OTTAWA, ON - The Devils are back in action tonight in Ottawa, facing a team that they've nearly caught in the standings and can leapfrog over with a win. That, says Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine, is the goal for this club moving forward with 34 games left in the season.
"We want to have a goal of climbing up the standings as much as possible. How high can we get," he said. "Tonight we have an example where we can pass Ottawa in the standings and that should be a short-term goal for tonight.
After Ottawa, the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are next up on the Devils list as they look to rise in the Eastern Conference.
"It'll be who's the next target and how high can we get up in the standings? We all get paid to win games and that should be the goal every game," Nasreddine added.
Nasreddine wanted to get Blackwood back in action after he missed a handful of games due to injury and hadn't started a game since January 9 against the Rangers.
"He came in relief last game. He's been really good for us the last month, month and a half so we'll give him the start tonight. There's no guarantee for next game."
The coach added that he wanted to watch Blackwood's workload moving forward and the recent strong play of Louis Domingue has helped that.
"At this point, we'll go game-by-game. Louis has also done a pretty good job minus maybe the last couple of games but those are more of a team issue than a goaltending issue. Louis is going to see more action than he has the last two months," Nasreddine began. "I don't think we want to use him as much as we did the last month and a half, two months. Louis has proven he can play and be good for us. It's important to keep both goalies active."
Up front, all-star Nico Hischier will be playing with Kyle Palmieri, returning from injury, and Jesper Bratt. Hischier was happy to see his linemate back from the injured list.
"He's an all-around really good player. You saw him getting hurt with a blocked shot. He's a big part in the D-zone, too, and up front."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (17-24-7) at SENATORS (17-23-8)
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the third and final meeting between the two teams this season.
The Senators won 4-2 in New Jersey while the Devils won 4-3 in overtime at Canadian Tire Centre most recently.
Devils team scope:
The Devils went into the break with three straight losses. Prior to that, they were one of the top teams in the NHL over a 14-game stretch going 8-4-2 dating back to December 14 so they look to get back on that track tonight.
Kyle Palmieri returns to the lineup tonight. He was out for the past four games, with the Devils going 1-4-0 in that span. Palmieri had 31 points on the season with 16 goals.
All-Star representative Nico Hischier is second on the team with 29 points. He's played one less game than Palmieri.
Senators team scope:
The Senators won their last game before the all-star break, defeating Calgary but prior to that, had lost nine in a row with four of those losses coming after regulation time.
It's been a roller coaster of a season for the Sens. Prior to the nine-game winless skid, they had gone a stretch of 11 games with only two regulation losses (5-2-4). That stretch concluded with an overtime loss to the Devils.
Anthony Duclair leads the Senators in scoring with 21 goals and 33 points. Rookie goaltender Marcus Hogberg has played well with Anders Nilsson out. Hogberg has played in 11 games and has a 2.91 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. His record is an odd 2-2-5 across those 11 games (nine starts).
By the Numbers:
The Devils are 8-5-2 when tied after one period while Ottawa is 3-8-0. When tied after two, the Devils are 5-2-4 and Ottawa is 3-5-3.
Ottawa has played five games this season when taking the same number of shots in a game as their opponents. They have lost all five. Devils have yet to play such a game this season. Ottawa is 6-8-2 against the Metropolitan Division this season while the Devils are 6-7-2 against the Atlantic.
New Jersey's power play is 30th in the NHL at 13.9% and Ottawa's is 31st at 12.2%. Both teams are middle-of-the-pack penalty killers, Devils tied for 17th and Sens 15th.
Devils - Kyle Palmieri (foot) is likely to play; Ben Street (upper body) is on IR
Senators - Anders Nilsson (concussion) is on IR; J-G Pageau (neck) is day-to-day; Nick Paul (ankle) is on IR