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At the Rink: Red Wings at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Center Joseph Blandisi will make his NHL debut for the New Jersey Devils against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, MSG+).

The opportunity for the 21-year-old comes at a time when the Devils (14-10-4) are without centers Travis Zajac (upper body) and Adam Henrique (lower body). Blandisi was recalled from Albany of the American Hockey League on Thursday.

Zajac was placed on injured reserve Thursday and is eligible to be activated Friday, but coach John Hynes said he will miss the next two games. Hynes said Henrique is day-to-day and questionable to play Sunday at the New York Islanders. Henrique leads the Devils with 13 goals.

"I just need to be strong in my own zone and be responsible; be a guy that's reliable that they could put out there in key situations," Blandisi said. "The coaching staff told me they brought me up to play because they were missing some players in the lineup so hopefully do the best I can."

Blandisi finished second to Connor McDavid for the most outstanding player award in the Ontario Hockey League in 2014-15 after he had 52 goals and 112 points in 68 games for Barrie. McDavid, selected No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, had 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games that season for Erie.

"McDavid won the award and I was three or four years older, but I knew how good he was going to be," Blandisi said. "He was dominant at the OHL level and there were some nights I said to myself that they should have made an exceptional status for him to play in the NHL earlier."

Blandisi was selected in the sixth round (No. 162) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche and signed by the Devils as a free agent in January. He has seven goals and 16 points in 18 games with Albany.

"He's got to do what got him here," Hynes said. "He's got to use his speed and compete. He's worked on his defensive game in Albany and that's a big reason he got called up. We feel confident in his game."

It's the first game of the season between the League's two youngest coaches. Detroit's (16-8-5) Jeff Blashill turned 42 on Thursday, and Hynes is 40.

Blashill and Hynes were AHL coaches before each was hired by their respective NHL teams in June.

Blashill was coach of Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' affiliate, for three seasons, winning the 2013 Calder Cup, the AHL coach of the year award in 2014, and reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2014-15. He had a 134-71-12-11 regular season record and won seven of nine AHL playoff series. Hynes went 231-126-10-17 in five seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pittsburgh Penguins' top minor-league team, and qualified for the AHL playoffs each season. In 2010-11 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had the best record in the AHL and Hynes was named coach of the year.

Hynes and Blashill never faced each other in the AHL.

"I knew [Blashill] really well when we were coming up through the coaching ranks and we had a lot of acquaintances when he was in college and I was at [USA Hockey's National Team Development Program]. We knew each other and stayed in touch when I got to the AHL. Even though we didn't play each other we spoke each summer and I have a lot of respect for him.

"He's a bright guy and has worked his way up. And you see what he did at the AHL level and now at the NHL level. He's earned everything he's gotten and he's an excellent coach. It'll be fun to coach against him."

The Red Wings, who did not practice Friday after a 3-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, are 8-0-4 since a 3-1 loss at the Boston Bruins on Nov. 14.

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, the expected starter against the Devils, is 4-0-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average in his past five starts. He won two games against the Devils last season with a 1.50 GAA.

The Red Wings have an 11-2-1 record in the past 14 games against the Devils, winning four straight.

Here are the projected lineups:


Dylan Larkin - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader

Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Brad Richards

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar

Tomas Jurco - Luke Glendening - Joakim Andersson

Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green

Danny DeKeyser - Jonathan Ericsson

Brendan Smith - Alexey Marchenko

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Injured: Drew Miller (broken jaw), Teemu Pulkkinen (dislocated shoulder), Johan Franzen (concussion), Kyle Quincey (ankle)

Scratched: Jakub Kindl


Mike Cammalleri - Jacob Josefson - Lee Stempniak

Jiri Tlusty - Joseph Blandisi - Kyle Palmieri

Patrik Elias - Sergey Kalinin - Tyler Kennedy

Brian O'Neill - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - David Schlemko

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Travis Zajac (upper body), Tuomo Ruutu (right foot fracture), Adam Henrique (lower body), Bobby Farnham (upper body)

Scratched: Stefan Matteau, Jon Merrill

Status report: Josefson was moved from third- to first-line center with Cammalleri and Stempniak during practice Friday. Blandisi practiced for a second straight day on the second line with Tlusty and Palmieri as his linemates. Tlusty had missed the past nine games because of a right shoulder injury but was activated from injured reserve Friday. … Gelinas will replace Merrill on defense. … Farnham was placed on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to Dec. 8. "He's a little banged up after a couple difficult games," Hynes said of Farnham.

Who's hot: Larkin has seven goals and 12 points in the past 14 games. … Palmieri has 5 goals and a plus-4 rating in the past six games.


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