Devils Gameday Preview: Vegas Golden Knights – 1/24/23

After a brief slump in December, the New Jersey Devils are back to their winning ways, with a victory in six of their last seven games. They will try to make it seven out of eight when the Vegas Golden Knights come to town for the only time this season. The Devils have 64 points and a 30-12-4 record. In their 46th game, they have already surpassed last season’s point total of 63.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, continue to lead the Pacific Division with a 29-17-2 record and 60 points, but the Seattle Kraken are catching up, just one point back. The Devils have had success against the Pacific this year, with a 10-0-1 record.

New Jersey Devils Gameday Preview MacKenzie Blackwood, Nico Hischier and Dougie Hamilton
Mackenzie Blackwood, Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton (The Hockey Writers)

When the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town on Sunday, the Devils needed two points to separate themselves from their Metropolitan Division rivals. Less than a minute into the game, Jack Hughes became a 30-goal scorer for the first time, rifling one past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. Pittsburgh responded with a goal from their own superstar, Sidney Crosby. 

The game remained scoreless throughout regulation while Vitek Vanecek stood on his head once again. He stopped several good Penguins chances, including one from Ryan Poehling that hit his elbow and deflected off the crossbar. Dougie Hamilton scored the game-winner in overtime on the power play, giving New Jersey their 30th victory of the season. “We did a good job battling, and V was unreal and kept us in it throughout the whole game,” Hamilton said post-game.

Related: Devils Continue to Prove That Great Teams Find Ways to Win


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The Devils have two more games before the All-Star break, when Hughes will represent the Red and Black in Sunrise, Florida. They will take on the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars in back-to-back games on Jan. 26 and 27, respectively. 

Team Rosters:

The Devils Projected Lines:

Forwards:

Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt

Erik Haula – Jack Hughes – Tomas Tatar

Jesper Boqvist – Michael McLeod – Dawson Mercer

Miles Wood – Yegor Sharangovich – Nathan Bastian

Michael McLeod New Jersey Devils
Michael McLeod, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Defensemen:

Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton

Ryan Graves – Damon Severson

Kevin Bahl – Brendan Smith

Goaltenders:

Vitek Vanecek

Mackenzie Blackwood

The Golden Knights Projected Lines:

*It is expected Brett Howden will return to the lineup in some capacity

Forwards:

Chandler Stephenson – Jack Eichel – Phil Kessel

Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Jonathan Marchessault

Paul Cotter – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar

Michael Amadio – Byron Froese – Jonas Rondbjerg

Defensemen:

Nicolas Hague – Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb – Kaedan Korczak

Alec Martinez – Ben Hutton

Goaltenders:

Logan Thompson

Adin Hill

What’s Happening in Vegas:

The Golden Knights have been tops in the Pacific Division for most of the season, leading since mid-October. However, things have not gone their way recently, losing four of their last five as the Kraken, their expansion cousins, gain ground. After an impressive 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Jan. 21, Vegas fell 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes a day later. Former Coyote Phil Kessel was the lone goal scorer, while Logan Thompson had a rare off night, allowing three goals on 22 shots. “Three pucks that went in there, just need to be there,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Game 49 this year in our system, we should know better. Maybe a little mental fatigue.”

Related: Golden Knights Who Have Improved or Regressed in 2022-23

Vegas is banged up, and several key players are out due to injuries. They were already down Shea Theadore, and Mark Stone has not played since Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, while William Carrier is still day-to-day and Zach Whitecloud, who was a pleasant surprise for the Golden Knights last season, is out long-term with a lower-body injury. Some of those names may be back tonight, but Cassidy could also keep them out until the All-Star break. The good news for Vegas is that forward Brett Howden is expected to return tonight. He was spotted without a non-contact jersey at the morning skate, and it would be his first game since Nov. 23 against the Ottawa Senators.

Like the Devils, the Golden Knights have a stellar record on the road at 15-4-2. They have three straight games against Metropolitan Division teams, including back-to-back games against the two New York teams, the Rangers and Islanders, on Jan. 27 and 28 after tonight’s matchup before a much-needed break. They will be represented by their rookie goaltender Thompson at the All-Star Game. He has turned heads with a 2.71 goals-against average, and a .912 save percentage.

Keep an Eye On:

New Jersey Devils: Dougie Hamilton

It was not the best West Coast road trip for Dougie Hamilton, but when the Devils returned to Prudential Center, he put the team on his back, scoring the game-winner against the Penguins to end a three-game goalless streak. “It’s a huge swing for us,” Hamilton said of the victory, adding about his goal: “I tried to shoot as hard as I could.”

Hamilton also had the lone assist on the Hughes goal to open the scoring. He added his 11th goal and 29th assist on the season, solidifying his position as the Devils’ top d-man. He’s fourth on the team in scoring and leads the team with 19 power-play points. Hamilton made a strong argument to join Hughes at the All-Star Game, and fans are happy to finally have their franchise defenseman.

Vegas Golden Knights: Jack Eichel

Superstar Jack Eichel is in his first full season with the Golden Knights since coming over in a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres, and he has finally found his footing with the team, with 15 goals and 34 points in 35 games. His next goal will be his sixteenth, which would match his total from all of last season, the Sabres included. He’s especially dangerous at even strength with 14 goals.

With the Knights, Eichel has a plus-14 rating, and his plus-11 this season is the highest of his career, mostly thanks to his supporting cast. In his career, Eichel has played sixteen games against New Jersey, averaging a point per game. However, he has not scored against them since 2019. He’s firmly established himself as Vegas’ first-line center, and with Stone out due to injury, he will have to continue to be the franchise player the Knights expected.

Where to Watch:

The Devils and Golden Knights will be an ESPN+ and Hulu exclusive, which requires a subscription. Bob Wischusen and Brian Boucher will be calling the game from Prudential Center. However, despite the game not being shown on MSG Networks, fans can tune in to the Devils Hockey Network for a familiar voice, as Jason Shaya and Chico Resch will commentate the action.


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