DENVER, CO - The Devils head into a crucial back-to-back set tonight against the Colorado Avalanche where a sweep of the back-to-back would deem it a successful road trip against four tough opponents and help the team out of their current six-game slide.
The Devils will be going with Louis Domingue in goal tonight and Mackenzie Blackwood tomorrow against Arizona. Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine explained the reasoning.
"We had staff look at past performances and how both goalies perform against Colorado and Arizona. We want to use both goalies in these games," Nasreddine said. "Louis has a good track record against Colorado and Blackie against Arizona."
As for the rest of the lineup, Nico Hischier will be back and finds himself back on the top line:
Nasreddine was asked about playing Hischier in that top spot versus Hughes.
"With Nico, we know that Hallsy is going to face the toughest competition. Usually he gets matched against a very good line on the other team and having Nico as a resposible two-way center that's why we like having him against that line."
Hischier himself stated that he was determined to make an impact after sitting out for the past three games due to a flu-like illness.
"Nobody wants to be out. You want to help the team. Now I'm back though and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm feeling pretty good now. Didn't do much the last few days. It was good to be on the ice and get a sweat and should be good to go tomorrow."
As for Hughes, he said he was excited to be back with familiar linemates Jesper Boqvist and Wayne Simmonds.
"His confidence is growing each game. I'm excited to play with him and Simmer tonight. Should be good."
Hughes was asked about the leadership that Simmonds brings to the lineup where it appears he's been more vocal as of late. Hughes was quick to point out that's not the case necessarily.
"He's been a great leader in the League for a long time. He's been a leader in this locker room since day one when he walked in."
Nasreddine echoed those thoughts and said that was always the expectation when Simmonds signed in New Jersey that he'd be a part of the leadership core.
"He's a great leader. He's known around the league for being a great leader," Nasreddine began. "It can't always be Andy Greene and the same guys over and over. With Simmer joining our team this year, it's something we were expecting."
Simmonds said he just wants to try and spur the team on to be as good as it can be.
"We're just trying to get everyone going at the same time. It's a been a little of a mess with the coach getting fired. We're trying to get better at playing 60-minute games. I'm usually a little bit vocal," Simmonds stated. "I'm always motivated. I think, speaking for myself, I know I've got to be better. I've got to strive to be better. We need to realize we're not playing to the best of our capability right now. We've got to show up."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (9-16-5) at AVALANCHE (20-6-3)
TV: 9:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season.
Last season, Colorado won both games, by scores of 3-0 and 5-3. Taylor Hall led all Devils with three points (one goal, two assists) despite only playing in one game.
Nathan MacKinnon led the way for the Avs with a goal and four assists for five points against the Devils last year.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have dropped their last six games in a row (0-5-1) as they look to right the ship tonight against the Avalanche.
Taylor Hall leads the Devils with 25 points in 30 games. Kyle Palmieri is second on the club with 19 points and leads with 11 goals.
Nico Hischier could potentially return to the lineup tonight after missing three games due to illness. He has 16 points in 25 games.
Avalanche team scope:
The Avalanche are red hot with a record of 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They are in top spot in the tough Central Division, one point up on the St. Louis Blues.
Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avs in scoring with 48 points in 31 games. He's also tops on the team with 19 goals. MacKinnon is tied with Boston's Brad Marchand for third in the NHL in points and tied with Toronto's Auston Matthews for sixth in the NHL in goals.
By the Numbers:
The Devils have an all-time record in Colorado of 8-11-3 since the Avalanche moved from Quebec to Denver in 1995. If you count the Devils franchise's time as the Colorado Rockies, their record in Colorado is 86-127-50.
When leading after one period, the Avalanche are 11-0-2 and when leading after two, the Avs are 15-0-1. They're also very good when tied after one at 5-2-1 and when tied after two at 5-1-1.
Colorado's been outshot in 19 games this season and only outshot their opponent 10 times. Oddly enough, they have a better record when being outshot (13-3-3) than when outshooting (5-5-0). The Avs have been badly outshot in the third period of games this season, 340-289 but have scored 30 while only allowing 20 in the final frame.
Devils - Connor Carrick is on IR; Nico Hischier (illness) is probable; Matt Tennyson (upper body) is on IR
Avalanche - Colin Wilson (lower body) is on IR; Erik Johnson (lower body) is on IR; Cale Makar (upper body) is day-to-day; Philipp Grubbauer (undisclosed) is day-to-day