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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Ottawa Senators:
1. Keeping it 5v5
The Devils don't dominate the shot clock. They rank 20th in Corsi For% on the year and have given up more shot attempts than they've generated. The Devils do, however, dominate when it comes to high-danger chances. Through 12 games they have a +39 differential, which helps explain why they slot 6th in Expected Goals For% despite mediocre shot numbers.
Ottawa sits much lower on the totem pole. They have controlled just 42.02% of the shot attempts (31st), 42.25% of the Expected Goals (30th), and conceded a league-leading 37 times in that game state.
The Devils are clearly the much better side at 5v5. If they stay out of penalty trouble, I like their chances of picking up another two points.
2. Death, taxes and...
...Cody Ceci playing minutes he's not capable of. For whatever reason, the Senators continue to use Ceci in a shutdown role despite years of data suggesting it's not exactly a good idea. We might be reaching the peak of that this year. The Senators are allowing 79.56 shot attempts and 37 scoring chances per 60 minutes with Ceci on the ice at 5v5. It's hard to find words for how terrifyingly bad those numbers are. And yet he'll almost certainly find himself hard-matched against the Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri line tonight. Suffice to say, they're a good bet to take advantage.
3. Sami Vatanen's shooting
Vatanen in games 1-6: 11 shot attempts, zero scoring chances at 5v5.
Vatanen in games 7-12: 33 shot attempts, five scoring chances at 5v5.
He plays primarily with a very passive, defensive-minded partner in Mirco Mueller so perhaps the coaching staff has pushed him to take on more responsibility offensively. Either way, that's what he's done.
4. A good spot for the power play
The Senators are terrible in many different game states. The penalty kill is one of them. They rank 31st in Corsi Against/60, 30th in Expected Goals Against/60, and 29th in Goals Against/60. New Jersey's power play – in particular, the 2nd unit – has been hit and miss this year. Tonight should be a hit.
5. Matt Duchene
All the talk about *what* the Senators gave up for Duchene has kind of masked the fact he's been extremely good for them. Dating back to last season, Duchene has recorded 28 points, 86 chances, and 124 shot attempts over his last 30 games. That leads the team by significant margins of eight, 27, and 25. The Devils will have their hands full with him.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Travis Zajac - Miles Wood
Blake Coleman - Brett Seney - Drew Stafford
Brian Boyle - J.S. Dea - Joey Anderson
Mirco Mueller - Sami Vatanen
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
Ottawa (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Mark Stone
Tom Pyatt - Chris Tierney - Bobby Ryan
Magnus Paajarvi - Colin White - Mikkel Boedker
Max McCormick - Nick Paul - **
Thomas Chabot - Dylan DeMelo
Mark Borowiecki - Cody Ceci
Maxime Lajoie - Christian Jaros
Chris Wideman - **
Puck drop is just after 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG+, TSN5, and RDS.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
On limiting high-danger chances, the bottom-9 holding its own, and Hischier's penalty drawing skills
On Johansson, Severson, and 5v5 play