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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Devils vs. Rangers

Devils face the Rangers at Prudential Center in a nationally televised contest

by Chris Wescott and Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils continue their homestand looking to right the ship as they face their rivals across the Hudson River in the New York Rangers. 

Video: DEVILS:60 | vs. Rangers

You can watch the game across the country on NBCSN or listen on the Devils Hockey Network. 

 

INSIDE THE DEVILS

Tom Fitzgerald pitching in as an assistant coach, Ray Shero speaks and much more. 

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

NEWARK, NJ - On the heels of a disappointing 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers, the Devils got back to work on Wednesday in an attempt to get out of their season-long slump which has seen him drop their first six games, including allowing a lead to dissipate in each of their three home contests. 

"We have to come out and play. We want to be able to play fast. We want to be highly competitive when we don't have the puck. We want to have strong structure and we know what we need to do," said Devils head coach John Hynes at Thursday's morning media availability. 

"We worked on the power play yesterday. Nas (assistant coach Alain Nasreddine) has done a tremendous job on the penalty kill over the past few years," Hynes continued, adding that the addition of Assistant General Manager Tom Fitzgerald to the bench and on-ice for practice should also be a big assistance. "It helps having Fitzy here who was a great penalty killer as a player. He's come in with different insights. We're expecting a good performance from them.

"We just have to execute on the details of what we need to do to be good. If we do that, we'll have more success."

LINEUP NOTES

Hynes confirmed that Mackenzie Blackwood would start in goal and that the team would go with the lines which were run in practice on Wednesday, with one exception:

Hall-Hughes-Palmieri
Coleman-Zajac-Simmonds
Gusev-Zacha-Bratt
Wood-Rooney-Hayden

Severson-Subban
Butcher-Vatanen
Mueller-Tennyson

"Mueller will go in, Carrick will come out. That would be the only change on D," noted Hynes.

JACK TO THE TOP LINE

Tonight marks Jack Hughes' first true offensive opportunity now flanked by two accomplished wingers in Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. 

"All three of those guys are good players. They think the game at a high level. I really like the fact that Jack's really come on competitively and what I mean by that is without the puck. He's more tenacious. He works to get it back. He's using what his assets are: speed, skill, competitiveness," said Hynes, adding what he expects from the trio. 

"They need to make good decisions with the puck and if those three guys play together as a line, use their hockey sense and speed and they manage the puck they're going to set themselves up to be a tough line to play against."

Hughes said he's excited for the opportunity. 

"Just compete along the walls, try to get the puck to them. Try to spend as little time as you can in the D zone and try to play on the offensive side of the puck. It's pretty simple. They're pretty good players so just get them the puck."

Hall welcomed the opportunity to skate with Hughes, with his usual centerman Nico Hischier still day-to-day. 

"It's a good opportunity to get him going, maybe get him on the scoresheet," Hall said. "I'm excited to play with him on a line."

Coach Hynes noted he's been very happy with the progress of Hughes so far. 

"Jack's learning every day and that's the good thing about having a player and person like him is he's learning every day. He's getting better. He's coachable. When you look at his game and whether you look at his numbers offensively he is generating and creating more but he's also not giving up as much when he is called upon to play."

HUGHES VS. KAKKO

As for the other big storyline. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko face off for the first time since being drafted first and second overall respectively in the NHL Draft this past June. 

"Obviously it's exciting but for us it's all about the Devils now trying to get the first win of the season so it's not really in my head right now. It's Devils vs. Rangers and I'm sure it's the same for him," Hughes said. 

HYNES ON SUBBAN'S PLAY

The Devils head coach was asked about the play early on of P.K. Subban, who leads the Devils in time on ice at 23:18 and also plays a crucial role on both special teams. 

"I think he's adjusting to a little bit of a role. We had a good meeting with him yesterday. He's on the top penalty kill playing against top lines and playing on the top power play, a main role he hadn't been in for a few years.

"It's us helping him adjust to the minutes and style of game he needs to play. Some of the things we need more is some puck movement out of the zone. He's a guy that can provide offense from the back end by joining the rush. So talking to him about some opportunities. He can do a little bit better job in that area, but overall he's been good for us. He's been an important player for us."

STAYING POSITIVE

Hynes made sure to note in his morning availability that the team has handled this 0-4-2 stretch well despite the outside pressures. 

"There's a positive environment in our room and what I mean by positive environment is we're working to get this better. It's not attacking players or attacking people or pitting people against each other. We have to be better. We're excited to have Fitzy on board. We feel like we got a good group, a good team," Hynes began. 

"We had a good practice and meetings. We will get out of this, we just have to put one together tonight." 

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

PREVIEW

DEVILS (0-4-2) vs. RANGERS (2-1-0)

TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on NBCSN
 
Head-to-Head:
 

Thursday afternoon's game is the first of four meetings this season between these two clubs.
 
Last season, the Devils won one game and lost three to New York. The Rangers outscored the Devils 15-11 in that series. The Devils went 4-for-12 of the power play in those games, while the Rangers scored nine on the man advantage.
 
Nico Hischier led the Devils in scoring with four points (1-3-4).
 
This matchup will pit the 2019 first and second-overall picks against each other. Jack Hughes has averaged 15:50 in ice time during his six games and has registered 12 shots on goal. Kaapo Kakko has one goal on four shots in three games for the Rangers.
 
Devils team scope:
 

The Devils are still searching for their first win of the 2019-20 season. They are 0-4-2 thus far in six games.
 
In their last outing, New Jersey held a 4-1 lead over the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center, but the visitors rallied to score six-straight goals.
 
Taylor Hall leads the Devils in scoring with five points this season (1-4-5). Pavel Zacha is second with four points (1-3-4). Between the pipes, Cory Schneider is 0-3-0 with a 4.09 goals-against average and .876 save percentage.
 
Rangers team scope:
 

The Rangers are led in scoring by Mika Zibanejad, who has eight points (4-4-8) in three games. Artemi Panarin is second with four points, including two goals.
 
Henrik Lundqvist is the likely starter versus New Jersey and he has a 3.53 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
 
New York is coming off a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers back on Saturday night.
 
By the Numbers:
 

The Rangers have scored four or more goals in two of their three gams this season. They are one of the league's most efficient power plays (33.3%), scoring on three of their nine man advantages this season.
 
The Devils are one of three teams in the league to have not scored a goal on the power play yet. The Devils have also killed just 57.1% of their penalties this season (last in the league).
 
Injury Updates:

Devils - Andy Greene (upper body) is on IR, Nico Hischier is day-to-day (upper body)

Rangers - Brendan Lemieux (illness) is day-to-day; Mika Zibanejac (illness) is day-to-day; Chris Kreider (lower body) is day-to-day

-- Chris Wescott, NewJerseyDevils.com

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