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PRE-GAME REPORT: Devils vs. Bruins

Devils end 2019 looking to build off their stretch of five points in their last seven games

by Chris Wescott and Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils play their final game of 2019 at home on Tuesday afternoon (New Year's Eve) against the Boston Bruins.

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

Video: Devils:60 | Devils Host Bruins in Final Game of 2019

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

INSIDE THE DEVILS

Devils practice on Monday and more news and notes from the past few days. 

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

TUESDAY, 11:07 AM ET NEWARK, NJ - Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine met with the media prior to today's game against the Bruins. He didn't offer a lot in terms of lineup updates, except for saying that Will Butcher would be a gametime decision. 

Nasreddine did talk about today's opponent, noting that it would be a tough test against the number-three team in the NHL in Boston. 

"You can't afford to make mental mistakes against a team like that. They play a good structured game. You've got to control the top line. It's easier said than done but to us that's going to be a main focus, shutting down that line," Nasreddine began. 

"They're also a good defensive team. If we want opportunities to score, we have to shoot the puck. There's a reason why they're one of the top teams in the League."

Nasreddine added that the team needs to continue to play with speed, one of the reasons they've been successful with points in five of their last seven games. 

"There's a certain style of play we want to bring every game and it's becoming more consistent. That's our biggest strength, especially up front," he said. "We're using our speed to get on the forecheck and to defend and track back."

PALMIERI HONORED

On Monday, Kyle Palmieri was named to the NHL All-Star Game as the Devils representative. Nasreddine was asked about him. 

"You talk about leadership on the ice, Palms is a guy who's a core player. Every shift, every game he'll show up so you know what you get for him. It's contagious to have a guy like him on the team. He's one of the hardest working players out there," he remarked. 

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Alain Nasreddine

"I couldn't be happier for a guy like that to get a nod to the All-Star Game."

Palmieri said he was happy to attend. 

"It's an honor to represent New Jersey and be able to go there for the second year in a row. I'm excited for it and really looking forward to it."

Last year, Palmieri was a last-minute addition due to the Taylor Hall injury but his team, the Metropolitan Division, ended up winning the tournament. 

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Palmieri on Being Named an Alll-Star

"It was a pretty chaotic weekend, there was a lot going on. But my family really enjoyed it," he said. 

He was also asked about being a leader on the team, as proclaimed by Nasreddine. 

"It means a lot to me coming from Nas. We have a group of leaders on this team and everyone pulls in the right direction. I'm just trying to make the team better and have a positive impact on the team." 

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

MONDAY: NEWARK, NJ - The Devils see Tuesday's New Year's Eve game as a chance to measure themselves against one of the best teams in the league. With Boston coming to town, the Devils hope they're recent improvement shows in how they compete against the visitors.

"It's where do we stand," said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "It will be a really good measuring stick for us playing against a team like that, that we've struggled against in the past. We're slowly starting to see where we need our game to be. I was seeing some progress so we've got to keep building in the right direction and tomorrow is going to be a big game for us."

The Devils have at least a point in each of their last three games. They beat Chicago 7-1 on the night before Christmas Eve and have since taken Toronto and Ottawa to OT.

"You know, they're a great team," said Devils forward Miles Wood. "They're deep. They're, I guess you can say, a Stanley cup team and it's going to be a great test for us. But I think we're up for it."

Boston beat New Jersey 5-1 back on Nov. 19.

BUTCHER BACK?

Will Butcher did not travel with the team to Ottawa but there was good news on Monday as he returned for practice. He blocked a shot in the previous game and hurt his ankle but he's feeling better after a few days off.

"I just needed a day off to get it back up to the speed and it felt really good today… Hopefully, I'll be in the lineup tomorrow and play."

Nasreddine says they have not made a determination on whether or not Butcher will play versus the Bruins but it is looking good.

"It was good for him to get a team practice and he's only been out for three or four days, so it was good to see him out there and it looked pretty good," said Nasreddine. "Just got to check in with the medical staff as far as tomorrow's status."

LINEUP NOTES

It was a familiar lineup on Monday as the Devils continue to find consistency in their line combinations.

Bratt-Hischier-Palmieri

Coleman-Zajac-Gusev

Wood-Hughes-Simmonds

Boqvist-Zacha-Hayden

Greene-Subban

Severson-Vatanen

Mueller-Carrick

Butcher-Tennyson

Blackwood

Senn

-- Chris Wescott, NewJerseyDevils.com

PREVIEW

DEVILS (13-19-6) vs. BRUINS (24-7-9)

TV: 1:00 PM ET; Televised on MSG

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the third and final meeting the two teams this season. 

Boston won the prior two games, 3-0 in Boston early in the season and 5-1 at Prudential Center in mid-November. 

Devils team scope:

The Devils have picked up points in five of their last seven games (4-2-1) and in three straight.

Last time out, they played a strong game against the Ottawa Senators ending in a 4-3 overtime victory. 

Kyle Palmieri leads the team in scoring with 27 points in 38 games and leads with 15 goals. Nikita Gusev and Nico Hischier are tied for second with 22 points. 

Bruins team scope:

The Bruins are battling for top spot in the NHL. They are two points behind Washington for top spot honors, sitting a point behind the Blues and in third place in overall League standings. 

David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each have 58 points, tied for Bruins team lead. They're also tied for third in the entire NHL in scoring. 

Recently, the Bruins have struggled a little by their standards. They've won their last three in a row, including a big 7-3 win over the Capitals, but prior to that they only won one out of nine games (1-4-4) which included four straight losses in regulation. Prior to that, they had only three regulation losses all season long. 

By the Numbers:

The Bruins have been outstanding this season but they could be even better if they had a stronger record in overtime and in the shootout. Particularly, in the shootout where they're 0-5. Only one other team has five shootout losses and that's Philadelphia (four wins, five losses). 

In the month of December, the Devils leading scorers through 13 games have been Palmieri (6 goals, 11 points), Nikita Gusev (9 assists, 11 points) and Sami Vatanen (10 assists, 11 points). 

With 20 points over the entire season, Vatanen ranks 34th in the NHL in defense scoring but if he continues to stay at his near point-per-game pace, it wouldn't be long before he started to climb up the charts. He's only six points from 13th in the NHL and 11 points from cracking the top five in D scoring.

Injury Updates:

Devils - Matt Tennyson (lower body) is on IR, Will Butcher is day-to-day

Bruins - Kevan Millar (knee) is on IR; Karson Kuhlman (shoulder) is on IR; Charlie McAvoy (upper body) is day-to-day; Torey Krug (upper body) is on IR; Connor Clifton (upper body) is day-to-day

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

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