The New Jersey Devils will face a familiar opponent tonight as they head to Wells Fargo Center to battle the Philadelphia Flyers. This is their second meeting this month and the third in 16 days. The Devils won the previous two games and will be looking for another win after back-to-back losses. The last time these two teams met, MacKenzie Blackwood registered a 25-save shutout. Can history repeat itself? Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of tonight’s game.
2 Storylines: Philadelphia Flyers (10-12-4)
The Flyers Are on a Winning Streak
The Flyers finally stopped the bleeding and beat the Vegas Golden Knights two nights after their shutout loss to the Devils. Mike Yeo took over the Philadelphia bench on Dec. 6, and with a 2-2-0 record, things may finally be turning around for his team.
“I don’t want to say we’re a long way away. I think that we’ve taken some steps, but it’s gonna take time,” said coach Yeo to media. “You don’t build habits overnight, and the game of hockey is too fast of a game to just go out there and think your way through the game. We’re starting to build habits, and we’re starting to see some of those things start to be applied in the game, and the players are starting to see the reward of those things when we do them.”
Philadelphia has given up three goals in their past three games after allowing seven two nights in a row. Their latest victories were the result of a team effort as 12 different players earned at least a point; only one defenseman got on the scoreboard, veteran Keith Yandle. However, Ryan Ellis remains on injured reserve.
Giroux Leads the Way in Philadelphia…for Now
It is hard to remember a time when Claude Giroux was not wearing the “C”. He took over the captaincy in Jan. 2013 and has been the face of the franchise ever since. At 33 years old, he has proved he can still lead by example, and he leads the team with 10 goals and 23 points.
There’s chatter that Giroux could be moved at the trade deadline as his contract expires at season’s end. The Flyers have not been a consistent playoff team since 2013, and it’s plausible that the 33-year-old will want to play out his career with a contending team. Giroux has 55 points in 61 career games against the Devils. Tonight marks the last time New Jersey faces Philadelphia this season, and it could be the last time they face Giroux as a Flyer.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (10-11-5)
The Devils Need to Find Success on the Power Play
Yes, the Devils need to find a way to score on the man advantage. Their last power-play goal came in the last game against the Flyers. New Jersey has scored two power-play goals this month and gave up a short-handed goal to the New York Islanders.
Their biggest issue is entering the offensive zone, but I have seen improvements in this area. Once the five players are set up, they spend too much time cycling the puck and don’t put it on the net. Someone needs to shoot, so hopefully, the player around the net can either deflect the puck or hit in a rebound. Tonight, we’ll see how the team utilizes their two minutes if given an opportunity.
Three Devils on COVID-19 Protocol List
Ahead of their game against the Islanders, the Devils announced Nico Hischier and Ryan Graves were placed in Covid-19 protocol. During Monday’s practice, the team reported that Christian Jaros was also in Covid protocol. For precautionary reasons, the Devils decided to hold Yegor Sharangovich out of practice even though he has tested negative so far.
“We’ve got two or three in (protocol) right now, and hopefully, it can end there,” head coach Lindy Ruff said. “We don’t know what tomorrow brings, either. We have a few guys that aren’t feeling well. Some of it is cold-related. So, it’s hard to separate the two.”
This situation has opened the door for both Marian Studenic and Kevin Bahl to prove themselves. Studenic appeared in five games this season before being assigned to Utica. Bahl played seven NHL games last season but has not appeared in a game with the Devils this season. New Jersey did not hold a morning skate, but both players are expected to be in the lineup tonight.
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: MacKenzie Blackwood
Blackwood performs very well against the Flyers. His career record against the division rival is 8-0-2. Not only does he have the Flyers’ number, but the 6-foot-4 goaltender should be well-rested as he has not played since Friday night when Akira Schmid took the loss against the Islanders.
Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Laughton
During the Flyers’ trip to New Jersey on Nov. 28, 2021, Laughton scored a goal and earned two points. He gets your attention when he is on the ice, whether with a goal, hit, or penalty. I am not sure what he will do tonight, but I can tell you that Steve Cangialosi will say his name at least once during tonight’s MSG broadcast.
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.