The New Jersey Devils are playing the second game of a back-to-back tonight against the Calgary Flames. It is the second meeting between these two teams this season and the first time head coach Lindy Ruff’s team has traveled to Scotiabank Saddledome since Nov. 7, 2019, a game that ended in a 5-2 victory for the home team after scoring four unanswered goals. The Flames have scored 19 goals in their last three meeting with the Devils.
New Jersey is coming off a back and forth contest against the Vancouver Canucks that resulted in a 6-3 loss. Goaltender Nico Daws was pulled in the second period, and Jon Gillies made eight stops on 10 shots to finish the game. Jonas Siegenthaler was a late scratch as he was battling a non-Covid-related illness, and the team lost Pavel Zacha early in the game after he awkwardly went into the boards. After the game, Jesper Bratt summed it up by saying the Canucks were the better team.
2 Storylines: Calgary Flames (36-16-7)
Coleman Faces Familar Opponent
On July 28, 2021, former Devil Blake Coleman left the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed a six-year, $29.4 million contract with the Flames. In 58 games, he has 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists). In comparison, he played 55 games with the Lightning last season and finished with 31 points. Most recently, the Texas native played on the second line beside Trevor Lewis and Mikael Backlund, and he has two points in his last five games.
It took over 600 days for Coleman to return to Prudential Center, but in October, he finally made it to New Jersey, and the organization and their fans made sure to give him a warm welcome. He returned with two daughters and two Stanley Cup rings. After the game, the 5-foot-11 forward took to Instagram to thank the team that drafted him and fans for the enthusiastic reception.
Flames Perform Well in Calgary
According to Calgary’s website, since Feb. 1, the Flames have been the top home team in the league, with an 11-1-1 record and outscoring their opponents 58-25. The last time the Devils traveled to Calgary, they lost after scoring the first goal of the game. Historically, New Jersey does not perform well against them, with an all-time record of 26-66-11-4. The Devils have played 52 games in Calgary, with eight wins and have lost their last seven matchups. To say tonight will be a challenge is an understatement, as the stage is set for what should be an easy victory for the home team.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (22-33-5)
Devils Look to Earn First Victory of Road Trip
It is safe to say yesterday did not go as planned, as the Devils entered the match-winning their last 12 against the Canucks dating back to Nov. of 2014. Vancouver took control of the game early, and it did not help that the Devils were playing with a shortened lineup. After last night’s game, Ruff was asked how much of a loss it was to not have Siegenthaler on the ice.
“It changes the complexion a lot,” said Ruff. “He’s going up against top lines, top goal scorers, big body and played extremely well. He’s been one of our top defensemen all year long. Tried it in warm-up but non-COVID-related illness. He couldn’t fight through it.”
Ruff admitted that it’s doubtful Zacha will play tonight but sees his absence as an opportunity for another player to step up. It’s uncertain if the Swiss defenseman will be able to play, as Ruff did not comment on it after the game. If not, expect Colton White to remain in the lineup. The 24-year-old defenseman had more ice time than both Ty Smith and P.K. Subban, finishing the game with one shot on goal.
Will Daws or Gillies Get the Start?
After the game, Ruff admitted that the fact that the team was playing again on Wednesday was a factor in pulling Daws last night. It is unclear who will get the nod in the net, but the coach could easily go back to Daws, who had eight consecutive starts dating back to Feb. 28, also against Vancouver.
Gillies made an immediate impact in the second period, making a big save on Tanner Pearson. After that, Nathan Bastian scored on Thatcher Demko to bring the Devils within one goal. The turning point of the game was when Bo Horvat scored short-handed during New Jersey’s four-minute power play. Daws made 17 saves on 21 shots, while Gillies faced 10 in relief.
Gillies has familiarity with the Flames. Back in the 2016-17 season, he made his NHL debut at Scotiabank Saddledome, earning a win against the LA Kings. The 6-foot-6 goaltender played 12 games in Calgary, earning four wins and five losses. At the end of his time with the team, he had a goals-against average of 2.71 and a save percentage of .903.
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: Dawson Mercer
Dawson Mercer is now the lone Devil to have appeared in every game this season. Last night, he played 19:19 of ice time, which is the fifth most he has played in his rookie campaign. Ruff was talking about players stepping up in Zacha’s absence, and I expect to see a lot more of Mercer tonight. The youngster has been kept off the scoresheet for the last three games, but that could change tonight.
Calgary Flames: Blake Coleman
Is it biased to name Coleman the player to watch? Probably. But in their last meeting in October, he had a team-leading four shots on goal, two hits, and one takeaway. His 18:19 of ice time ranked third among forwards, and he was all over the ice. Fans in New Jersey know how dynamic Coleman can be, and the Devils need to keep an eye out when he’s on the ice.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.