LAS VEGAS, NV - Tonight's game brings Devils interm head coach full circle as his head coaching career started with a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at Prudential Center back in December.
Since that time, the Devils have a record of 17-14-8. Their power play has risen to 16th in the NHL at 21.1% and penalty kill ranks first in the NHL at 85.8%. Prior to the coaching change, the power play was 28th at 13.5% and PK was 23rd at 76.5%. The Devils record was 9-13-4.
"The credit goes to the players for sure," Nasreddine said of the team's success since the coaching change. "It was a tough situation to come in, I didn't have any head coaching experience. The rest of the staff has been really good to me and the team. It's really been a team concept. The success has been there. Goaltending was better, special teams have been better. From the get go we wanted to be a team that was relevant again, worked hard and didn't give easy games."
The game also represents a full circle of sorts of Nikita Gusev, who never played a game for the Golden Knights but was their property and skated with the club in the playoffs last season. He was traded to the Devils this past summer.
"As an offensive type player, he is special. We call him a magician, there's a reason for that," said Nasreddine.
"We like his progression, the way he's played lately. There's good chemstry with Zacha and Bratt and he's been on a more north-south progression with Zajac and Coleman. We like him with skilled players."
Nasreddine said that Gusev's strong play as of late where since Nasreddine has become interim head coach, he's been the team's leading scorer with 30 points in 39 games is largely attributable to his defensive play.
"He's more committed as far as structure and doing the right things. For him, it was an adjustment in the new League, what he can get away with and what he can't."
FINISHING UP STRONG
The Devils have picked up at least a point on each of the previous four games on this road trip (2-0-2) and overall have picked up a point in six straight. P.K. Subban talked about wanting to finish up with a win and head home feeling good.
"It's important to bring the energy and the style we want to play but most importantly you want to play a smart road game. When teams get in trouble, you're chasing the game and turning the pucks over in the wrong areas. When you're on a trip where you're playing four games in six nights, it's really important to manage the clock and understand first five minutes of a period, last five minutes of a period you're managing the puck."
Coach Nasreddine hopes the club can build off what was a very strong performance on Sunday in Anaheim in a 3-0 win.
"Our last game was the best one on our trip, defensively and offensively," Nasreddine remarked. We know it's going to be a tough challenge but our style of play, we try to focus on what we need to do to give ourselves a chance."
The Devils will be going with Mackenzie Blackwood in goal tonight to close out the trip. On defense, they'll have the same pairings as Sunday in Anaheim:
But depending on where the injuries up front may lie, Jesper Boqvist could be inserted.
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (26-27-11) at GOLDEN KNIGHTS (36-23-8)
TV: 10:00 PM ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the second and final meeting between the two teams this season.
In early December, the Devils fell 4-3 to Vegas at Prudential Center. Kyle Palmieri had a goal and an assist for the Devils while Damon Severson had two helpers. For the Golden Knights, Jonathan Marchessault had a hat trick to lead the way for the visitors.
Last season, the two teams split their games with the Devils winning 5-4 in overtime at Prudential Center and the Golden Knights winning 3-2 in Las Vegas. Nico Hischier had two goals while William Karlsson had two for Vegas.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have picked up at least a point in each of their last six games (4-0-2) and since the all-star break have only three regulation losses in 17 games (9-3-5).
New Jersey is six points ahead of their pace from last season through 65 games. Palmieri remains the team's leading scorer with 23 goals and 43 points in 61 contests but Nikita Gusev has closed within a point of him with 42 in 62 outings.
Golden Knights team scope:
The Golden Knights are coming off a 4-1 loss to the L.A. Kings on Sunday. It was their first loss in nine games after an eight-game winning streak vaulted them to the top of the Pacific Division standings.
Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are the team's leading scorers with 62 points apiece. Pacioretty has 30 goals to lead the club.
Newcomer Robin Lehner has started one game for the club, stopping 32 of 35 shots for the win.
By the Numbers:
Mackenzie Blackwood got the start stopping 26 of 30 shots against (.867) in 58 minutes of action last time these two teams met. Blackwood lhas a 7-3-2 record against Pacific Division opponents this season. Cory Schneider is a career 0-1-0 against Vegas in two games played.
Marc-Andre Fleury is a career 24-25-5 against New Jersey. Fleury has allowed 126 goals on 1485 shots, posting a 2.46 GAA in 54 games against the Devils. Robin Lehner is 3-6-1 in his career against New Jersey.
The Golden Knights have a monstrous 29-2-2 record this season when leading after two periods.
Devils -Will Butcher (lower body) is on IR; Fredrik Claesson is day-to-day
Golden Knights - Alex Tuch (leg) is on IR; Mark Stone (lower body) is day-to-day