New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets: Game Preview #6

Travis Zajac! Ondrej Pavelec! It's Sunday Night Hockey! - Bruce Bennett

The winless New Jersey Devils will visit the Winnipeg Jets, losers of their last three games, tonight. As both teams look for a win, this preview highlights each aspect about both teams in advance of this game.

The search for a win continues to Manitoba, Canada. This statement can apply to both teams, actually.

The Time: 8:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 660 AM / 101.9 FM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (0-2-3) at the Winnipeg Jets (2-3-0, SBN Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went into Calgary in the hopes of getting their first win of the season. They did not get it. The Devils went up 1-0 in the first period when Adam Henrique put home a rebound. However, the second period saw the Flames and Devils traded goals. Dennis Wideman put a shot through a screen off the post and in to tie it up on their third power play of the game. The Devils recovered and responded when Dainius Zubrus, of all players, got the puck above the circle and hammered a long shot past Joey MacDonald. Michael Ryder appeared to put home a loose puck from a Ryane Clowe shot but the ref waved it off for MacDonald getting bumped by his own defender supposedly by Ryder. Ryder got called, the Flames made the Devils' PK chase, and Mark Giordano put in a backhander to make it 2-2. The Flames got hot early in the third, the Devils slowed it down but got few shots on net, and then the Flames got a glorious chance to win. Sven Baertschi found Sean Monahan wide open across the slot and the rookie got the game winner. The Devils lost 3-2 and no one was really happy about it as per my recap.

The Last Jets Game: Winnipeg hosted the Dallas Stars on Friday night hoping to avoid a three game losing streak. The Stars dashed those hopes really quickly. In the first period, the Stars put up three scores. Alex Chiasson opened the game's scoring with a power play goal near midway through the first; Tyler Seguin scored a few minutes later; and Jamie Benn made it 3-0 later in the first. Seguin added another power play goal early in the second period and the Stars were cruising. The Jets powered through in the hopes of finding a way back through the game. Alas, Blake Wheeler tipped in a Dustin Byfuglien shot in the third period and that would be it among the 20 third period shots they had. The Jets lost their third in row by a score of 4-1. Swervin_mervin did a quick recap of the loss at Arctic Ice Hockey and garret9 focused on the metrics from that game.

The Goal: Get the offense going and get more rubber on net. The Devils have put 27, 29, 25, 23, and 21 shots on net in their first five games this season. Their recent game in Calgary saw plenty of pressure result in only few (or none) shots due to shots getting blocked or missing the net. I understand that the Devils do their best possession work in low-event games. But since the Devils have had trouble taking leads into the third period and holding leads in them, it would be in their best interests to attack more often either to keep the opposition honest or get back into the game as needed. The Jets only lost decisively in their recent game against Dallas, but with nine allowed in the last three games, the Devils should be able to find success in scoring. They've been leaky in terms of shooting attempts, too. The team's Corsi percentage is only 45.1% in 5-on-5 situations, the fourth worst in the league according to Extra Skater. The Devils should take advantage, but to make the most of it, the attempts have to be on target more often.

Cory's Back: Tom Gulitti confirmed at Fire & Ice on Saturday that Cory Schneider will start in net for the Devils. Schneider was as good as one could expect in his start in Vancouver. He's demonstrated he can be a regular starter before. For a team looking for their first win, putting in the superior guy makes sense. While I thought Martin Brodeur had a good game against Calgary, I think this is the right move. My only concern for Schneider is when he plays the puck outside of his crease. But as long as he doesn't pull any Moose moves, he should be more than fine between the pipes tonight.

Insert Plane/Jet/Flying Pun Here About Offense: Schneider should be more than fine tonight because Winnipeg has plenty of offensive weapons in their lineup. The chief man to be concerned with is Evander Kane. He only has one goal and two assists, which isn't too bad to start the season. No, the number to know is 22. That's how many shots on net he has. His shots are fast, hard, and he's usually making space for himself to shoot from. Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler played plenty with Kane and both forwards are no slouches in their own right. They have three and two goals respectively. Should Claude Noel keep them together, that could be a formidable line for the Devils to defend against.

The Jets have additional forwards to be concerned with. Andrew Ladd has been a big minute forward and has played with Wheeler and Little, which could lead to some interesting adjustments Peter DeBoer and the players will have to look for. Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi can provide additional help going forward - and in Frolik's case, going backward. The team has been putting Mark Scheifele in significant roles in the hopes of seeing what the rookie can do. On paper, they can do some damage going forward. Their problem has been getting forward. As the only one I mentioned with a positive possession rate so far this season at evens has been Frolik according to Extra Skater. Everyone else has received more than they gave out.

Big Defender, Not So Big Defender: Plenty of the Flames' success on Friday night can be credited to the play of Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano. The Devils should take whatever lessons from that game and apply them tonight as the Jets have two productive defensemen of note. The first is hard to miss: Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff has averaged over 24 minutes per game, he's second on the team in shots on net with 15, and he's tied for the team lead in points with six. All six of those points are assists, with at least one coming off a shot he took that was tipped in. The man who's tied with him in points is his regular partner Tobias Enstrom. Enstrom also plays significantly, averaging over 22 minutes per game. He doesn't shoot the puck as much, preferring to distribute the puck. He's got six assists as well. The Devils forwards, especially those still learning the defensive aspects of the Devils' system, really need to make sure Byfuglien and Enstrom are contained. Giving them too much space to work with will lead to bad times for New Jersey on defense. The trouble may be consistently doing as Noel plays them a lot. As he should since they're the only pairing close to moving the play forward - and far better than the other four Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba, Mark Stuart, and Grant Clitsome.

No Change to the Defense: Tom Gulitti's report from Saturday's practice revealed only one change in the lineup from Friday's game. That change was Andrei Loktionov in exchange for Jacob Josefson. Loktionov centered Henrique and Ryder while Rostislav Olesz was moved down to play with Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Provided Loktionov puts in a better effort at both ends, I think that line may work well. Likewise, I'd like to see how Damien Brunner and Travis Zajac perform together. Ryan Carter wasn't at practice and he's "doubtful," so I will suspect the lineup in practice will be the lineup for tonight.

The defense that fans have been so unhappy with has not changed. It's not good that Mark Fayne sits again. It is good that Adam Larsson will not sit. But even if Fayne was activated, would the blueline really have no issue considering three of the fan-maligned quartet of Peter Harrold, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, and Bryce Salvador? I think not. Provided everyone keeps in form, plays within the roles, and communicates to each other over where they're supposed to be and who's covering who, it may just work.

Can We See a Power Play Do Well?: The Devils' power play has not got off to a good start this season with only one conversion out of their ten opportunities this season. They did get two goals shortly after power plays ended but the point is that with the extra man, the Devils haven't done much. Tonight's a good of a night as any to correct that. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has been at his most vulnerable on penalty kills with an 82.4% save percentage and the Jets have been shorthanded 25 times, behind only the Second Rate Rivals for most times shorthanded in the league. The Devils should be able to get some PPs and should strive to end them early. They should also be careful not to get too rough with Winnipeg. They've drawn 24 power play opportunities in their five games, the second most in the league.

Your Take: Basically, what I want is what all of you want, which is what the players, coaches, and management want. A Devils win. Will we see one? Who needs to have a good game to make that happen? What do the Devils need to do well and what do they have to stop the Jets from doing to have it happen? Leave your answers and other thoughts, hopes, and pleas that this won't be a sixth straight game without a win in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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