NEWARK, NJ - The Devils return home after a five-game, nine-day road trip which took them from Detroit to California to Las Vegas. It was a successful trip with only one regulation loss (2-1-2) but coming back to practice on Thursday, the team shuffled up its lines and that's what they'll go with tonight against St. Louis:
The most notable change is Miles Wood moving to the top line to play with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.
"If you look at our production up front the last few games, we've had trouble generating on five-on-five. We just need to find other combinations where we can get more offense," noted Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine.
"We tried Jack with Nico and Palms. Nico, being our top-line center, is going to face tough competition. They've had chances but the production is not there. It's tough for Jack, an 18-year-old to face the opposition's top defenders.
"Woody can bring more tenacity in the offensive zone and keep more plays alive in the offensive zone."
Wood said he was looking forward to the opportunity for some big offensive minutes at important times in the game.
"It's a chance for me to step up my game, too," he said. "To prove what I can do playing with those two guys. It's the first time in my career where I've ever played first line left wing just because Taylor Hall's been here since I've been here."
Wood added that he feels he can add an element to the line not unlike power forwards like Chris Kreider or, in the past, Milan Lucic with the Bruins.
"Just getting in on the forecheck hard, trying to create turnovers and have fun out there."
As for Jack, he'll slide into the wing to play with Travis Zajac and Joey Anderson. Nasreddine is looking to recreate the magic that was the line of Nikita Gusev, Zajac and Blake Coleman.
"The mindset behind it was trying to recreate what worked with Gusev. We had Gusev going up with Zajac and Coleman. I understand Joey's not Coleman yet but similar type player and Zajac is extremely reliable. We're hoping it works as well for Gusev."
In goal, Cory Schneider gets the start with tonight being the first of back-to-back games. Nasreddine in discussion with goaltending coach Roland Melanson felt that Blackwood playing Saturday against the Rangers would be a good experience for him given that the Rangers have a lot on the line now only two points out of a playoff spot.
"Tomorrow being the New York Rangers, for Blackie's development, going against the Rangers will be good for his growth. It's an important game for the Rangers and we always want to beat the Rangers. It'll be good for Blackie at MSG."
As for Schneider, he's played very well in the past few weeks since being recalled and the coach looks forward to that continuing.
"As a group, we talked a lot about resiliency the last couple of months. That's what comes to mind. You talk about adversity, he's had plenty of it. If you talk about how he's played the last couple of starts."
The Devils assigned forward Jesper Boqvist and defenseman Josh Jacobs back to AHL Binghamton. Both players were emergency recalls with some other players banged up but with the team now healthy, the Devils had to send both back down.
"They were both called up as emergency and with everyone ready to go for us tonight, we're going back with the guys we had. It's paperwork. If everyone is healthy they have to go down."
After the trade deadline, teams are only allowed four non-emergency recalls from their AHL affiliate up until the point that their AHL club's season is over. The Devils have only one such recall left to make.
READY FOR THE BLUES
Last time out, the Devils lost 3-0 to the Blues back on February 18. Nasreddine cautioned his team to be ready for a club that's dangerous and on a roll with eight straight victories heading into this one.
"They're a very stingy team, they're big and heavy. They can roll four lines. Not a lot of time and space."
Nasreddine added that this morning's optional morning skate was a way to preserve the energy of his team coming off a tough road trip.
"It was tough travel. Takes a couple days. We tried to manage those days as best as possible. The guys had good energy yesterday."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (25-27-11) vs. BLUES (23-35-6)
TV: 7:00 PM ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the second and final meeting between the two teams this season.
Earlier this month, the Devils lost 3-0 in St. Louis. Jordan Binnington made 17 saves for the shutout, Ivan Barbashev scored twice and Jaden Schwartz netted the other.
Last season, the Blues won both meetings. The won 3-2 in overtime in New Jersey and 8-3 in St. Louis.
Pavel Zacha led the Devils in scoring with a goal and an assist while Tyler Bozak had two goals and four points to pace the Blues.
Devils team scope:
The Devils fell 3-0 in Vegas in their last game, ending a five-game road trip with a record of 2-1-2. The loss also ended the team's six-game points streak.
Devils are now only two points behind Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings. They've won four straight games on home ice.
Kyle Palmieri leads the Devils with 23 goals and 43 points. He's also second on the team among players who have played 16 or more games with a -2 rating. Kevin Rooney is tops on the team at +5.
Blues team scope:
The Blues are the hottest team in the NHL at the moment, having won each of their last eight games. The win streak started back on February 18 when the Blues beat the Devils in St. Louis.
David Perron leads the Blues in scoring with 60 points (25 goals) in 67 games. Ryan O'Reilly is right behind him with 59 points (12 goals).
With 90 points, the Blues are second in the NHL behind Boston (98 points) and two points ahead of Colorado for top spot in the Central Division.
By the Numbers:
The Blues outshot the Devils, 39-17 last time these two teams met, marking the lowest recorded shots in a single game for New Jersey this season. The Devils look to improve their 2-6-4 record (0-2-4 home) against Central Division opponents.
New Jersey opens up their 14th of 16 sets of back-to-back games tonight. The Devils are 3-6-4 in first games and 6-6-1 in second games. Tomorrow night they play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Both Blues goaltenders have never lost to the Devils in their careers. Jordan Binington is 2-0-0 while Jake Allen is 7-0-0.
Devils -Will Butcher (thumb) is on IR and out for the season
Blues - Vladimir Tarasenko (left shoulder) is on IR; Jay Bouwemeester (cardiac episode) is on IR; Jordan Kyrou (illness) is day-to-day