LIGHTNING (20-10-3) at DEVILS (11-16-6)
TV: TVA, SUN, MSG
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer hasn't done Keith Kinkaid any favors with the starts he's given the rookie goalie in the past two weeks.
Kinkaid made his first career start Dec. 9 against the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks, who had won six in a row when they took the ice against Kinkaid and the Devils. He followed that with a start at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders, the second place team in the Metropolitan Division.
Kinkaid's welcome-to-the-NHL tour continues Friday at Prudential Center, where he faces Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first-place team in the Atlantic Division.
"I'm not really thinking about it. I just want to play my game," Kinkaid said. "I could have had two wins in the first two games and it would have turned out a little bit better. I'll take it as a compliment playing against these teams, and I just want to give the boys a shot to win. Hopefully we can pot a few goals tonight."
Kinkaid lost his first two starts but he hardly was at fault. He made a combined 68 saves but lost them both 3-2 in the shootout. He is responsible for the only two points the Devils have earned in their past five games (0-3-2).
"He deserves to play and we're in arguably the toughest part of our schedule," DeBoer said. "The number of games we've played here in the last three weeks has been as crazy as our schedule gets and we've been traveling. He's played well so it's been a pretty easy decision."
Kinkaid made his NHL debut in a relief appearance against the Lightning, on March 6, 2013. His best save came 1:08 into the third period when he stopped Stamkos on a breakaway with a left-pad save.
"That was my first real save in the NHL," Kinkaid said. "Hopefully there are many more tonight. We've got to keep them off the board."
Cory Schneider, New Jersey's No. 1 goalie, will be back in the net Saturday against the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center. Schneider started the first 20 games of the season. He has allowed eight goals on 83 shots in his past three starts, all regulation losses.
"Keith has played really well," Schneider said. "When we've given him chances he's looked really good. The staff has a lot of trust in him and we have a lot of trust in him. He can handle tough games like this. I'll be ready to go tomorrow night."
Goaltending, though, hardly has been the Devils problem recently. They simply haven't been able to score enough to support their goalies.
New Jersey lost 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday despite holding a 34-16 edge in shots on goal and a 58-25 edge in total shot attempts. During their five-game losing streak the Devils have eight goals and they're shooting just 5.9 percent. They have 30 goals in their past 16 games (3-9-4).
"I think even last game we had some good tips and screens, stuff like that, but a lot of it is confidence," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "When you're confident with the puck it just seems to find the back of the net. You get shots off quicker. You don't wait to take an extra step to get closer or hold it for an extra second. If we keep going this way we're going to get a couple, start getting some confidence. And it just snowballs from there.
"It'll turn. We're getting our chances obviously. They're going to go in. The percentages say they have to go in eventually."
The Lightning, who had a lightly attended optional morning skate Friday, expect to get two players back in the lineup as forward Ondrej Palat and defenseman Radko Gudas said after Tampa Bay's skate they will play.
Palat missed four games with a foot injury; Gudas missed three with a stomach bug.
However, center Tyler Johnson is expected to be a game-time decision after skipping practice Thursday and the morning skate Friday with the stomach flu.
Evgeni Nabokov said he will be Tampa Bay's starting goalie. Rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 23 saves in a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in his NHL debut on Tuesday. Ben Bishop remains out with a lower-body injury.
Here are the projected lineups:
Scott Gomez - Adam Henrique - Jaromir Jagr
Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Martin Havlat
Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Michael Ryder
Steve Bernier - Tim Sestito - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Jon Merrill
Seth Helgeson - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Peter Harrold
Injured: Mike Cammalleri (lower body), Dainius Zubrus (leg lacerations), Jacob Josefson (groin), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Damon Severson (left ankle), Ryane Clowe (head)
Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Valtteri Filppula - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown
Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle - Radko Gudas
Scratched: Mark Barberio
Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Tyler Johnson (illness)
Status report: DeBoer said he is staying with the same lines that he used against Ottawa because of the quality of chances and the sustained pressure the Devils were able to generate. "We'll probably start with those lines again, but until we start putting three or four pucks in the net everything is still open," he said. … Bishop isn't expected to play for the Lightning until at least Tuesday, when they're home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Who's hot: Kucherov has three goals and three assists in the past four games.