TORONTO, ON - For the Devils, they're showing plenty of signs of life and reasons for optimism. After back-to-back wins against Washington and Tampa Bay, the team shifts it's focus.
"For us, it's about finding consistency," said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "We had two strong games against two really good teams and now we're playing another really good team. Our focus is on tonight and playing the same way we have with the same commitment and we need it tonight if you look at the team we're playing against."
Consistency and success are two things the Devils are looking to accomplish heading into the All-Star break.
HEY NOW, YOU'RE AN ALL-STAR
The Devils announced today that Nico Hischier will be attending the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis. He is replacing Kyle Palmieri, who is dealing with a foot injury.
"I mean, I'm sorry for Palms," said Hischier. "Obviously, you never want to see teammate get hurt, but it's an opportunity for me. I'm really excited about it… Growing up as a kid, you're watching those games. Now to be part of it, it's going to be pretty neat and I'll enjoy it for sure."
Hischier's teammates are happy it's Hischier getting the nod, after he fell short in the Last Men In fan voting.
"Oh, it's super exciting," said Jesper Bratt. "I mean, first of all, it's hard to see Palms get injured like that and miss that kind of event. He really deserved to go too. He has been top player for us the whole year. But we're all really excited for Nico and if there would be one guy on the team that would've got to go to this event, it for sure would be Nico. He's been a great player for us all year and all the years has been here, so we're all really excited for him and I think he's going to have a great time there."
Hischier is honored to represent New Jersey.
"It's representing that team," he said. "You're doing something right to be able to represent the team and I'm proud of it, that I'm able to do it. That's all I can say is I'm really proud and honored to be the representative of Jersey."
GOALIE AND LINEUP NOTES
Louis Domingue, not surprisingly, is the starter between the pipes tonight. Domingue has been very good in his last two starts, helping the Devils down two of the league's best in Washington and Tampa Bay.
"He played well on the back-to-back," said Nasreddine. "As I've said before, he's put in the work and it's paying dividends. For us, he's given us a lot of confidence so we're going back with him."
Domingue's resurgence could partially be attributed to having time to settle into Jersey, but also the team's improved play in front of him.
"I think he's healthy," said captain Andy Greene. "He's just seeing the pucks better and, we've been playing a lot better for him too. When you ask anybody, if you start limiting chances and let them be square and focused in and not worry about the next play, [it's easier on them]."
Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the two teams this season.
Their previous meeting was a wild one in which the Leafs eventually won 5-4 in overtime at Prudential Center. Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Jesper Bratt each had a goal and two assists for the Devils in that one.
John Tavares and William Nylander each had a goal and two helpers for the Leafs with Nylander scoring the OT winner.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have a record of 8-4-2 in their last 14 games which ranks them seventh in the entire NHL with 18 points dating back to December 14. That's only two points behind the red-hot Maple Leafs who are 9-2-2 going back to that date.
The injured Kyle Palmieri has 31 points this season to lead the Devils through 44 games. Nico Hischier is second on the team with 28 points but 12 of those points were picked up in the team's last 14 contests. Only Nikita Gusev, with 13 points, has more.
Maple Leafs team scope:
Toronto's turnaround came almost immediately after the firing of head coach Mike Babcock. New head coach Sheldon Keefe has worked wonders for the club.
At the time of Babock being relieved of his duties, the team was 9-10-4. They have since gone 15-6-2 which ranks them fifth in the NHL since that time with 32 points. That record also factors in that the club has gone 0-2-1 in its last three.
As a result, the Leafs have moved solidly into the playoff picture now third in the Atlantic Division with only powerhouses Boston and Tampa Bay ahead of them. They are one point up on the Florida Panthers.
Auston Matthews leads the Leafs with 31 goals and 54 points through 46 games. Matthews is second in the NHL in goals.
By the Numbers:
P.K. Subban has 21 points in 36 career games against the Maple Leafs to lead all Devils. ... Jason Spezza has 35 points in 41 games and John Tavares has 34 points in 41 games to top the Leafs list of scoring leaders against New Jersey.
Devils and Leafs are both 2-2-1 in their last five games and 6-2-2 in their last 10. Leafs are 16-3-1 when scoring first in a game while the Devils are 8-5-6. Devils actually have more wins this season when the opponent scores first at 9-16-1.
Devils - Mackenzie Blackwood (upper body) is day-to-day; Kyle Palmieri (lower body) is day-to-day; Ben Street (lower body) is on IR
Maple Leafs - Trevor Moore (concussion) is on IR; Ilya Mikheyev (wrist) is on IR; Jake Muzzin (foot) is on IR; Morgan Rielly (foot) is on IR