NEWARK, NJ - After a three-day holiday break, the Devils were back on the ice this morning in preparation for a tough test against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Three full days, actually. It was nice," said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine. "We've talked about style of play for awhile now. Everything worked out that last game and it was three days where we were able to enjoy a big win."
Early in Monday's game in Chicago, Jesper Boqvist got injured but he said he was ready to go tonight. In a weird twist of fate, his brother, Adam Boqvist also left the game early. His family was at the game watching, in from Sweden, to add to the dramatics.
"What are the odds? It's crazy. He will be fine, too, so it's all good," Boqvist said this morning.
Jesper also added that it was funny how the high-sticking penalty he received in the opening minute was due to get a stick up on his brother.
"A little too pumped to win that battle, I guess," Boqvist said. "It was pretty funny that it was on him but bad penalty, though."
Nasreddine confirmed Boqvist's return to the lineup.
"It was precautionary after last game. He had a couple of stitches and he'll be back in the lineup"
Boqvist started Monday's game on the top line but that's where Jesper Bratt will now go. Boqvist finds his spot where Bratt was on line four:
Mackenzie Blackwood gets the start in goal, with Gilles Senn backing up.
P.K. Subban talked about his improved play of late and the benefits of playing with team captain Andy Greene.
"He's an experienced guy. Playing with him, I know he's going to be in the right spot, be a guy that's back there, dealing with odd-man rushes and broken play situations," Subban said. "It's easier playing with him and my job is to make it easier for him, too."
Coach Nasreddine said he's noticed the improved play of Subban, who scored last game, but cautioned that the improvements he's seen were before the points have started to roll in.
"He's shooting the puck a lot more, he's taking charge and playing big minutes. He's more assertive on the offensive side of the puck. Was your shot a factor that night, that's what I look at every night."
Pavel Zacha is slated to center the fourth line but he left morning skate early. He'll be a gametime decision.
"We'll look with the medical staff. It didn't feel right. Nothing major. We'll talk about it later."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (12-19-5) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (20-14-4)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the first of three meetings between the two teams this season.
Last season, the Devils won all three meetings between the clubs.
Blake Coleman and Brian Boyle each had a goal and an assist to lead the way for the Devils in the points department against the Leafs.
John Tavares had four goals and six points in three games to lead Toronto.
Devils team scope:
The Devils completed their last game before the holiday break with their best effort of the season, routing the Chicago Blackhawks 7-1 in Chicago.
Kyle Palmieri remains the team's leading point-getter with 23 points (14 goals) in 36 games. With three assists last game, Nikita Gusev now ranks second on the Devils in points with 20 and also leads the club with 15 assists.
New Jersey has won three of its last five games.
Maple Leafs team scope:
The Maple Leafs have responded well since the dismissal of head coach Mike Babcock with a record of 11-4-0 in the 15 games since. At the time, they were 9-10-4 on the season.
Toronto is still eight points behind Boston for top spot in the Atlantic Division and only two points ahead of Montreal, who sit in the third.
Auston Matthews leads the Leafs in scoring with 43 points through 38 games. Mitch Marner is second with 35 in 27 contests and Tavares is third with 29 points in 31 games.
By the Numbers:
New Jersey is 3-6-1 against the Atlantic Division this season while the Maple Leafs are 4-4-3 against the Metropolitan Division.
Toronto is 13-3-1 when scoring first this season. When leading after two periods, that improves to 14-1-2. When trailing after two, the Leafs are only 1-8-1.
The Leafs come into tonight's game having won each of their last five and seven of their last eight.
Devils - Matt Tennyson (upper body) is on IR; Louis Domingue (lower body) is day-to-day
Maple Leafs - Andreas Johnsson (leg) is on IR; Trevor Moore (undisclosed) is day-to-day