Last time out the New Jersey Devils played one of their best games of the season and picked up a much needed win against the Colorado Avalanche.
While beating the Avs is nothing to write home about, the win probably has the Devils feeling pretty good about themselves.
Tonight the Devils will look to build on that against the Ottawa Senators.
The Sens have been one of the league's surprise teams this year -- we're deep into the season and they're 1st in their division in points percentage -- but they've hit a bit of a wall of late dropping six of their last 10.
Still, they've controlled 51.55% of the shot attempts in that span so it's not as if they've been smacked around at 5v5. It's the goaltending that has been hurting them (.888SV% in that span) but, with Craig Anderson back in the fold, that doesn't figure to be a problem moving forward.
This will be a tough test for the Devils and a good measuring stick to see where they're at.
Here are the expected line combinations for New Jersey:
Taylor Hall - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood - Adam Henrique - Mike Cammalleri
Pavel Zacha - Jacob Josefson - Stefan Noesen
Beau Bennett - Sergey Kalinin - P.A. Parenteau
Andy Greene - Ben Lovejoy
Jon Merrill - Damon Severson
John Moore - Steve Santini
And the expected lines for the Senators (via dailyfaceoff.com):
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Mike Hoffman
Tom Pyatt - J.G. Pageau - Bobby Ryan
Ryan Dzingel - Derick Brassard - Mark Stone
Tommy Wingels - Chris Kelly - **
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci
Mark Borowicki - Fredrik Claesson
Chris Wideman - **
A few notes:
1) I was in Ottawa to see the Senators a week ago and one thing that was apparent was their committment to defense. They always have a forward sitting back deep in the neutral zone, almost like a third defensemen, and make it difficult for teams to take the top off. If you want to create offense against the Sens you have to be patient and make a series of smart, precise passes. There are a lot of similarities to the way the Devils used to play.
2) A couple games ago the Devils had no answer for Brent Burns. He was flying around the ice and was able to get his shots through even when the Devils were covering their points. Erik Karlsson has a lot of the same abilities and will have no problem generating offense if the Devils make the same mistakes tonight.
3) Ottawa is 5th in 5v5 scoring chance suppression over the last five games while the Devils are 6th. Don't expect high-octane, firewagon hockey in this one.
Tonight's game is scheduled for 7:00 and can be seen on MSG+, TSN5, and RDS.