Red Wings face red-hot Devils
The National Hockey League ramps back up after its annual three-day holiday break, but the schedule does no favors for the Detroit Red Wings, who face off with the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
While the Red Wings (13-15-7) will be refreshed from the time off, they return to action against the Devils (21-9-5), who sit atop the Metropolitan Division and bring a four-game winning streak into the matchup.
“As we come back from Christmas, we have to make sure we continue to get our guys to come and play extremely hard,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told reporters after Saturday’s 3-1 road loss to the Boston Bruins before the break.
“So far, guys have kept their belief up to a good level. I haven’t seen any drop in belief.”
After missing out on the postseason a year ago, the Red Wings are desperately trying to remain relevant in the playoff race this season. Detroit started a promising 10-8-2 through Nov. 17 but proceeded to win only one of its next 11 games (1-5-5). More recently, it lost two straight after winning a pair of games in a row.
“You can’t let it frustrate you, you have to keep playing well,” veteran Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told The Detroit News. “As a team, we’ve been playing well of late. We’re just not getting results.”
The Red Wings need to bring their best Wednesday, facing a Devils team that has a points streak of six consecutive games (5-0-1). The Devils won the first four games of their current six-game homestand.
“Just take it one game at a time,” Howard said. “You can’t string together four (wins) together right away. You have to take it one game at a time and just build on it.”
The Devils throttled the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Saturday, following up on their emotional 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Rangers two days prior.
Brian Boyle extended his impressive point-scoring streak to four consecutive games with his 10th goal in the victory Saturday. However, Boyle, who has four goals and four assists during the streak, suffered an unspecified injury in the second period and did not return for precautionary reasons, according to the team. His status for Wednesday is questionable.
“He’s a player and he’s integral to our success, scoring big goals and making big plays,” Devils goalie Cory Schneider said of Boyle.
Also questionable for the Devils is winger Kyle Palmieri, who exited the game against the Blackhawks in the third period with an unspecified injury — only his third game back following a 12-game absence due to a broken foot. Palmieri scored his fifth goal Saturday and has three points in his last three games.
If either is unable to play against the Red Wings, veteran Drew Stafford likely would return to the Devils lineup. Stafford, without a point in his last 18 games, was a healthy scratch Saturday for the first time this season.
Coming off a 39-save performance against the Blackhawks, Schneider is 16-6-4 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, and likely will start his seventh straight game Wednesday.
“(Schneider) has been great all year,” said Taylor Hall, who leads the Devils with 34 points. “You could say that after every game that Schneids has been the reason why we’re in games, why we’re winning. It’s a credit to him.”
Wednesday is the second of three meetings this season between the Red Wings and Devils. Back on Nov. 25, Brian Gibbons scored in overtime as the Devils beat the Red Wings 4-3 in Detroit.