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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Philadelphia Flyers:
1. Low-event hockey
If you like offense, this might not be the game for you – despite the over/under being set at 6.5.
It's no secret the Devils struggle mightily to generate offense without Taylor Hall. Factor in the absences, due to trade or injury, of Marcus Johansson, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, etc. and you don't need any numbers to know the offense is putrid. I'm going to share them anyway.
Over the last 10 games, the Devils rank dead last in chances (167) at 5v5. Not great! The Flyers haven't fared much better, though, sitting tied for 28th (192) in that span. Both teams are bottom-3 on a per 60 basis, too.
Barring horrendous goaltending, there probably won't be many goals in this one.
2. Cory Schneider
He is playing his best hockey in years, having won four of his last five appearances and posting a remarkable .959 save percentage during that span. Perhaps equally as important, he's looked good in the process. His positioning is good, his movements are fluid, and he is legitimately comfortable. That was rarely, if ever, the case for more than a year. The competition hasn't been fierce – he started games against the likes of New York (R), Ottawa, and Buffalo – but it's still encouraging he is getting it done against NHL players.
Though Philadelphia's offense isn't exactly piling up the chances right now, it's not like their lineup is toothless. They have Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek, among others, up front and some pretty talented puck movers on the back end.
Schneider will be tested a bit, and he'll need to answer the bell for the Devils to have a chance of winning.
3. A black hole
Kevin Rooney has a 38.98 Corsi For%. Blake Pietila has a 33.96 Corsi For%. Kurtis Gabriel has a 33.79 Corsi For%. Among 29 Devils to log at least 50 minutes of 5v5 ice this year, those are the only players with a Corsi below 40%. Tonight, they are all in the lineup. On the same line. If there's one thing I'm sure about in this game, it's this trio getting absolutely crushed at 5v5.
4. Making an impression
If we assume the projected top-4 will return next season, the Devils add one quality defender during the summer, and Ty Smith is able to make the jump (he sure looks ready), that means six defense spots will be accounted for. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here but Connor Carrick could very well be fighting for one of the final spots – if not *the* final one – on next year's blueline. At a time where games don't mean a ton for some Devils, they mean the world for a guy like Carrick. I like how he's played so far. Let's see if he can keep it going.
5. Michael McLeod's offense
He is slowly starting to look more comfortable. He's using his speed more, and he's not shying away from physicality or somewhat of a pest role. The one thing that hasn't come yet is offense. It's early, I know, but through three games now he has one shot attempts and zero chances. He is a pass-first player, but he has to bring more to the table than that.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt - Nico Hischier - Drew Stafford
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Kenny Agostino
Nick Lappin - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian
Blake Pietila - Kevin Rooney - Kurtis Gabriel
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Sami Vatanen
Egor Yakovlev - Connor Carrick
Philadelphia (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Claude Giroux - Nolan Patrick - Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk - Scott Laughton - Ryan Hartman
Michael Raffl - Corban Knight - Phil Varone
Ivan Provorov - Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg - Radko Gudas
Shayne Gostisbehere - Phillipe Myers
Puck drop is just after 7:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG+2 and NBCSP.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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