After what was a promising start to the season, the New Jersey Devils have sunk to the depths of the Eastern Conference as they head into tonight’s matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. Their 66 points are good for 3rd from the bottom of the League standings, and they have a four-point gap to eclipse to depart the cellar of the conference. Still, the Devils have been the dragon that Carolina has not been able to slay recently, taking all three games against the Canes this season and holding a 20-10-1 overall record since the 2009-10 season.
Kyle Palmieri continues to lead the team in points with 50 (25g, 25a), but the team’s depth attack took a hit when Michael Cammalleri (10g, 20a) went down with an injury after 55 games played, and P.A. Parenteau (13g, 14a) was traded to Nashville. Though any team with Taylor Hall (18g, 31a) is still capable of putting up points in any given game, as Hall has taken up the mantle as New Jersey’s second leading scorer in his first season there.
Travis Zajac (13g, 28a) and Adam Henrique (19g, 19a) also boast plenty of offensive prowess from their spots as third and fourth in team scoring, respectively. But the team’s offense as a whole has been wholly disappointing, scoring an average of just 2.27 goals per game, good for 28th in the League. Their mark of 27.7 shots per game also has them ranked 28th for that category.
Their special teams play hasn’t been spectacular either, though the Devils’ power play does sit a spot higher than Carolina’s with an 18.8% conversion rate (18th in NHL). The PK also sits around the lower third at 20th with an 80.2% kill rate.
The Devils’ defense took a hit when Adam Larsson was traded for the aforementioned Hall, but Damon Severson has stepped in as a key contributor on the back end. Chipping in 31 points (3g, 28a), Severson has come into his own alongside Ben Lovejoy, team leader in blocked shots and hits, and veteran Andy Greene, who leads the team in takeaways and ice time. Kyle Quincey and John Moore are also important cogs for the Devils’ blue line.
As a team, the Devils allow a 22nd-ranked 2.92 goals per game and a 21st-ranked 31.2 shots per game. They sit at 25th in takeaways with 416, and 26th in blocked shots with 942.
The goaltending tandem continues to be the same it has been, with Cory Schneider taking the lion’s share of starts and Keith Kinkaid filling in where necessary. Neither has really performed exceedingly well, with Schneider posting a .911 save percentage/2.71 GAA and Kinkaid showing a .913 save percentage/2.77 GAA, but they have remained solid throughout the season.
This season has been a bit of a lost one for the Devils, but they have the pieces in place to regroup in the offseason. For now, they have a chance at a literal and moral victory if they can manage a sweep of the Hurricanes.
What to Watch For
- Devils up-and-comer Pavel Zacha is riding a six-game point streak, putting up six helpers across that span. Defenseman John Moore also put up two goals in their last game against Toronto.
- Michael Cammalleri has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since March 2nd, but took a step towards his return by taking part in the morning skate with the team today. He is still highly unlikely to play tonight, but would be a massive boost to the team if he were to dress. Cammalleri posted a hat trick against Carolina earlier this season.
- Andy Greene was named the Devils nominee for the Masterton Trophy, which is presented to the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Derek Ryan is Carolina’s nominee.
- Should the Devils win, it would be their first sweep of the Carolina franchise since 1991-92, when the Hurricanes were still playing as the Hartford Whalers.
- Expect Cory Schneider between the pipes tonight, as Keith Kinkaid earned the start two nights ago but fell to the Maple Leafs.