New Jersey Devils Game 54 Preview: at Columbus Blue Jackets

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 28: New Jersey Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler (71) hits Vancouver Canucks center Tyler Motte (64) during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks on February 28, 2022 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils look to continue their high offensive output as they travel to Ohio to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final time this season.

Tale of the Tape

Record: 19-29-5 (43 points, 7th in Metro)

The Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets (27-25-1) – FHN Site: The Cannon Blast

Puckdrop: 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Nationwide Arena

Expected Goaltenders: Jon Gillies (3-9-2) vs. Elvis Merzlikins (18-14-1)

Television Broadcasts: ESPN+, Hulu

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets come into tonight’s game playing really well as of late. They’re 7-3-0 in their last ten games and are being led by forward Patrik Laine who has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in his last 10 games.

Although they have a positive record in their last 10, Columbus has dropped their last two games. Their most recent outing was a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday that saw goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stop 37 of 40 shots in his return from a brief stint on injured reserve.

Merzlikins will get the start tonight for Columbus. The Latvian goaltender is in his third NHL season and has a 18-14-1 record this season. In 33 appearances this year, the 27-year-old has a 3.41 GAA and .904 save percentage with two shutouts.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils have been scoring at an incredible rate since the All-Star Break. New Jersey has scored 38 goals in eight games since February 7. Jack Hughes has been a different player since exiting COVID-19 protocol with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last five games including another pair of points last night against the Vancouver Canucks.

New Jersey dominated Vancouver as 11 different players recorded a point in yesterday’s 7-2 victory. Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak was pulled in the second period after allowing six goals on only 14 shots. Nico Daws stopped 36 of 38 shots in his third career victory.

Jon Gillies is expected to be in net for New Jersey tonight. The 28-year-old has struggled this year as he comes into tonight’s game with a 3-9-1 record. Gillies has played 14 games this season between the Devils and St. Louis Blues recording a 3.70 GAA and .887 save percentage.

Second-year defenseman Ty Smith will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive night. The 21-year-old has been working through some sophomore struggles for most of the season as his positional play has taken a step back from his stellar rookie season. Colton White will slot in for Smith for the second consecutive game.

Player to Watch: Jonas Siegenthaler

The Blue Jackets have had New Jersey’s number over the past couple of seasons. That has been led, mostly, by forward Oliver Bjorkstrand who has 16 points (11 goals, 5 assists) in 18 career games against the Devils including a pair of goals against them on January 8.

The pairing of Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton will be tasked with slowing down the forward that has played extremely well against New Jersey. Siegenthaler is the more defensive of the two and that strong defensive play this season has given the team stability on the backend as well as earned him more minutes as the season has gone on.

While Siegenthaler does not contribute much offensively, one goals and 12 assists in 53 games this season, the Devils would be in a far worse place without his defense. Look for Siegenthaler to log important minutes tonight in an attempt to shut down the Blue Jackets.

Courtesy of JFresh Hockey

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