NEWARK, NJ - After winning back-to-back games this past weekend, the Devils have a stiff test tonight against a Boston Bruins team that may seem ripe for the picking with 10 players out due to injury and only one win in their last six but head coach John Hynes cautioned against thinking that it won't be a tough test tonight.
"Teams go through that, ups and downs, but they're one of, if not the best team in the NHL. They have great players, great depth. Regardless of who's in their lineup, I think that their organizational depth is very good," Hynes began. "They play to a certain identity. It seems as though whoever they put in the lineup finds ways to be able to contribute. A lot of times when teams have players missing you don't change your system for that.
"As far as coaching and playing the Bruins, you gotta be prepared to play your best game."
As far as lineup changes, the team will go with the same lineup as Montreal with the exception of Sami Vatanen returning to play his first game since being injured early in Edmonton back on November 8. Matt Tennyson draws out for number 45.
Coach Hynes was asked what the Devils defenseman needs to do in his return to the lineup.
"Just pick up where he left off," he said. "He's had enough time to practice and get himself back."
With eight points in 15 games, Vatanen leads all Devils blueliners in points despite the missed time.
"He's defending really well, he's had a lot of tough matchups. The way he's run the power play when he's back there has been excellent."
The forward lines and defense pairings are expected to be as follows:
Mackenzie Blackwood gets the start in goal after shining in back-to-back games this past weekend. He was asked about how he was able to stay sharp despite the tight turnaround.
"Just had to come out the same way I did the night before. It's another hockey game. You just have to get the best sleep you can and no matter how you feel, you're ready for the game," Blackwood began, adding that it wasn't so much the physical exhuastion that makes back-to-backs difficult for goaltenders.
"Physically, not much. I've been trying to stay in shape but mentally, learning about the League, managing your emotions, the ups and downs of the season. I think I've done a decent job."
Coach Hynes was very happy with the way his goaltender played in a challenging situation.
"It was a great effort. He was a big reason we won teh game against Pittsburgh. It's nice to see him respond less than 24 hours later, pay in back-to-back games and come up with big saves," Hynes noted.
"There really wasn't a concern physically with him, it was more the mental prepration of coming off the win, putting the win behind you then getting ready to play against Montreal.
Key to the game tonight, according to Hynes, is the team needing to come out with a strong effort to build off the previous two wins.
"We came off the Carolina win and Winnipeg win and then played parts of the Calgary game well. Came off the road trip with a big win in Vancouver but weren't where we needed to be against Ottawa."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (7-8-4) vs. BRUINS (12-3-5)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG
Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the two teams this season.
In the first meeting, the Bruins prevailed by a score of 3-0. Goals were scored by Joakim Nordstrom, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Tuukka Rask made 31 saves in the shutout.
Last season, Boston won twice and New Jersey on once in their three meetings. Blake Coleman led the way in scoring with two goals in three contests. Patrice Bergeron had three goals and five points to lead the way for Boston.
Devils team scope:
The Devils are coming off a pair of big back-to-back wins this past weekend, Friday at home against Pittsburgh and Saturday in overtime in Montreal.
Taylor Hall continues to lead the club with 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists) in 19 games. Kyle Palmieri leads in goals with seven, including Saturday's OT winner.
Mackenzie Blackwood has a 2.79 goals-against average and .904 save percentage through 14 games this season. Since October 17, Blackwood is tied for third in the NHL with seven wins. He also has a 2.33 GAA and .921 save percentage in that time.
The club called up Louis Domingue on Monday but he will back up tonight.
The Bruins are dealing with a ton of injuries with 10 players currently on the injured list but despite their challenges, they've played good and consistent hockey for most of the season. With a record of 12-3-5, they're certainly in their roughest patch of the season. In their last six games, they've only had one win (1-2-3). Prior to that, they had won six in a row.
With 29 points, the Bruins are tied for second overall in the NHL and are three points ahead of Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division.
David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are tied for the team lead with 32 points. That ties the duo for fourth in the NHL in points. Pastrnak also has 17 goals which leads the NHL.
By the Numbers:
Boston has scored first in 15 of its 20 games this season and has a 10-2-3 record in those games. They are also 9-1-0 when leading after one period.
Bruins haven't lost in regulation this season in a game against a team from the Metropolitan Division (3-0-2). ... Bruins are third in the NHL in penalty kill at home (88.9%) but on the road, that falls to 21st (75.0%).
Devils -Connor Carrick (upper body) is out; Sami Vatanen (upper body) is probable; Kevin Rooney (upper body) is out
Bruins - Kevan Millar (knee) is out; John Moore (shoulder) is out; Anton Blidh (shoulder) is out; Karson Kuhlman (tibia fracture) is out; David Backes (upper body) is out; Jake DeBrusk (lower body) is out; Brett Ritchie (upper body) is day-to-day; Torey Krug (upper body) is out; Zac Senyshyn (lower body) is out; Patrice Bergeron (lower body) is day-to-day