Devils Gameday Preview: Ottawa Senators

The New Jersey Devils will look to put together a winning streak during this week’s three-game homestand. They get their first chance to end a three-game losing streak on Monday when they host the Ottawa Senators. This game was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, 2021, but was rescheduled after the Senators placed 10 players on the NHL’s COVID Protocol list.

The two teams last met on Jan. 27, 2020, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, when the Devils won in a shootout – MacKenzie Blackwood made two saves, and Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes scored to secure the win. That victory also ended a three-game losing streak. Maybe history will repeat itself. Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of tonight’s game.

2 Storylines: Ottawa Senators (6-15-1)

The Senators’ Two-Game Winning Streak

Unlike the Devils, things have been going well for the Senators in early December. They lost to the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 1 but earned wins in their next two games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche. Drake Batherson has six points in his last five games and leads the team with 18 points.

Before those last two games, Ottawa had lost six in a row as the team battled with Covid and placed goaltender Matt Murray on waivers before assigning him to the Belleville Senators in the American Hockey League. The team also had an extended team meeting before they faced the Hurricanes to try and turn their season around.

Related: Senators Could See a Much Different Gaudette

“We just went over what our team is, what our identity is and what we want to be known as,” captain Brady Tkachuk said. “That meeting was a little longer than most meetings, no video, we just talked about ourselves and I think that was important to get back to the basics and get back to what we want to be known as and what our identity needs to be.”

Tkachuk on a Tear

In early November, the Senators named Tkachuk the team’s 10th captain in franchise history. He’s been leading by example with the game-winning goal against the Avalanche, and he is on a three-game point streak. He’s been all over the ice, embracing his new title.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Complete leadership,” head coach D.J. Smith said of Tkachuk. “We know he’s physical and emotional and he can make plays but his play away from the puck has been significantly better.”

2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (9-9-4)

Devils Change up Their Lines

Yesterday, head coach Lindy Ruff told the media he will be breaking up the Andreas Johnsson, Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt line. The trio has been the team’s most successful line, but are Ruff wants to roll three or four lines each game instead of depending on one.

Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils
Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils (Kristy Flannery / The Hockey Writers)

“I think if you look at it putting Jesper [Bratt] back with Nico [Hischier] that line was real good,” said Ruff. “You know Jack [Hughes] got us a goal. I think the strength of our team will be if the scoring from two or three lines if we get that depth of scoring. I know it kind of hurts to break it up, but Jack is coming back in the lineup. Getting him back playing center means that we have Mercer, Jack and Nico now. If your top six get the bulk of the ice time you have to break that line up.”

Devils lines at yesterday’s practice:

Zacha – Hischier – Bratt

Johnsson – Hughes – Sharangovich

Tatar – Mercer – Vesey

Kuokkanen – McLeod – Bastian/Boqvist

Graves – Hamilton

Siegenthaler – Severson

Subban – Smith

Geertsen – Jaros

New Jersey Finally Scored on the Power Play

One good thing that came out of the Devils’ 8-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday was the power play. At the halfway mark of the first period, Damon Severson scored the team’s first power-play goal in 19 attempts. He was on the second power-play unit that included Severson, Ty Smith, Mercer, Johnsson and Tomas Tatar. They are still waiting for their top unit to produce, but it has looked good recently.

Players to Watch

New Jersey Devils: Dawson Mercer

Whether Mercer has the puck on his stick or causing chaos in front of the opposition’s net, he is always doing something to help his team. If the Newfoundland native had not battled for position in front of Connor Hellebuyck would Hughes have been able to score on the rebound? He is always a player to watch, but especially if he lines up against 22-year-old Josh Norris.

Ottawa Senators: Josh Norris

The young forward has been performing well for the Senators, with goals in his last four games and averaging 19 minutes of ice time. Along with linemates Tkachuk and Batherson, Norris’ line will be dangerous tonight. If the Devils’ defense focuses on Tkachuk, Norris could be left open enough to have an outstanding game.

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