Time is ticking away on the regular season and many teams’ playoff hopes, but the New Jersey Devils are trying to keep theirs alive one game at a time.
A convincing 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night will help (at least temporarily), pulling the Devils within six points of the Detroit Red Wings, who, after a win in Columbus that same night, jumped over Philadelphia into the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot.
Needless to say, time is of the essence for the Devils with only 11 games remaining.
The Blue Jackets have had the upper hand on New Jersey this season, winning all three of the meetings so far in the five-game season series. A home-and-home set this weekend finishes it off, and the four points up for grabs are huge for the Devils as they try to stay in the race. Columbus has allowed only three goals to the Devils in the three games, winning twice at Prudential Center and once at Nationwide Arena.
After this weekend’s two-game set, the Devils have nine games remaining and six of them are against teams currently holding playoff positions. It’s up to backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid to keep it alive right now as No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider is out with a knee injury.
Blue Jackets fans will remember the last time these two teams met: it was Feb. 25 at Nationwide Arena, when captain Nick Foligno recorded his second career hat trick with a three-goal performance in a 6-1 win.
Foligno scored twice in the first period and completed the hat trick in the second period as the Blue Jackets had it going offensively (and they had plenty of chances to score more than six). Schneider was chased from the net after the Blue Jackets scored three times in the first period.
It may not have been the headline-grabbing move of the offseason, but Kyle Palmieri (a Jersey kid) has fit like a glove with the Devils. Acquired from Anaheim at the 2015 NHL Draft, Palmieri has not only taken on a larger role with New Jersey, but he’s produced offense at a higher level, as well.
His 25 goals are tied for the Devils team lead with Adam Henrique and his 46 points lead the team in total scoring (both totals are already new career highs). Palmieri, 25, has six points in his last seven games but hasn’t scored since Mar. 6 vs. Pittsburgh.