The New Jersey Devils (2-1-1) will head to the Bell Centre to take on the Montreal Canadiens (3-1-1) in their second road game of the season. Last season, the Devils were 2-1 against Montreal. They will be looking to capitalize on what they did well in Long Island on Friday (Oct. 20) and look to build momentum in the first half of back-to-back games.
Head coach Lindy Ruff has emphasized the need for the team to start more quickly. They were able to gain momentum on the road against the New York Islanders even after giving up the opening goal and eventually tying the game just before the period ended. That goal was their only first-period goal through four games. They need to improve on that stat to repeat last season’s success.
The Canadiens are playing in the second half of a back-to-back, traveling home after defeating the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Monday night. Goaltender Jake Allen got the call against Buffalo so the Devils are likely to see Sam Montembeault (.855 save percentage, 3.92 goals-against average) in net Tuesday. Vitek Vanecek is the expected starter for New Jersey as Ruff has alternated goalies through the first four games and there is no expectation that will change in the immediate future.
The Devils appear to welcome centers Erik Haula and Nico Hischier back into the lineup after each returned to practice Monday. Each had missed time due to injury, however, Ruff indicated that he expects both to play should neither suffer a setback. The team remixed its lines heading into Friday’s game and it appears they will continue with those lines on Tuesday. The projected lines are:
Tyler Toffoli – Jack Hughes – Timo Meier
Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Dawson Mercer – Erik Haula – Alex Holtz
Curtis Lazar – Michael McLeod – Nate Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Kevin Bahl – John Marino
Brenden Smith – Luke Hughes
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The likely scratches are Cal Foote, Chris Tierney, and Colin Miller who remains injured and unavailable. On Monday, the Devils placed forward Tomas Nosek on injured reserve.
Players to Watch
Jack Hughes enters the Devils’ fifth game leading the team with ten points. Since he last played on Friday he has dropped from first in the NHL to third, however, those ahead of him have played two more games.
So far this season, as Hughes goes so go the Devils. He has driven play and revitalized a power play unit that has scored in every game of the season so far. Look for Hughes to continue attacking and start to break through at 5v5.
The mercurial American forward is off to a quick start, entering Monday night’s contest with the team lead in points. Cole Caufield has struggled to stay healthy in his first three seasons but his talent is undeniable. Now fully healthy, he is primed for a breakout season and the Devils will need to be aware of where he is at all times.
Matchups to Watch
Last season the Devils were dominant at 5v5. This season they are anything but, however, the team seemed to turn the corner on Friday after Ruff shook up his lines. Absent several ridiculous Ilya Sorokin saves, they would have scored several goals at 5v5 against a really good defensive 5v5 team in the Islanders. The Canadiens present a similar challenge.
With Montreal giving up the least amount of 5v5 goals, the Devils will have their work cut out for them. They also have a third line that is playing as well as any in the NHL. The line of Tanner Pearson, Brendan Gallagher, and Sean Monahan outchanced the Sabres 6-0 on Monday night and figured in all three Montreal goals (courtesy Natural Stat Trick). How they fare against the Haula or Hischier lines will go a long way towards determining a winner.
Notes, Stats & Trivia to Impress Your Friends or Win Free Beer
The Devils have scored a power play goal in all four games so far this season.
Bratt has scored multiple points in three straight games. The team record for most consecutive multi-point games is five.
The Devils are undefeated when Jack and Luke Hughes score in the same game.
All four of the Devils’ games thus far have been one-goal affairs.
The odd start time of this game (7:15) is due to the ESPN Frozen Frenzy where all 32 teams will be in action on Tuesday night with start times staggered.
The Devils have not yet scored the first goal in any game this season.
New Jersey currently owns the top power play by percentage (42.9) in the NHL, almost four points higher than second place.
They are bound to have power play opportunities aplenty as the Canadiens lead the NHL in minor penalties, penalties overall, and penalty minutes.
The puck drops at 7:15 from the Bell Centre. The game will be televised locally on MSGSN and part of ESPN’s Frozen Frenzy coverage.