The New Jersey Devils have found their way back into the win column. They have picked up four straight victories and will search for their fifth in a row against the Seattle Kraken at 10:00 P.M. at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The Devils are 29-12-3 and have 61 points, second in the Metropolitan Division behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ 62. If they pull off the victory tonight, they will have 63 points and match their total from last season. Meanwhile, Seattle has a record of 26-14-4 and are one of the surprise success stories of the season. They are just two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the Pacific Division lead. The two teams split the series last season. New Jersey beat Seattle in the team’s fifth game as a franchise 4-2, while the Kraken won in the shootout 4-3 towards the end of the season in April.
The Devils were deep in the water against the San Jose Sharks, as they were down 3-2 and were on a penalty kill with less than three minutes to go in regulation. After a successful penalty kill, Jack Hughes came through once again, scoring with the extra attacker on to tie the game at three apiece with 8.6 seconds left to go in the game. In the shootout, Tomas Tatar got the puck past Sharks goalie James Reimer to give the Devils a 4-3 win. The win gave them a perfect 10-0-0 record against the Pacific Division.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win but in the end all that matters is we came out with two points,” captain Nico Hischier said. Tatar agreed, “that’s what good teams do. We had to overcome the fatigue.”
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The Devils are getting Nathan Bastian back, as he will take on his former team. Bastian has been out with a shoulder injury since Nov. 26. This is also the final game in New Jersey’s lengthy West Coast road trip, and they will return to Prudential Center on Jan. 22 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils only have four games left before the All-Star break, and every point matters while they try to regain their division lead from Carolina.
The Devils Projected Lines:
Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Erik Haula – Jack Hughes – Dawson Mercer
Yegor Sharangovich – Jesper Boqvist – Tomas Tatar
Miles Wood – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves – Damon Severson
Nikita Okhotiuk – Brendan Smith
The Kraken Projected Lines:
Andre Burakovsky – Matthew Beniers – Jordan Eberle
Ryan Donato – Alexander Wennberg – Jared McCann
Eeli Tolvanen – Yanni Gourde – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Brandon Tanev – Morgan Geekie – Daniel Sprong
Vince Dunn – Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak – William Borgen
Carson Soucy – Haydn Fleury
What’s Happening in Seattle
The Kraken are defying expectations in Year 2, and are just two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the Pacific Division lead. After an eight-game win streak, Seattle has somewhat struggled, losing two games to stronger teams. They lost 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 16 and 5-2 to the Edmonton Oilers the day after. The losses were the team’s first two of 2023, and both were by three-goal margins. Seattle made it a one-goal game against the Oilers in the third period but could not seal the deal against Connor McDavid and company. “We’ve got to have everybody digging in and doing their part,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t have that to a high enough level tonight.”
Tonight marks the start of a five-game homestretch for the Kraken, and the next time they leave Climate Pledge Arena will be following the All-Star break. Three of those games are against Western Conference opponents, as they have a game on Jan. 20 against the Colorado Avalanche before they get three days off. They follow that up with a back-to-back against the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, two of their Pacific Division rivals.
Last week, goaltender Martin Jones was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. In three games during that stretch, he won all of them while recording two shutouts and posting a .933 save percentage. He has assumed starter’s duties from Philipp Grubauer, and it is expected the Devils see Jones in the starter’s net tonight.
Keep an Eye On:
New Jersey Devils: Ryan Graves
Even though Ryan Graves has missed some time with an injury, he has been on fire since his return, riding a five-game point streak. In the past two games, “Gravesy” has scored twice, including one 29 seconds into the game against San Jose. He has a plus-31 rating on the year, tied for the league lead. In 41 games, Graves has five goals and 16 points on the year and has seemed to find a comfortable spot with Damon Severson on his pairing since his return. Head coach Lindy Ruff spoke highly of Graves, saying that “he has a sneaky way of getting involved offensively.” Graves is a free agent after the season, and with the role he’s played for New Jersey this season, he will be seeing a lot of money thrown his way in the summer.
Seattle Kraken: Vince Dunn
Much like Graves, Vince Dunn is on a goal streak of his own, scoring in both of the Kraken’s losses earlier this week. He was the lone Kraken to find the back of the net against Tampa Bay, and he scored the goal against Edmonton to open the third period. He’s on an eight-game point streak and is on pace to shatter his previous career highs in several statistical categories. Against the Oilers, Dunn played an astounding 27:26 on the ice, and he often plays over 20 minutes per game. After the game, Dunn was vocal, saying that “we’ve got to find a way to win games,” and that “if we’re tired now, then we’re definitely in a lot of trouble.” In two games against the Devils last season, Dunn was able to add two assists, and with the hot streak he’s been on, it would not be a surprise for him to add to his 33 points on the year.
Where to Watch:
The Devils and Kraken will play each other on MSGSN, with Bill Spaulding and Ken Daneyko calling the action from Climate Pledge Arena. The Devils Hockey Network will also call the game and provide fans with an opportunity to listen to the action.
Erik Johnsen is one of the NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. He is also a writer for Triple Play Newsletter. Erik is a 2022 Rider University graduate, and co-hosts a podcast called Too Many Men.