The New Jersey Devils are playing the final half of a straight game tonight against the visiting Montreal Canadiens at the Prudential Center. This is their second game of the season with the first end in favor of the Devils who won by a final score of 7-1. Forward Michael McLeod had his best game of the season in the win scoring two goals and finishing with a 68 game winning percentage. The last time these two teams met there was a different coach behind the Montreal bench and Brett Kulak was in charge of the Canadiens. Blue line. New Jersey’s opponent has gone through a lot of changes since their last game on Feb. 8, but that doesn’t translate to an automatic win for the home side.
2 Scenarios: Montreal Canadiens (18-37-10)
Montreal is the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs
It was no surprise when it was announced that the Canadians were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They have struggled since October and made several off-ice changes, including hiring Kent Hughes as the new general manager and adding Nick Bobrov and Vincent Lecavalier to the front office.
The team was without star goaltender Carey Price, who underwent knee surgery in the offseason and signed up for the NHL’s Player Assistance Program in October. Shea Weber was kept off the ice and probably played his last game in the NHL and youngster Cole Caufield did not score his first goal of the season until November 24.
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At the trade deadline, the organization moved several plays, including Kulak, Artturi Lehkonen, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Toffoli. Hockey pundits would say that overall the team has done well in trading players, and fans can only hope they can get back to the drawing board this offseason.
Caufield is thriving under St. Louis
Another decision was to bring in Martin St. Louis to replace head coach Dominique Ducharme on February 9, 2022. Since signing, the team has won 10 games, including a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs from Toronto last night. One player who has thrived under St. Louis is 21-year-old Caufield. Since Feb. 10, he has scored 13 goals and had 24 points.
“I think he trusts me,” Caufield of St. Louis said Feb. 21 after a game against the Maple Leafs. “He puts me in situations to be successful and I also play with two great players, so that helps. He trusts my game and I think that’s the most important thing for me. I just have to keep playing the right way and it will keep going.
2 Scenarios: New Jersey Devils (23-37-5)
Demons try to avoid three straight losses
While the Devils have yet to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, fans and players know that day will inevitably come. With less than 20 games to play this season, the coaching staff is looking for the team to finish the right way, which includes putting together a meaningful winning streak. Currently, New Jersey is on a two-game losing streak and will be looking to bounce back against a team that is lower in the standings than they are.
Head coach Lindy Ruff’s team have played well at home recently winning four of their last five games. The Devils will be looking to bounce back today and win their fifth game in March. After last night’s loss to the Capitals, Devils reporter Catherine Bogart asked Coach Ruff what the team needed to improve on to win today.
“If you look at the number of opportunities, it puts an end to some of those opportunities,” coach Ruff said. “Defensively I think we were pretty good, we didn’t give up a lot. We stressed and tried to lock him down defensively. Those individual mistakes we made on goal weren’t covered by a great save.
Military Appreciation Night at the Prudential Center
Tonight marks the 11th annual Devils Military Appreciation Night. In addition to the players warming up in military-inspired jerseys, the organization provided more than 200 active duty members stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst with tickets to tonight’s game. The players’ warm-up shirts will be auctioned online until Sunday, April 3, 2022. All proceeds will go to Operation Gratitude.
Throughout the night, fans will have the opportunity to pay tribute, for example by writing letters of gratitude. Fans can visit the Prudential Financial activation area located in the main lobby to fill out a personal postcard to troops overseas. The USO Show Troupe will also perform the United States National Anthem in the main hall prior to the game. The first 9,000 fans in attendance will receive a devil camo themed hat and have the option to customize their hat with their initials at different stations.
Players to watch
New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier
Arguably, recently, captain Nico Hischier has been the best player on the ice in New Jersey. He has 47 points in 56 games and nine points in his last five games. Since February 1, he has collected points in all but four games. This season, the 23-year-old has upped his game, whether it’s scoring points or playing solid defensive play. He scored a goal in his team’s first game against the Canadiens, and I don’t see his offensive production slowing down anytime soon.
Montreal Canadiens: Nick Suzuki
Another youngster who has performed well under his new interim head coach is 22-year-old Nick Suzuki. The 5-foot-11 center is coming off a two-point night and has six points in his last five games. He recently played on the first line alongside Caufield and Josh Anderson and the combined line for three points against the Maple Leafs last night.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March 2021. She is excited to put her journalism degree to good use and is an accredited correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly Youtube show produced by THW. You can follow his journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.