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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Vancouver Canucks:
1. Contrasting styles
With so many injuries and a lack of talent throughout the lineup, the Devils have played very low event hockey. That's been the case for a while now, but especially so over the last 10 games. In that time, Devils games average 105 total attempts (for + against) per 60 minutes of 5v5 play. That puts them 29th in pace.
The Canucks have played very fast, high-event hockey. They're near the top of the league in attempts for, near the bottom in attempts against, and the end result is an average of 124 total events per 60, which ranks them 2nd behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It'll be interesting to see which side can force the other out of their comfort zone in this one. If the game is low-event, the Devils might be able to hang around. If it is high-event and chances are traded throughout, that'll bode well for the side featuring Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and company.
2. A response game
Last start, Mackenzie Blackwood was lit up like a Christmas tree for the first time in his young NHL career. His previous career high in goals against (five) happened twice, however, one was in a victory, and in the other, he faced 40 shots. He's never had a night like the one in Calgary.
The team responded in the best way imaginable the next time out in Edmonton, and now Blackwood needs to do the same in Vancouver. They've generated a lot of shots of late, and they have some high-end talent in their lineup. Blackwood will be tested. We'll see if he's up for it.
3. Attacking on the PK
The Devils have aggressively pursued offensive opportunities while shorthanded all season. That was the case earlier in the year, and it's still the case now despite names like Kevin Rooney and Joey Anderson skating in place of Pavel Zacha and Brian Boyle. They've enjoyed a lot of success thus far, and there's reason to believe that could continue tonight. Only eight teams have conceded more shorties than Vancouver, and just six teams have given up more scoring chances.
4. Michael McLeod's shooting
McLeod recorded just four shots on goal and two high-danger chances over his first eight appearances. He's equaled or bettered those totals over the last two games, registering four shots on target and three high-danger looks. As I mentioned in my last game preview, McLeod is a pass-first player and he always will be but it's nice to see him generating, and taking, some shots for himself. He can't always defer to teammates, and it seems he is beginning to realize that. Let's hope it continues tonight.
5. Making an impression
Over the last 10 games, Kenny Agostino ranks 1st on the Devils in Corsi For%, 3rd in Scoring Chance for%, and 2nd in points. Be it on-ice or individual outputs, they have been encouraging. Obviously, jobs for October aren't won in March but if he continues playing well, he could earn himself a new contract and a legitimate shot at earning a depth role in the fall.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen
Kenny Agostino - Kevin Rooney - Kyle Palmieri
John Quenneville - Blake Pietila - Drew Stafford
Kurtis Gabriel - Michael McLeod - Joey Anderson
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Connor Carrick
Colton White - Steven Santini
Vancouver (via DailyFaceoff.com)
**out, will try and update with replacement
Antoine Roussel** - Bo Horvat - Tanner Pearson
Josh Leivo - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Nikolay Goldobin - Adam Gaudette - Jake Virtanen
Loui Eriksson - Jay Beagle - Tyler Motte
Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Guillame Brisebois - Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot - Alex Biega
Puck drop is just after 10:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG+ and SNP.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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