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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Detroit Red Wings
1. Miles Wood's promotion
With Jesper Bratt still out, and no natural fit for RW2, John Hynes has decided to give Wood a chance in the top-6. In the summer I suggested that'd be a good idea
due to Wood's even-strength scoring efficiency and ability to pile up shots in bunches. It's been more of the same this year with Wood averaging 20.6 attempts/60 at 5v5, which leads the team.
I think Marcus Johansson, in particular, will benefit from this lineup change. He has been creating a lot of chances for teammates – no player on the Devils has more shot assists in the games I've tracked – but Pavel Zacha and J.S. Dea lack the scoring ability to convert. I think Wood is a better bet to finish plays off.
2. 5v5 play
The Red Wings have been an absolute train wreck at 5v5 this season. They have allowed 29 goals through 12 games and are owners of the league's worst goal differential (-13) in that game state. They rank 25th in Expected Goals For% so it's not exactly surprising they find themselves in the basement, especially due to their lack of raw talent.
Meanwhile, the Devils are tied for 10th in 5v5 goal differential (+4) and rank 5th with a 54.17 xGF%, which slots them just below the likes of Tampa Bay and San Jose – two Stanley Cup contenders.
If the Devils don't parade to the box and can keep things 5v5, they'll likely walk away with two points.
3. A smash spot for the power play
Detroit has a lot of older players on their roster, they lack team speed, and they're often on their heels. As such, it should be no surprise they're forced into taking *a lot* of penalties. They've already been given the gate a league-leading 55 times and they have a peachy -17 penalty differential at 5v5. Making matters worse is they rank bottom-5 in shot suppression while down a man. They take a lot of penalties and their inability to limit shots isn't a recipe for success while killing them. Don't be surprised if the Devils pot a goal or two on the man advantage tonight.
4. L1 vs L1
Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri are almost matchup-proof at this point but I'm still interested to see how much – if at all – Detroit's top unit can slow them down at 5v5.
A Darren Helm - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha line isn't scary on paper, however, their results thus far have been quite good. Since being put together they are controlling better than 60% of the shot attempts, and giving up just 50 attempts/60 (for perspective, San Jose gives up 51.8/60), despite generally matching up against the opponent's best players.
This could be a sneaky good test for New Jersey's top trio.
5. Cory Schneider's debut start
I can't think of a better spot for Schneider to get his first start of the season. The Wings rank 29th in high-danger chances/60 while no team has been better at suppressing them than the Devils. They'll no doubt be looking to tighten up following a very tough outing in Tampa Bay, too, so Schneider's workload should be very manageable.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Travis Zajac - Miles Wood
Blake Coleman - Pavel Zacha - J.S. Dea
Brian Boyle - Kevin Rooney - Joey Anderson
Mirco Mueller - Sami Vatanen
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
Detroit (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Darren Helm - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha
Gustav Nyquist - Jacob De La Rose - Michael Rasmussen
Justin Abdelkader - Luke Glendening - Tyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk - Wade Megan - Luke Witkowski
Dennis Cholowski - Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson - Trevor Daley
Niklas Kronwall - Nick Jensen
Puck drop is just after 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG+ and FS-D.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
On a leaky defensive effort, Johansson's heavy lifting, and a top-9 change
On Johansson, Severson, and 5v5 play