The New Jersey Devils are 2-0-0 this preseason. For the first time since April 29, head coach Lindy Ruff’s team took the ice at Prudential Center and earned a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Twelve different Devils earned a point, including three offseason acquisitions. Let’s break down all the action.
Setting the Stage
Tuesday night marked the Devils’ first home preseason game of the 2022-23 campaign. It was a sparse crowd at Prudential Center for the matchup, and those not in attendance were able to listen to the debut of Bill Spaulding who replaces Steve Cangialosi as the team’s play-by-play announcer for MSG Sportsnet.
The Devils had every offseason acquisition in the lineup and went with an experienced roster that also included Jack Hughes, Miles Wood, and Dougie Hamilton. Two familiar faces suited up for the Islanders including former Devils Kyle Palmieri and Cory Schneider. Here is the complete breakdown of both teams’ rosters.
Ondrej Palat – Hughes – Alexander Holtz
Miles Wood – Erik Haula – Dawson Mercer
Yegor Sharangovich – Brian Pinho – Fabian Zetterlund
Mason Geertsen – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Brendan Smith – John Marino
Thomas Hickey – Simon Nemec
Anthony Beauvillier – Josh Bailey – Oliver Wahlstrom
Kieffer Bellows – Aatu Raty – Kyle Palmieri
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – William Dufour
Nikita Soshnikov – Kyle MacLean – Hudson Fasching
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Paul LaDue – Dennis Cholowski
Sebastian Aho – Seth Helgeson
Palat-Hughes-Holtz Line Continues to Show Promise
The coaching staff is continuing to give Holtz the best opportunity possible to make the team’s opening night roster. Since training camp began, he has been skating on a line with Hughes and Palat. The 20-year-old Swede has looked good finding the back of the net multiple times during the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, NY, and the team’s intrasquad scrimmages at Prudential Center. Tuesday night, Holtz earned the primary assist on Hughes’ second-period goal with a beautiful pass to the young superstar, earning his first preseason point.
The preseason is the perfect time for players to build chemistry with each other, and after the game, Holtz discussed one of the benefits of playing with Palat stating, “I can learn a lot from him [about] the wall battles. So he helped me a lot with that, so it was nice.”
Haula & Marino Impress in their Preseason Debut
It is safe to say the team’s newest acquisitions shined in Tuesday night’s victory, as Haula scored the team’s final goal of the night getting the puck past Schneider after receiving a pass from Wood. Since the start of training camp, the aforementioned two players have been on a line with Mercer, and they are focused on improving their chemistry.
“It’s a chance for us to get to know each other, know where we are, and know our game a bit better,” said Haula. “Like I said earlier I thought we did a good job [tonight]. We spent minimal time in our defensive zone and had a lot of good offensive zone looks.”
On July 18, Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald acquired defenseman John Marino via a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last night the 25-year-old looked extremely comfortable collecting an assist on Yegor Sharangovich’s goal in the first period. His skating seems to be underrated and after the game, coach Ruff discussed his newest blueliner.
“He comes from a very successful Pittsburgh team. I thought he skated well, got up in the play well. He made that first play that allowed us to tie the game up. I’m just really getting to know him, but I thought that he defended really well, I thought he moved his feet really well in the game.”
Simon Nemec Continues to Adjust
Nemec made his preseason debut for the Devils playing 20:37, which was the second highest among defensemen behind Hamilton. Additionally, the coaching staff gave him time on the team’s second power play unit. After the game, he talked to Mike Morreale of NHL.com about his performance.
“I think I played solid game,” Nemec said. “Sometimes I made some mistakes, but it wasn’t bad for first game. I think I was good in the defensive zone and I was a little bit surprised (by that), but it can be better.”
Since the beginning of training camp, Nemec has shown flashes of brilliance but is still learning and adjusting to playing in North America. The Devils are loaded with defensemen, and for the first time in a long time, have an excess of options including Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk. There is no need to rush Nemec’s development and a season in the American Hockey League with head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff will only improve the skills he already has.
Game Notes & Observations
- Schneider took over the crease halfway through the game for the Islanders, and when the goalie change was announced the 36-year-old was met with applause from the crowd.
- The fourth line that consisted of Geertsen – McLeod – Bastian finished the game with nine hits, and four blocked shots and was on the ice for one of the team’s four goals.
- The attendance for the contest was 5,526.
The Devils are off today and will be back on the ice tomorrow morning at 8:45 am. They will have back-to-back games Thursday and Friday night against the New York Rangers as the preseason continues, and the countdown to the 2022-23 season draws closer.
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.