Happy Thanksgiving to all yesterday!
Having spent time with their friends and loved ones and had some turkey and stuffing, the Devils jetted off immediately to Nashville to take on the Predators. The game did go the Devils’ way as they fell 4-2.
First, some roster news, as usual.
The Devils went with largely the same lineup as Wednesday night against Minnesota. Ty Smith was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Colton White was again in on defense. He joined Fabian Zetterlund and Mason Geertsen out of the lineup.
In addition, as per Kevin Weekes of ESPN+, Jack Hughes participated in the Devils’ morning skate today. Weekes noted he was in a non-contact jersey – which it being the morning skate does not signal that much, but he is hopefully on his way back sooner rather than later.
The Devils decided to go to Jonathan Bernier as their starter tonight after turning to Mackenzie Blackwood for the last week or so of games. Bernier stopped 27 of Nashville’s 30 shots against for a nightly save percentage of .900. He turned aside the Preds’ two power play shots and 25 of their 28 shots at even strength. Nashville added an empty net goal for a 31st shot on the night.
Juuse Saros started for the Predators and stopped 23 of the Devils’ 25 total shots. He had a save percentage of .920. He stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded chance and made 22 saves on 24 shots at even strength.
The Devils finished the game 0-for-1 on the power play while the Predators ended 0-for-3.
Of note in this game was that, as reported by Weekes, this game featured the first-ever NHL matchup between two Swiss-born and trained captains of NHL franchises. It was Nico Hischier of the Devils against Roman Josi of the Predators in their first game against each other since Nico became captain of New Jersey. Remember, the Devils and Predators did not play last season due to the pandemic-reduced season and the realigned divisions and in-division only games.
And speaking of Roman Josi….
Nashville got on the board at the 7:31 minute of the first period when Josi scored. This was a 4-on-4 goal and was set up when Andreas Johnsson took a boarding penalty against Eeli Tolvanen at the 6:27 mark of the first.
The Devils spent ten seconds on the man advantage before the Preds’ Matt Duchene hooked Ryan Graves and went off at the 6:38 mark. That evened things up, but with more room on the ice, Nashville would capitalize.
The goal came off the rush as Ryan Johansen dished off to Josi, who dashed up the left-wing boards into the Devils zone. Bernier never got a chance to get square to the shooter and Josi fired a shot that ended up trickling through Bernier to make it 1-0 Predators. Alexandre Carrier had the secondary assist on his goal.
Bernier would follow that up with a nice glove save. But the Devils’ problems on the power play continue to mount. After this game, the Devils are now 1-for-their-last-24 on the power play on the road.
Their lone power play opportunity tonight came at the 13:03 mark of the first when Filiip Forsberg was called for slashing Dougie Hamilton. Nashville would kill that off.
The Predators would double their lead in the second period. It came just 3:30 into the new period when Nick Cousins centered the puck out of the corner to Philip Tomasino in front of the Devils net.
Tomasino chipped the puck towards Bernier’s cage. Bernier was playing extremely deep in his net and Tomasino’s shot ended up chipping over him and in. Josi had the secondary assist.
The Devils had nine shots through the first two periods of this game, two in the first and seven in the second. That is the second lowest 40-minute shot total for a team in the NHL this season according to ESPN+.
Nashville had 22 shots through that time frame and Mikael Granlund would make one of their first shots of the third period count.
At the 6:45 mark of the third period, Matt Duchene took a pass from Forsberg behind the Devils net. He collected the puck with his skate and deflected it to his stick. He then centered it to Granlund, who in the slot in front of the Devils net. All of the Devils defenders were watching Duchene with the puck behind the net and did not cover Granlund. Granlund put the puck in to make it 3-0 Predators.
But the Devils would finally get on the big board a the 11:58 mark of the third. It was then when Johnsson worked along the boards behind the Nashville net. He worked it over to Jesper Bratt, who fought off a check in the near corner in the Preds’ zone and passed to Dawson Mercer at the near side of the Predators net.
Mercer looked for a second and had a shot but made the split-second decision to pass to Johnsson, who had by now gone to the other side of the Nashville net. Johnsson was able to tap the pass in on one touch to make it 3-1 Predators.
And now, with time ticking down in regulation, the Devils were looking at pulling Bernier. They eventually would with 1:42 left in the game. Weekes did question why Devils coach Lindy Ruff played it relatively conservatively. Weekes did feel that the Devils could have pulled their goaltender sooner as they were down by two and had time. He cited their puck possession numbers and that they lost time when a faceoff came in the Devils zone, giving them a late defensive zone start.
But either way, Bernier was out and the Devils had the extra attacker on. A good situation for them as they have not been a team you would count out late in a game while down by a few goals.
But a comeback was not in the cards this time.
Carrier got a helper from Johansen and deposited the puck into the empty net, nearly 200 feet away. He shot nearly the length of the ice and hit his target to make it 4-1 and ice the game for the Predators.
The Devils would tack one on at the end when Tomas Tatar beat Saros to a loose puck in the Nashville end. Saros went for a poke check, but Tatar got there first and slid it five-hole and into the empty goal behind the Predators goalie. That made it 4-2, our final for the night.
The Devils ended the game being outshot 31-25 (logging 16 shots in the third period to up their game total a bit). The Devils did win 57-percent of the game’s faceoffs – with Michael McLeod (newly reunited with Nathan Bastian, who played tonight) leading the Devils centers with a personal 69-percent winning percentage.
Each team ended up with six total penalty minutes. The Preds outhit the Devils 16 to nine. They also had more blocked shots at 14 to New Jersey’s seven. Nashville ended up with one more giveaway than the Devils at five to New Jersey’s four.
Hamilton led all Devils in ice time with a total of 23:43 (including 1:13 on the power play and 44 seconds on the penalty kill). Jimmy Vesey led the forwards with 18:23 TOI (1:13 on the power play and 2:12 on the PK). He beat Pavel Zacha out by one second. Zacha had 18:22 of total time on ice, and he only played on the power play, logging 1:13 there.
Johnsson led the Devils with two points (the goal and the assist on Tatar’s window dressing). Damon Severson led the team in shots with four and hits with two. Hamilton led in blocked shots with three and giveaways with two. Janne Kuokkanen and Bratt co-led in takeaways with three each.
So next up, with the Devils having garnered only one point in their last two games, they will try to right things on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers at home in Prudential Center.
That game, a 7 PM start and will be back on TV on MSG+, will be Hockey Fights Cancer Night for the Devils. The Devils will honor 12-year-old Lucas Files from Manahawkin, New Jersey, a Devils fan and cancer survivor.
He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in October of 2015. He was treated at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital starting in December 2018.
Also being honored as “a special Hero Among Us” will be Christian Koncewicz, a 9-year-old from Middletown, New Jersey. He was diagnosed with Leukemia last April and is undergoing treatment currently at the same facility as Lucas.
The Devils will help raise funds on the night for both the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in New Jersey.
The Devils will wear the special lavender-colored Hockey Fights Cancer warmup jerseys and will auction them (as well as the locker room nameplates) following the game through December 8.
Fans will also again have the chance to hold up their Hockey Fights Cancer placards – which can be printed out at newjerseydevils.com/HFC. This will be featured during the game and on the team’s social media outlets. Fans can write who they are fighting for on the placard, which can also be displayed digitally on their phones.
The Devils kicked off the week by announcing that the renovation of Clara Maass Medical Center’s Infusion Center will be dedicated to former Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment employee Dean Brzuskiewicz, who passed away in 2020 of cancer.
The renovations were paid for by proceeds from last season’s Hockey Fights Cancer according to a press release put out by the Devils.
And finally, one other bit of news that I will wrap up quickly because this post is going way long anyway.
The Devils released the remaining 12 games that they wear their new black alternate “Jersey” jerseys for.
They will be December 18 at the Red Wings, December 23 versus the Canadiens, January 6, 2022 versus the Blue Jackets, January 10 versus the Lightning, January 19 versus the Coyotes, January 25 as the Devils host the Stars, February 24 when the Penguins come into town, March 12 against the Ducks at Prudential Center, March 23 versus the rival Rangers, April 3 versus the Islanders, April 5 against versus the Rangers and, finally on April 29 versus Detroit, this time in Newark.
And that wraps things up. We will see you back here on Sunday for Devils-Flyers coverage. Until then, have a great weekend everyone!