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PRE-GAME REPORT: Devils at Senators

Devils square off against the Ottawa Senators in a late afternoon game in Canada's Capital on Sunday

by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils play their final road game of 2019 in Ottawa against the Senators. 

You can watch the game on MSG or listen on the Devils Hockey Network. 

Video: DEVILS:60 | Devils at Senators

Read the game preview below, including our Pre-Game Report, videos, lineup updates and more. 

INSIDE THE DEVILS

Louis Domingue assigned to Binghamton and more news and notes from the past few days. 

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

UPDATE: SUNDAY, 3:05 PM ET OTTAWA, ON - Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine spoke to the media several hours prior to the game. He talked about the status of Pavel Zacha first and foremost. 

"He seems like, talking to the medical staff this morning, he's good to go tonight unless something happens in warm-up," said Nasreddine saying that in terms of long-term injury issues, that wasn't something the team was worried about with Zacha. 

"It was never in doubt that it was just short term but it's nice to have a player like him back in the lineup. Especially the way he played last game against Chicago."

The game for Ottawa is their first since the holiday break. They last played on December 23, a 3-1 win at home against Buffalo. 

"It's a long break (for them). We want to be jumping. Doesn't matter if the other team is on a long break or not," Nasreddine stated. "It's so important for us to be ready from the get-go. There's so many games where we weren't ready and played catch-up hockey. That's not what we want."

He added that if the team plays the way it did against Toronto on Friday, they should have some success. 

"We've already played a game and liked our game. It's just a matter of us to build on that game," Nasreddine remarked. "We knew that Toronto was a very dangerous team off the rush and in the zone. We wanted to make sure we had numbers on the defensive side of the puck. We only gave up one odd-man rush. Different opponent but that shouldn't change."

Nasreddine assessed the Senators as a squad as well. 

"They're a hard-working team. They have Chabot on D who's going to log a lot of minutes. In general, they play the game the right way. They do a good job, they make you earn your ice. That's what we noticed last game."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Alain Nasreddine

SATURDAY: NEWARK, NJ - After a game that got away from them on Friday at home against Toronto, the Devils were back at it on Saturday at RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in preparation for Sunday's game against the Ottawa Senators. 

Lines in practice were: 

Bratt - Hischier - Palmieri
Coleman - Zajac - Gusev
Wood - Hughes - Simmonds
Boqvist - Rooney/Zacha - Hayden

The defense was rotating between Greene, Subban, Severson, Vatanen, Mueller, Carrick and Tennyson.

Mackenzie Blackwood will start in goal. 

Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine provided some insight after practice with some question marks in the air, including the health of Pavel Zacha, who skated, and Will Butcher, who did not.

"Right now, same diagnosis as last night. Nothing broken, that's the good news. He's day-to-day," said Nasreddine on Butcher, adding that he won't play on Sunday in Ottawa with Connor Carrick taking his place. 

As for Matt Tennyson, he's getting closer after being sidelined with a lower-body injury but not ready just yet. 

"That's his first team practice. Not really ready to get back to action. He's on the right track. Getting closer and closer."

Regarding Zacha, Nasreddine seemed optimistic that he would play. 

"I haven't talked to the medical staff yet but he practiced. Yesterday he was borderline. nothing too serious. I'll have to see how he feels before the game."

Zacha also said he felt better. 

"I didn't feel 100%. I did some stretches and didn't feel 100%. I talked to the coaching staff and said I was 80% ready. I tried to get better to see if it could work and it didn't," said Zacha. 

The center took warm-ups as well but it didn't help. 

"I got tight in my lower back and it started to hurt in a certain spot and I couldn't skate at 100%."

After a night of sleep and treatment, he said he can feel the improvement. 

"I feel way better today," he said. "I can skate without any thinking that something's wrong with me. I wanted to go out on the ice and not be worried that something could happen. Hopefully I can play (tomorrow)."

BETTER BRATT

Jesper Bratt had a goal and two assists on Friday against Toronto, showing the start of budding chemistry with linemates Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri. 

"They're awesome players to play with. They're fast, they're skilled, we think hockey the same way," said Bratt. "When we play like we did yesterday with a lot of speed, we've got to keep that going."

Bratt added that puck possession has been key to the success of his line. 

"We know what makes us better players ourselves. The harder we work and the more we hunt the puck in the O-zone and neutral zone the more time we're going to spend in the O-zone. We don't have to go back into the D-zone."

Hischier's goal is a perfect example of the chemistry that the line has developed, with Bratt's seeing-eye pass to Hischier in the slot. 

"I saw him before I got the puck that he was empty in the slot. I knew that their forward was a little too wide to catch him so I was trying to surprise the other team to make that pass. Nico was in a great spot.

"Bratt said one of his keys to finding consistency is to improve the way that he refocuses prior to each game. 

"We play a lot of games. Sometimes after a good game you think the League is easier than it is. It's something you've got to learn and it's something I've learned in my third year here."

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

PREVIEW

DEVILS (12-19-6) at SENATORS (16-18-4)

TV: 5:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the two teams this season and the first in Ottawa. 

Last time out, the Senators defeated the Devils 4-2 at Prudential Center. J-G Pageau led the way with a hat trick for the visitors while Wayne Simmonds and Will Butcher scored for the Devils. 

Devils team scope:

The Devils have picked up points in four of their last six games (3-2-1).

Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri each picked up three points on Friday against Toronto. Palmieri and Hischier are now first and second respectively on the club in points, Palmieri with 26 (15 goals) and Hischier with 21 (7 goals). 

Senators team scope:

The Senators have picked up points in each of their last four games and seven of their last eight. They are six points back of Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division, which is the most attainable playoff position (Carolina has the second wild card spot and is 10 points ahead of Ottawa). 

Anthony Duclair is having an excellent season for the Sens, with 21 goals and 30 points through 38 games. The 21 goals is a career high for Duclair, who had 20 with Arizona in 2015-16 but not more than 11 in an entire season since then. 

By the Numbers:

Ottawa is 12-1-2 when leading after two periods and 1-12-0 when trailing after two. Senators have a decent record when trailing after one, however: 5-8-4 (as compared to Devils 1-10-2). 

The Sens have the worst power play in the NHL at 11.7%. Devils are 29th at 13.5%. Sens penalty kill is 10th in the NHL at 82.4% and at home it's 7th at 86.4%. 

Injury Updates:

Devils - Matt Tennyson (lower body) is on IR, Pavel Zacha (lower body) is day-to-day

Senators - Scott Sabourin (fractured nose) is on IR; Dylan DeMelo (fractured finger) is on IR; Nikita Zaitsev (undisclosed) is on IR; Anders Nilsson (concussion) is on IR; Ron Hainsey (undisclosed) is day-to-day

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

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