Devils End Homestand with Loss to Preds

The Nashville Predators came into the Prudential Center having been on a roll. They defeated the New York Islanders at UBS Arena last night with a game-winning goal scored with 11 seconds to go in regulation.

Nashville made their way to Newark and defeated the Devils tonight 3-2 after weathering a strong first period by the Devils.

Let’s start with some roster news for the Devils. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was placed on Injured Reserve today according to Sam Kasan of the Devils’ official website. Bernier has been battling a lower body injury. This is believed by a few on Twitter to be a possible hip injury. It is something, of course, to keep an eye on.

Recalled from AHL Utica in his stead was goalie Akira Schmid. He was recalled this morning and at the Morning Skate this morning in Newark.

Schmid currently has an 8-0-2 record with the Comets this season to go along with a 1.60 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. His save percentage stands as tops in the American Hockey League this season and his goals against average and shutouts are second in the league for 2021-22 so far. All of this information comes from Kasan on the “Inside the Devils Blog.”

In addition to this, Kasan is also reporting that Alexander Holtz will be allowed to compete for Sweden at the upcoming 2022 World Junior Championship. He will join defenseman Luke Hughes of Team USA and goalie Jakub Malek of the Czech Republic as Devils prospects who will be competing in the World Juniors this year.

As for the big club, the Devils went with the same lineup tonight against Nashville that they have iced for the last few games. Mason Geertsen, Jesper Boqvist and Christian Jaros were the scratches.

Mackenzie Blackwood got the start again with Bernier put on IR and Schmid just getting acclimated after being called up from the AHL.

Coming off of his shutout of the Flyers on Wednesday, Blackwood took the loss tonight after making 24 saves on 27 total Predators shots for an .889 save percentage on the night. He saved four of their five power play shots – the Predators were 1-for-2 on the man advantage – he was also equal to 20 of the 22 Preds’ attempts at even strength.

Going for Nashville was the Finnish goalie Juuse Saros. Saros stopped 29 of the Devils’ 31 total shots for a .935 save percentage. He got the Devils’ lone shorthanded shots and all four of their power play chances. The Devils went 0-for-4 on the power play for the night. Saros turned aside 24 of the Devils’ 26 shots at even strength.

One more item of note before we begin as Devils Insiders mentioned today on Twitter that the last time the Devils defeated the Predators at Prudential Center was December 3, 2016. Nashville had been riding a five-game winning streak at New Jersey since then.

The bad luck continued for the Devils as they came out flying in the first period and watched as Jonas Siegenthaler the the crossbar early on in the first period.

Nashville took three penalties in the first period with the Devils going to the power play for nearly six minutes out of the first twenty (the third power play bled over into the second period by about five seconds).

On the first power play, the Preds’ Tanner Jeannot missed on a partial shorthanded breakaway. Jeannot broke in on Blackwood and simply lost his handle on the puck.

The amount of penalties called on the Predators overflowed to frustration late in the first. With the Devils on the power play as time in was winding down in the period, Jack Hughes was tripped deep in the Nashville zone and immediately looked to the referee for the call.

The Predators took exception to this and, as the horn sounded to end the period, the teams came together. Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm was yelling that Hughes had dove and challenging him to fight. Hughes, according to ESPN+ ice side reporter AJ Mleczko, humorously asked for their biggest guy to take on.

This was not the end of individual battles between the teams on this night.

The Devils, according to ESPN+’s John Buccigross, controlled the puck for a whopping 60-percent of the first period. This would all eventually pay off in the middle of the second period.

At the 11:34 mark of the second, the Devils finally broke through on the big board when Pavel Zacha found the back of the net.

It came when a Nashville defender left his check (Zacha) in front of the net to double-team Nico Hischier behind the Predators net. Hischier kicked the puck along the boards to Jesper Bratt in the near corner. Bratt saw Zacha now all alone in front as the Preds were caught puck watching. Zacha took the feed on the doorstep and put it by Saros to make it 1-0 Devils.

That lead was very short lived for New Jersey, though.

With 13:11 gone by in the second, a similar situation defensively from the Devils goal.

Philip Tomasino got the puck from Filip Forsberg behind the Devils net. He drew the Devils defense to him as New Jersey was caught puck watching here just as Nashville had been on the Zacha goal.

Tomasino passed across the grain to Roman Josi at the top of the near faceoff circle. Josi had plenty of time and space and set to shoot. Blackwood came a bit out of his net to challenge Josi, who shot high stick side to tie the game at one.

Nashville would end up taking the lead before the second intermission when they scored on the power play.

Dawson Mercer was called for tripping Alexandre Carrier with 16:28 gone by in the second and, at the 17:53 mark, Nashville struck.

Josi’s shot missed the Devils net and Mikael Granlund retrieved it along the far boards. Eeli Tolvanen snuck behind Hischier, who was between Granlund and Tolvanen defending. Tolvanen moved down from the far point to the faceoff dot.

Hischier had his back to Tolvanen, who got a pass from Granlund and blasted a shot past Blackwood to make it 2-1 Predators.

And perhaps that miscue was what led to a moment of frustration by the Devils captain with 29 seconds to go in the second period.

As the Devils were in the offensive zone, Granlund gave Nico a bit of a cross check that was missed by the officials. The two skated together up ice and suddenly dropped the gloves.

Hischier and Grandlund, two players not known for fighting to say the least, had a quick scrap. It got the crowd on its feet and looked to be a bit of a turning point for the Devils.

But Hischier’s first NHL career fighting major came with an extra two for rouging, which would set up 1:30 or so of Nashville power play time early in the third.

That was evened out when Tolvanen was called for tripping Ryan Graves 40 seconds into the new frame. This abbreviated Devils power play was highlighted by Yegor Sharangovich being stopped point blank by Saros.

The Predators made it 3-1 at the 6:11 mark of the third when they got a clean break out of their own zone and into the Devils end.

The puck was thrown towards the Devils net from the far wall by Jeannot, who immediately drove to the net. Blackwood made the initial save as it was tipped by Nick Cousins and the rebound came directly to Yakov Trenin at the near side of the Devils cage. He simply tapped te rebound in to put the Preds up by two.

Nashville seemed to be in control and time would be of the essence for the Devils were they to make a comeback.

Blackwood was pulled for the extra skater with about 4:21 to go in regulation and it would take a while, but New Jersey would break through.

With a little less than a minute to go, at the 18:55 mark, Jack Hughes had the puck at the far wall and threaded the needle, making a nice pass to Sharangovich, who was camped out at the near faceoff circle. He one-timed a shot that trickled by Saros to make it 3-2. Andreas Johnsson had the secondary assist on the goal.

With the Devils down one now, time was really becoming a factor. New Jersey would not be able to get anymore clear looks at Saros and, when he eventually froze the puck with five seconds to go in the game, things were all but over.

Sure enough, Nashville won the defensive zone faceoff and time ticked down, giving us a 3-2 Predators win and giving Nashville the season sweep of the Devils.

The Devils outshot the Preds 31-27 but struggled in the faceoff circle again. They won just 48-percent of the game’s draws. Michael McLeod was back to leading the Devils’ centers with a personal 58-percent winning percentage. He was the only one over 40-percent.

As a team, Nashville had 34 hits to the Devils 18. The Devils had nine blocked shots to the Predators’ six and the Devils had eight team giveaways to the Preds’ six.

Ty Smith led in total time on ice with 22:30 – which included 4:19 on the power play. Damon Severson and Graves led the defense in penalty killing time with 2:40 each.

Hughes led the forwards in total ice time with 20:51 (including 3:47 of PP time). Hischier led the forwards in PK time with 1:49 logged there.

Zacha led in shots on goal with seven. McLeod was the leader in hits with five. Graves led the Devils in blocks with three. Giveaways were led by Johnsson, Hischier, McLeod, Bratt, Hughes, Tomas Tatar and Smith who each had one apiece. Takeaways were led by Hischier with two on the night.

Next up, it’s a quick turnaround as the Devils will play tomorrow at 7:30 PM at the Islanders. This will be New Jersey’s first visit to the newly opened UBS Arena in Elmont, New York. It should be interesting, especially considering the Isles have yet to win a game in their new digs.

That game is on MSG tomorrow, and we will have a recap for you following the final horn.

Until then, have a great start to your weekend everyone!

Devils Drop Game at Music City, 4-2

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 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!