January 11, 2024

Bryce Salvador

Hey everyone,

The Devils are back from their 4-day hiatus tonight as they hit the ice in Tampa Bay. A lot to unpack for this upcoming road trip!

As we approach the halfway point of the season, here is a quick check-in on where the Devils are at within the tight Eastern Conference playoff race:

Be sure to note that, although TBL currently occupies the WC2 spot, the fact is the Devils have 4 games in hand on TBL, and, sit tied with WSH at the WC1 spot ahead of both TBL and NYI when you filter the standings by PTS%.

Nonetheless, it’s fair to consider this matchup one of those “4-point” games. The desperation for points should be evident from the drop of the puck, as there is only a 2-point gap separating WC ranks 1 through 6!

Well, Devils fans, let’s now address the reality and main storyline surrounding the team right now, and that’s the fact that NJD has been beleaguered by injuries to key players all season. With Jack, Timo, Pally, Dougie, Siegs, and Nosek all out of the lineup tonight, guys are going to need to fully embrace that "next man up" mentality.

It doesn’t help their case that the upcoming games on this trip, and, quite frankly, all throughout January leading up to the All-Star break, are against some very dangerous teams. Saturday night’s game in FLA could be especially dangerous, as a win over LAK tonight would have the Panthers riding a 9-game W streak with the Devils on deck in Sunrise.

The Devils are going to have to adjust their style of play and find ways to steal points from these teams in any fashion necessary. There’s little margin for points to continuously slip away, regardless of injuries. It’s all about playing responsibly within your structure while you wait for reinforcements!

During tonight's pregame show at 6:30 PM, Erika and I will deep dive into each a trio of Devils' forwards, and a trio of Devils' defensemen, who are going to need to hold down the fort during their current injury situation.

For now, I want to talk about Jesper Bratt, who, coincidentally, came through for me with a GWG earlier this season after I mentioned during the pregame that he had 3 GWG in 11 career GP in Pittsburgh. So, with the Devils in need of production from their healthy forwards, here’s another shot in the dark with a few trends that have me optimistic for a big game from Bratter at Amalie Arena tonight! 

Bratter clearly took it to heart when the Devils fell victim to TBL as a 1st-round exit in the 2018 playoffs. Since going pointless in that Game 5, season-ending loss in Tampa, he has a point in all 4 games at Amalie, and his 1.75 PTS/GP rate in TB throughout this timeframe (2018-2023) is the best among players on the current NJD roster.

You may also remember a Bratty Hatty, which helped the Devils get 2 PTS in their lone trip to this building last season!

One guy I'll have a close eye on in blue tonight is TBL#38 Brandon Hagel. His effort vs. LAK on Tuesday night was tremendous, and he’s really feeling it right now; up to 2–3—5 PTS in his last 5 games. Some of his best career numbers also happen to be at the mercy of the Devils, including a hat trick and 7 total PTS in 5 career GP against NJD.

As a team, the Lightning's scoring rank is right on their expected goals rank, with relatively average offensive numbers across the board. Of course, TBL#86 Nikita Kucherov is absolutely lighting it up this season, T-#1 NHL in points with 67 PTS in 41 GP and on pace for 134 PTS this season, so, it goes without saying that we'll have an eye on him!

Kucherov has also recorded a league-high 26.8% of his team’s total PP Points this season, and is the prime reason for TBL’s #3 ranked PP this season. Fortunately for the Devils’ PK, which is 7/10 (70%) in the last 3 GP, the Bolts’ PPG/2 min rate happens to be down 35% over their last 5 GP.

Vitek, who has a career 1-1-0 with a .900 Sv% and 2.53 GAA in TB, was in the Devils’ starters crease this morning, so he’ll go up against Vasilevskiy for TBL. Vasi has posted a relatively weak 6-5-0 record in 11 starts against the Devils (T-#8 worst PTS% vs. any team), along with a .905 Sv%; and 2.85 GAA.  

Be sure to join us at 6:30 PM for the pregame show!

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