed as they return home one quick game against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The Devils completed a great comeback against a very good Nashville team. Hopefully, they can continue the momentum and get some victories along the way.

Devils Break Losing Skid with OT Win in Nashville

The New Jersey Devils came into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena a desperate hockey club. They had dropped their last three and six of their last seven. They were quickly fading from the playoff race and were facing the dire specter of three games that would pit them against the Predators, Stars and Penguins, three of the top teams in the NHL.

With the Pens beating the Rangers earlier in the night in Pittsburgh, New Jersey needed to do something if they were going to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It was a daunting task, though. Nashville was 7-0-3 in their last ten games and had earned at least a point in their last ten home games.

But the Devils had some reinforcements coming. New pickups David Warsofsky and Devante Smith-Pelly made their Devils debuts tonight. Warsofsky wore number 47 and was paired with Jon Merrill on the blueline while Smith-Pelly wore number 25 and skated on a line early on with Reid Boucher and Adam Henrique. He would go on to have a big impact in the later stages of the game for New Jersey. The healthy scratches for the Devils were Bobby Farnham and Damon Severson.

The Devils would also have to contend with the NHL’s third star of the month for February: Filip Forsberg. He did nothing short of scoring three natural hat tricks in a span of four games.

Getting the start in net for the Devils was Keith Kinkaid, as Cory Schneider was given the night off on the first half of a back-to-back. He made 30 stops on 34 Nashville shots. Facing him across the rink was the Predators’ veteran Pekka Rinne. He stopped 28 of 33 Devils shots on the evening.

The start of the game had a nice touch, as coach John Hynes elected to throw out the line of Jordin Tootoo, Tuomo Ruutu and Stephen Gionta to begin the game. Tootoo was a longtime member of the Preds and is beloved among the Nashville fans. It was a nice gesture giving the fan favorite a little bit of recognition in his former city.

The power play would play a huge part in this game. It began when John Moore of the Devils went off for roughing at 8:05 of the first period. Nashville would immediately make the Devils pay. Craig Smith scored at 8:48 off assists from Shea Weber and Filip Forsberg. It was 1-0 Predators, and the Devils were behind the eight ball early.

Midway through the first, though, the Devils caught a break when the Preds’ Roman Josi went off for high-sticking setting the Devils on the man advantage. At 16:00, Jacob Josefson skated the puck along the far faceoff circle after taking a pass from David Schlemko at the point. Josefson found Kyle Palmieri open at the side of the net and he slammed the pass home, tying things up at one.

Then, just 46 seconds after that goal, Adam Larsson got nabbed for holding and gave the Predators the extra man. Mike Ribeiro would connect at 17:13 on a tip in from a shot by Josi. Forsberg had the secondary assist. Nashville had the lead back, 2-1. The first three goals of the game had been scored on the power play.

The second period would see more scoring, though none on the power play. Just 2:39 in, Paul Gaustad scored on a backhand shot with assists to Austin Watson and Miikka Salomaki. Nashville now had a 3-1 lead and looked to be in control.

But the trade for Devante Smith-Pelly would pay immediate dividends for the Devils tonight. At 7:23, John Merrill took a shot from the point. The rebound came out to Sergey Kalinin who tried to stuff it in, it bounced over to Smith-Pelly, who knocked it home to cut the Predators’ lead to 3-2. In his first game as a Devil, Smith-Pelly had scored an important goal for New Jersey, and he was not done. The goal would be reviewed (a coach’s challenge by Nashville’s Peter Laviolette) for possible goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood and the Predators lost their timeout. Smith-Pelly had actually scored in his final game as a Montreal Canadien, so this was his second straight game with a goal.

The Devils would get their chances. Andy Greene was denied by Rinne on a wraparound attempt in the middle of the second. Ruutu would be robbed. Boucher was stopped on a breakaway late in the period.

The third period was a wild one for the Devils. When Mattias Ekholm went off for cross-checking Joseph Blandisi at 8:46, the Devils would again be on the man advantage. Travis Zajac would tie the game up when he snapped a pass from Schlemko past Rinne at 9:13. Palmieri had the secondary assist. The Devils had clawed their way back into the game. But things would not remain that way.

After Kinkaid stopped Viktor Arvidsson on a breakaway, the Predators would jump back into the lead when Forsberg scored at 17:56 from Smith and Ribeiro. It was 4-3 Nashville and the bad luck that had plagued the Devils of late had seemed to follow the team to the Music City.

But New Jersey was not done yet. With Kinkaid pulled and the extra attacker on, Palmieri fired a shot from an odd angle, with the rebound coming out to Smith-Pelly. His shot was stopped, but the rebound came out to Adam Henrique, who fired it home to tie the game at four with 40 seconds remaining in the game.

Once the Devils weathered a late Nashville press in those 40 seconds, they were headed to overtime. New Jersey had gained a point for the first time since defeating the Rangers a little over a week ago.

Things would look good in most cases for the Devils, who were 7-1 in overtime going into this game, while Nashville was a horrible 1-10 in the extra session. But at 1:42 into the OT, Pekka Rinne came way out of his crease to try to cut the Devils attacker off. He covered the puck with his glove and because he did not play the puck right away and elected to cover up, was called for delay of game. The rule is meant to keep goalies from coming way out of the crease to impede scoring chances and the Devils would be going to the power play.

It did not take them long. Just 12 seconds into the power play, John Moore took a shot on goal. The rebound was guided by Zajac to Henrique at the side of the net and he hammered it, giving the Devils the victory. Credit to Zajac for winning the draw cleanly deep in the offensive zone after the penalty was called.

So on the night, David Schlemko, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri and the debuting Devante Smith-Pelly each had a multi-point game.

But the Devils hardly have time to rest on these laurels, as it is off to Dallas to play the Stars tomorrow night. The Stars have been struggling of late, but are still a dangerous team and a juggernaut in the Western Conference. The Devils will try to keep the positivity going as they look to climb back into the playoff hunt the way they climbed back into the game tonight.

Losing Streak Continues Against Nashville

The Devils welcomed the Nashville Predators into Prudential Center this past Monday in their latest game against playoff teams from 2014-15 and fell 3-1.

Keith Kinkaid got the start for the Devils and Yann Danis got the call-up from Albany to back him up as Cory Schneider was off welcoming his son Wyatt into the world. Congratulations and good luck to Cory and his wife and their newborn son.

In addition to Schneider, the Devils also had Sergey Kalinin and John Moore as healthy scratches.

The Preds got off to a relatively quick start when Roman Josi scored his first of what would be two on the night at 10:34 of the first. The score would remain that way until late in the third, when Josi would notch his second shorthanded in an empty net. The Predators were killing off a Cody Hodgson holding call and the Devils pulled Kinkaid to go up 6-on-4. A questionable call from John Hynes considering they were up a man already and because Nashville was killing a penalty, any icing call would be negated.

The Devils, however, would end up scoring on that power play, anyway. Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal as a Devil, getting assists from Andy Greene and Jacob Josefson at 18:20, making it 2-1 late.

When things got back to even strength, the Devils kept the net empty and Eric Nystrom of the Predators would put the game away, giving Nashville the 3-1 win and moving them to 3-0-0 on the year while the Devils remain winless.

Kinkaid made 17 saves on the night, with the other two Preds’ goals coming with the net empty. He was also named the game’s third star.

Next up for the Devils is the San Jose Sharks on Friday. This will mark the return of former Devils coach Pete DeBoer to the Prudential Center, as the new Sharks coach has his team playing well. They are 3-0-0, only a point behind the Canucks for the Pacific Division lead. Cory Schneider should be back in goal for the Devils, which will be welcome, although Keith Kinkaid has shown himself to be a more than capable go-to backup. What this stretch of games has shown the fans is that, goaltending-wise the Devils are okay, but they are still having trouble scoring and a lethargic offensive could be a problem if it continues.

On the other hand, it is early and things will work themselves out. At this point in the season, even Pittsburgh is having trouble winning games and New Jersey did have a lot of turnover in the offseason. Once things start clicking and the team settles in, hopefully they will begin winning games and everything will begin to fall into place.