Toronto Maple Leafs at New Jersey Devils
Time: 7:00PM ET
Location: Prudential Center
Broadcast/Streaming: TSN4, MSG Plus
Opponent SBNation Site: All About the Jersey
In a world where a team with expectations has a single win on a five-game road trip, a group of players run into the Devil. And not any old Devil. A Devil from New Jersey.
But these aren’t the same Devils who made the playoffs last year with the will of Taylor Hall who won a Hart Trophy for his efforts. This is a Devils team hugging the bottom of the Eastern Conference barrel along with the Philadelphia Flyers, with little optimism about a late-season surge. Just what the Leafs need, wouldn’t you say?
The Leafs are at the final turn of a road trip that has seen a few bumps. The latest came in Florida where a third-period surge from Mitch Marner and John Tavares pushed them into overtime, while a defensive error gave Aleksander Barkov the hat-trick goal and overtime winner.
Now the Leafs find themselves knocked down to third in the Atlantic Division behind the Buffalo Sabres.
Still no need for panic. The Leafs have a knack for responding with a flurry of goals when placed in these kinds of situations. And a number of players are due to light the lamp.
Auston Matthews hasn’t scored in three games (which sounds like a very spoiled thing to say I know), William Nylander has yet to find the back of the net for the first time this season, and Nazem Kadri could use a bounce going his way. Maybe tonight is the night.
Lines from yesterday’s practice
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Tyler Ennis - Par Lindholm - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov
New Jersey Devils
There’s a lot more pessimism on the other side of the matchup. New Jersey are 2-2-4 in their last ten games where five of them required extra time to find a winner.
The Devil’s offence has taken a step back from what it was last year. The top line of Hall-Hischier-Palmieri is doing it’s part, but Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood, who put up good numbers the season before, aren’t exceeding any previous limits. However, Travis Zajac is quietly producing more with 10 goals and 9 assists in 30 games while he only put up 12 goals and 14 assists in 63 games last year.
Goaltending has been another question mark for New Jersey. Corey Schneider is on injured reserve, but he’s lost his spot as the guy in net for the Devils. While Keith Kinkaid is doing his part to stop the bleeding, poor zone play is costing the team goals against.
New Jersey may get their star back to spark up the forward lines as Hall skated with the team yesterday morning. He left practice last Thursday which was deemed a precautionary measure, even though he’s missed two games because of it, but it’s unclear whether he’ll get the green light to play tonight.
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Pavel Zacha - Jesper Bratt
Miles Wood - Travis Zajac - Blake Coleman
Brian Boyle - Brett Seney - John Quenneville
Andy Greene - Damon Deverson
Will Butcher - Sami Vatanen
Mirco Mueller - Ben Lovejoy
Taylor Hall will play tonight v Leafs.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) December 18, 2018
Leafs vs Wild
|144 GF - 109 GA - + 35||Goal Differential||110 GF - 108 GA - +2|
|23.8% - 8th||Power Play||23.2% - 10th|
|79.6% - 16th||Penalty Kill||83.9% - 3rd|
|John Tavares - 26||Most Goals||Zach Parise - 17|
|Mitch Marner - 40||Most Assists||Mikael Granlund - 26|
|Mitch Marner - 53||Most Points||Mikael Granlund - 37|
|Hyman - 42||Most PIM||Miles Wood - 33|
|Morgan Rielly - 22:24||TOI Leader||Ryan Suter - 26:15|
|Michaek Hutchinson - .839 Sv%||Starting Goaltender||Devan Dubnyk - .912 Sv%|
The Leafs don’t need this win, but at the same time they do. It’ll be a fast game on both sides and some early shots and zone pressure will be just what they need to drive up the momentum and take it to the Devils.
Players are due, we’re all due, let’s get a win here to close out the road trip.