COLUMBUS, OH - Heading into the All-Star break, the Devils would sure like to have some positive vibes. After two impressive victories over Washington and Tampa Bay to close out last weekend, the Devils have struggled to find their footing on this road trip. They've lost to Toronto and Washington by a combined 12-6 in the first two games of the trip and close things out tonight in Columbus.
"[You want to go] into the break feeling good about your game, as a team and personally," said Devils forward Travis Zajac. "It's going to be a good test for us. It's a hard building to play in and against a team that's playing really well right now. So it's a chance to not dip our toe in tonight and really be aggressive."
A BIG OPPORTUNITY
Zajac, Blake Coleman, and Nikita Gusev will get an opportunity to try and carry over their success 5-on-5 onto the power play tonight versus Columbus.
"We, hopefully, just provide some momentum and a few more chances, a few more pucks to the net," Zajac said of his line's goal.
"We'll try and play the same game we've been playing 5-on-5. I don't think we want to get too cute or too fancy out there and sacrifice the way we've been playing and other parts of our game. It's trying to get maybe some more looks around the net and some more second and third chances."
SCHNEIDER GETS THE NOD
Cory Schneider will get the start between the pipes for the first time since Nov. 8 when he stopped 28 of 32 shots. Since then, he went down to the minors to try and get his game going then returned to play in relief in both of the first two games this trip.
Now he'll get to start.
"I think it can only help," Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine said of Schneider knowing in advance he'll play. "I mean, like I said after last game, it's not easy for a goalie to come in halfway through the games. We told them yesterday. Yeah, he has time to get ready and we had a couple of good meetings with the team where we should be a little better in front of him. I'm looking forward to this performance tonight. I thought he looked really good last game."
In addition to the change in goal, Kevin Rooney returns to the lineup tonight after being sick last game. Michael McLeod comes out.
-- Chris Wescott, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (17-23-7) at BLUE JACKETS (24-16-8)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. In their only previous meeting, the Blue Jackets prevailed 5-1 on December 21.
Last season, Columbus won all four meetings; three in regulation and one in a shootout. Mackenzie Blackwood played in two games for the Devils, stopping 45 of 47 shots for a 1.38 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
Blake Coleman led the way for the Devils with two points (one goal) in four games versus Columbus.
Cam Atkinson had four goals and five points in four games to lead the Blue Jackets in scoring against the Devils.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have dropped each of their past two games after a pair of big wins last weekend. After defeating Washington (in Washington) and at home against Tampa Bay, who had won 10 straight heading into the game at Prudential Center, they had two really tough matchups against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a rematch in Washington.
On Tuesday, the Devils lost 7-4 to the Leafs. It was a game that they'd trailed 6-1 before narrowing the gap to 6-4 before ultimately losing after the Leafs added an empty-net goal. On Thursday, the Caps got their revenge with a 5-2 win. Blake Coleman had a hat trick on Tuesday and followed that up with a shorthanded goal Thursday.
Coleman leads the Devils with 18 goals and is tied for the NHL lead with three shorthanded markers on the season.
Blue Jackets team scope:
Despite seven players out due to injury, the Blue Jackets have continued to roll in the tough, competitive Metropolitan Division.
Since December 9, the Blue Jackets have owned the best record in the NHL with 30 points in 19 games (13-2-4). They have moved into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with Philadelphia with 56 points.
With Joonas Korpisalo out, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has stepped up. This past Thursday, he has his shutout streak snapped at 166:29 which was the third longest such streak in Blue Jackets history. Going back to December 31, he is tied for the NHL lead in wins and shutouts and is third in save percentage.
By the Numbers:
Over their past eight home games, the Jackets are 6-1-1 and have outscored opponents 24-11. They have picked up points against Eastern Conference opponents in 12 straight games (9-0-3) and seven straight against their Metropolitan Division rivals (5-0-2).
Columbus leads the NHL in goal differential in the third period going back to December 9 at +15 with 25 goals (tied for 3rd) and 10 goals against (tied for 2nd).
Devils - Ben Street (upper body) is out; Kyle Palmieri (foot) is day-to-day; Mackenzie Blackwood (upper body) is day-to-day
Blue Jackets - Brandon Dubinsky (wrist) is on IR; Ryan Murray (upper body) is on IR; Joakim Anderson (shoulder) is on IR; Oliver Bjorkstrand (back) is on IR; Joonas Korpisalo (torn meniscus) is out; Alex Texier (lumbar stress fracture) is on IR; Dean Kukan (torn meniscus) is on IR