The San Jose Sharks (26-33-4, 7th Pacific) and the New Jersey Devils (25-27-10, 8th Metropolitan) didn’t play for the first four and a half months of the season. Tonight the two teams will play for the second time in the span of a week.
The last showdown didn’t go well for the Sharks. The team lost 2-1 last Thursday. San Jose’s lone goal was scored by Tim Heed, bringing his season total to one goal. Martin Jones made 23 saves but was out dueled by young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood who made 36 saves in the win.
Though only a week has passed, the rosters look different for both teams. Both the Sharks and the Devils were sellers at the trade deadline. We’ve covered San Jose’s deadline day ad nauseum, but we can take a look at what happened to the Devils.
New Jersey’s big moves came before the first game against the Sharks. They traded captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for prospect David Quenneville and a second-round draft pick. Then, they traded young emerging forward Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for prospect Nolan Foote and a first-round draft pick.
On deadline day, the selling continued. Sami Vatanen was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a pair of prospects and a pick. They sent young goaltender Louis Domingue to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltending prospect Zane McIntyre. And they traded forward Wayne Simmonds to the Buffalo Sabres for a conditional pick. In other words, they sent NHL caliber players to other teams in exchange for potential future NHL caliber players.
Youth versus youth
Which leads me to the first key of tonight’s game. Youth versus youth. What we’re left with is a few NHL players and a bunch of AHL guys getting a shot with the big club. The Devils and the Sharks will field young rosters tonight with some veterans sprinkled in for good measure.
The Devils top-six will feature 18-year-old Jack Hughes, 21-year-old Nico Hischier, and 21-year-old Joey Anderson. 14 players on the Devils roster will be 25 years or younger at game time.
Meanwhile, Sharks youth like Alexander True, Noah Gregor and Joel Kellman will have to continue to make strides.
Logan Couture finding his legs
Logan Couture is expected to be back for his second game since returning from injury and we’ll see if he starts to look more game ready.
Couture had 22 shifts for 18:05 of ice time during his return. He played just over two minutes on the power play and about 40 seconds on the penalty kill. Couture didn’t score, but he had some chances. He also had some rough moments.
Couture took a lot of punishment on that shift, hit by Grant, blocked a van Riemsdyk shot, then battles with Pitlick behind net pic.twitter.com/dIOZw5kS3P— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 26, 2020
It will take a game or two more for Couture to truly be back in game shape, but this long home stand should help.
I expect to see a more game ready Couture tonight.
Rookie goalie versus former veteran stud
Usually, we use this game preview to look at things having to do with the Sharks, but the Cory Schneider story is just a little too good to ignore. The Devils waived Cory Schneider on Nov. 17, 2019 after an abysmal start. In 9 starts, Schneider had a 0-5-1 record and the Devils were floundering.
After New Jersey sent one of their young netminders, Louis Domingue, to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline, the Devils needed a new backup. Schneider got the call.
On Tuesday, Schneider got his first win of the season making 27 saves and beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. It will be interesting to see if the Devils ride the hot hand in Schneider or go with the guy they’ve relied upon all season, Mackenzie Blackwood.
Blackwood has a record of 21-12-7 this season with a 2.73 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. He’s done respectably well for his first full NHL season.
Bold prediction: I’m either too bold or not bold enough with these predictions, but I’ll give it a shot. Logan Couture scores and the Sharks’ top players, yes all three or four of them, find their game again. San Jose exacts revenge in a game that’s pretty much meaningless in the grand scheme of things and wins 4-1.