WINNIPEG, MB - New Jersey continues its five-game road trip tonight in Winnipeg in the first stop of the Western Canadian portion of the jaunt with dates in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver over the next six days.
With Jesper Bratt out due to injury, the Devils had some shuffling to do up front. The lineup for tonight will be:
This means that Nikita Gusev finds his way back into the lineup after missing the last three as a healthy scratch.
With the addition of Gusev, Devils head coach John Hynes did some shuffling to his top two lines. Nico Hischier moved up to the top line to play with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Hynes stated that he liked the pairing of Gusev with Hughes due to the creativity that the two has.
"Jack brings a lot of speed through the middle of the ice and he's one of those guys that can carry it up. He's a puck distributor type of guy," Hynes began. "I also think Zach (Pavel Zacha) on the other side, with those two guys both can take face-offs. Both can play at a high pace and they have a high hockey IQ."
Hughes was asked about playing with Gusev.
"He's a really, really smart player. I'm a little creative so it should be fun. I'm excited to get to work with him and (Zacha) tonight."
In addition, Hughes talked about the importance of his line keeping the Jets chances limited off the rush.
"They've got a really good team," Hughes stated. "We need to limit our turnovers and odd-man rushes against."
Hynes added that he hopes to see that defensive commitment from Gusev.
"He's a high hockey IQ player. He's got good offensive skills and for him it's playing with pace and moving his feet. He's a guy when he has possession of the puck, he has the ability to make plays but (we need) some better decisions when there's no time and space. You want to be able to manage the puck to either help yoruself or your linemates, be able to stay on offense.
"When he's defending, I think he really understand what we're trying to do now is just having a commitment to defend when you're called upon, particularly in the D zone."
Mackenzie Blackwood will get the start again tonight for the Devils, making his third such appearance consecutively after being between the pipes for the prior two games against the Flyers and Hurricanes.
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (3-5-3) at JETS (8-7-0)
TV: 8:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG
Tonight's game is the second of two meetings between the two teams this season. The first meeting of the season came as the Devils home opener. Devils had a 4-0 lead late in the second period but ultimately fell 5-4 in a shootout.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have picked up at least a point in five of their last six games (3-0-3) and held the lead in every single one of those games.
Taylor Hall leads the club with 12 points in 12 games, though only two goals. Kyle Palmieri is second with six goals and 10 points. Sami Vatanen leads all Devils defenders with seven points through 12 contests.
Rookie Jack Hughes rounds out the top four in team scoring with seven points through 12 games, including three goals.
Jets team scope:
The Jets have had a bit of a roller coaster start to the season. It began in New York with a loss to the Rangers then the aforementioned shootout win over the Devils which was a miracle comeback followed by a loss to the Islanders.
They then rattled off three straight wins, three straight losses then alternated wins and losses before a 4-3 OT win over the Vegas Golden Knights this past Saturday on their way to a 8-7-0 record.
Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with 15 points in 15 games while Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way with seven goals (14 points).
Patrik Laine has reinvented himself this season, becoming much more of a playmaker. He has three goals and 11 assists for 14 points. In his first three seasons in the NHL, Laine had: 36 goals and 28 assists, 44 goals and 26 assists and 30 goals, 20 assists. He's already only nine assists from his total from all of last season.
By the Numbers:
Kyle Connor is third in the NHL for most shots in the NHL at 60. Devils are 1-5-6 against the Jets dating back to the 2015-16 season including 1-3-0 at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg is the least penalized team in the NHL with an average of 4.6 penalty minutes per game. By contrast, the Devils are 29th with an average of 11.2 PIM per game.
Devils power play has been very good as of late. Since October 17, it ranks sixth in the NHL at 24.1%. The Jets have struggled on the penalty kill. They rank 30th in the NHL at 67.7%. On home ice, it's even worse at 62.5%.
Taylor Hall leads the Devils with 20 career points (in 16 career GP) against the Jets/Trashers franchise. Hall registered his first career NHL hat trick against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Devils -Connor Carrick (fractured finger) is out
Jets - Dustin Byfuglien (ankle) is out; Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) is out; Mark Letestu (myocarditis) is out; Mason Appleton (foot) is out; Tucker Poolman (upper body) is day-to-day