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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the New York Rangers:
1. Stacking the top line
Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri are expected to play as a unit for the first time this preseason. While they didn't dominate play territorially, last year they were one of the most efficient lines in the NHL in terms of filling the net.
Among 79 trios to log at least 200 minutes together at 5v5, they ranked 4th in on-ice goals for/60 (4.17).
We'll see if they can pick up where they left off.
2. Another great opportunity for Ty Smith
Smith is expected to skate regular minutes at even-strength *and* quarterback the top power play, which features the big three forwards mentioned above.
We know Will Butcher is going to handle that role come opening night but I do like the fact the Devils are putting Smith in positions to succeed and allowing him to showcase the abilities that made him a 1st round pick.
Though I still think it's unlikely he sticks with the team this season, the Devils are seemingly giving him a chance to try and force his way onto the roster.
3. Nick Lappin
Lappin really stood out in his preseason debut posting a 64.29 Corsi For% at 5v5 and netting a pair of goals. The coaching staff was obviously very impressed with his performance and he is expected to be rewarded with PP1 time as a result. If he can take advantage of it, it'll be another big step towards earning a spot on this roster.
4. Egor Yakovlev
Through two games the Devils have been out-attempted 27-18 (40 CF%) with Yakovlev on ice. Individually, he has taken two penalties and is yet to record a shot on goal in more than 36 minutes. I think he really needs a strong performance tonight to avoid being in the next wave of cuts.
5. A tuneup for Eddie Lack
It's possible – perhaps likely – Cory Schneider is not ready to go at the start of the season, in which case Eddie Lack would make the team as backup.
Only two preseason games remain after tonight. Keith Kinkaid will get one, if not both, of them so this could be Lack's last tuneup prior to October. It'd be nice to see a quality performance from him so, if needed, he's confident he can hit the ground running when the games actually count.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils (via @ChrisRyan_NJ)
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Brett Seney - Jesper Bratt
Marian Studenic - Michael McLeod - Nick Lappin
John Quenneville - Brian Boyle - Stefan Noesen
Andy Greene - Egor Yakovlev
Ty Smith - Eric Gryba
Mirco Mueller/Jeremy Groleau - Sami Vatanen
New York Rangers
Puck drop is just after 7:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG, MSG+, and NHL Network (U.S.).
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