NEWARK, NJ - It's a regular Thursday night game on the schedule tonight for the New Jersey Devils but it's not a regular game as the man behind the bench of the opposition, the Nashville Predators, is John Hynes who started the season as the Devils head coach.
"As soon as the puck drops, you won't notice anymore and you try to keep your head in the game. Shouldn't be a problem at all," said Nico Hischier of the potential distraction of his former bench boss being behind the team in yellow.
Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine wokred alongside Hynes for nearly 10 years. He said he's looking forward to tonight.
"I try not to think about it, to be honest. It's going to be a special night and a lot of emotions to start but once the puck drops we'll be okay," he began, adding that Hynes was an outstanding role model for himself and the way he coaches today.
"Passion for the game, passion for his job. Attention to detail, work ethic is off the chart," he stated. "I remember when I first got into this job, I thought showing up at 8:00 was early but little did I know, he was starting at 6:00."
Nasreddine was asked what made Hynes such a good motivator.
"His presence in front of the guys, how he was able to command respect. Running meetings, practices, he earned guys' respect. I had a lot of coaches in my playing days. Watching him day-in and day-out I could tell he was a good coach and he was a coach I would have loved to play for.
"Everything he does, he's well-prepared. There's nothing left up to luck. He knows his next move before he even makes it."
P.K. Subban didn't skate on Tuesday or Wednesday due to illness but was back on the ice at the optional morning skate.
"He skated this morning and will probably be a game-time decision at this point," said Nasreddine.
Subban said that he's feeling much better and hopes to dress tonight against his former team.
"Probably just food poisoning on a virus. I'm probably not the only guy in the League that's feeling it. I'm happy to get back on the ice today," Subban said. "You never like to take two days off. It's too long. I was a little bit worried but felt good."
Subban also laughed about his status a little.
"I've got a lot of energy so if I've got to spare some of it, that's okay."
Nasreddine talked a little about Subban's play recently, which has been outstanding.
"He wants to have an impact on the game. If you look at the last six-seven weeks, he's been more dynamic offensively," Nasreddine noted.
"We want him to put more pucks on net which I felt he's done more lately. If you look at our team in general, we've generated more shots lately and he's a big reason for it."
Subban talked about the team's play recently and how they've really emerged from the dark days of October and November.
"Anybody that's watched our last five or six games can see that we're playing really good hockey. We're generating a lot of scoring chances," he stated. "In Columbus, towards the end of the game, we gave up nine scoring chances near the end of the game but only gave up three in the first two periods. It might have got to us a little near the end of it."
Subban also talked about how the team's been able to rally from disappointing situations, such as the two shorthanded goals allowed in Ottawa in the third period.
"We've battled through a lot of adversity this year. Specifically games like that which have been close and we hadn't responded the right way but we did (on Monday)."
The Devils have averaged 35.2 shots per game since Christmas which ranks second in the NHL.
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (18-24-7) vs. PREDATORS (23-19-7)
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; Televised on NBCSN
Tonight's game is the second and last meeting between the two teams this season.
They had met previously in early December in Nashville where the Predators won 6-4. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist and Sami Vatanen had two assists to lead the way for the visitors.
Dante Fabbro, Nick Bonino and Rocco Grimaldi each had a goal and an assist for the Predators.
Devils team scope:
The Devils came up with a big win coming out of the all-star break, defeating the Ottawa Senators on Monday in a shootout. Previous to that, they had lost three in a row going into the break though all against very good opponents in Toronto, Washington and Columbus.
Kyle Palmieri returned to the lineup on Monday and scored a late goal to tie it up. He remains the team's point leader with 32 points (17 goals). Blake Coleman has 19 goals to lead the Devils in that category.
Predators team scope:
Earlier this month, the Predators fired head coach Peter Laviolette and hired former Devils bench boss John Hynes. Since that time, the Predators have won four games and lost four for a .500 record. They did have a huge 5-4 win last night in Washington, however.
Nashville is four points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference but have three games in hand on both wild card teams.
Defenseman Roman Josi leads the way for the Preds in scoring with 49 points in 49 games.
By the Numbers:
P.K. Subban has two goals and five points in nine career games against the Predators. ... Former Predator Wayne Simmons is the Devils career leading scorer against Nashville with 10 goals and 16 points in 27 career games. Palmieri is second with eight goals and 14 points in 21 contests.
The Devils have as many wins -- nine -- this season when scoring first (9-5-6) and when the opponent scores first (9-19-1). Nashville has 18 wins when they score first (18-5-1) and only five when they don't (5-14-4).
Nashville is a strong 6-3-0 against the Metropolitan Division this season while the Devils are 2-5-2 against the Central.
Devils - P.K. Subban (illness) is questionable; Ben Street (upper body) is on IR
Predators - Colton Sissons (lower body) is on IR; Ryan Ellis (lower body) is on IR