The New Jersey Devils are the talk of the hockey world after they swung a pretty big trade just 24 hours ago. We will get our first chance to see Sami Vatanen in a Devils uniform tonight as they come to Denver looking to sweep the season series with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs dropped the first meeting between these two teams back during the first weekend of the season. They will look to avenge the 4-1 loss tonight as they start their busiest month of the season.
The Devils are a team that is very similar to the Avs. They’re led by a former 1st overall pick, a bunch of rookies and a goalie that is in the midst of a bounce-back season. Both teams have been able to overcome weakness on their blue line and have been exceeding expectations so far this season.
One interesting part of tonight’s game will be to see how the crowd reacts to Will Butcher as he makes his Pepsi Center debut after leaving DU. Something tells me there might be a few boos tonight.
This will be the second game without captain Gabriel Landeskog as he waits out his four-game suspension. The team looked decent without him Wednesday night as they beat a very good Winnipeg Jets team in overtime.
Home ice has been a huge advantage for the team this year, so a win tonight will be a great way to start off December.
Patrik Nemeth has been skating with the team again. He won’t play tonight, but all signs point to him getting close to a return to the lineup.
During the first game together, the ‘kid line of Tyson Jost, Alexander Kerfoot and J.T. Compher looked great. Serving in the role of the second line, the three rookies seemed to have instant chemistry and should only improve as Jost works his way back after being away from the NHL for a month.
It looks like the Yak-attack is back in the top-6 as Nail Yakupov is going to start the game on the top line with MacKinnon and Rantanen.
Nail Yakupov - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - JT Compher - Alex Kerfoot
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Dominic Toninato - Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Mark Barberio
Anton Lindholm - Tyson Barrie
New Jersey Devils
The Devils come into this game as a new team. Thanks to the big trade, Adam Henrique - who scored the first goal when these two teams met back in October - is off to Anaheim, but inserted into the lineup is a new top pairing defenseman in Sami Vatanen.
Vatanen brings the Devils a steady presence on the back end that they haven’t had for a long while. It might take him a while to get accustomed to the new system and teammates, but he should have a major impact on the team as the season goes .on
Taylor Hall has been outstanding all season as he leads the team with 26 points through 24 games. Behind him, the rookies have been outstanding. Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt have already shown enough that the team felt comfortable moving Henrique in order to strengthen the blue line.
Will Butcher comes to town with 18 points - enough for 5th in the rookie scoring race. That total is very deceiving as he only has two 5v5 primary points. He's been a great addition to the team’s powerplay but has a tendency to struggle when playing at even strength.
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt
Pavel Zacha - Travis Zajac - Marcus Johansson
Brain Gibbons - Blake Coleman - Drew Stafford
Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Stefan Noesen
Andy Greene - Steven Santini
Will Butcher - Sami Vatanen
John Moore - Damon Severson
Semyon Varlamov is going to be back in the net for the Avs. After missing a week of game action with an illness, he looked great in his return Wednesday night - making 31 saves. This will be Varly’s 14th start of the season, he comes into the game with an 8-4-1 record and a .906 sv%.
For the Devils, we expect to see Cory Schneider between the pipes. After a rough season last year, Schneider has been good this season, posting a .918 sv% and a 9-5-3 record.
How to Watch/Listen
Altitude Sports will televise the game at 7pm MST.
If you’re listening to the radio waves, the game will air with our friend Marc Moser on 950AM Altitude Sports Network.