Whenever a big Metropolitan Division opponent comes into town, it’s a big night. When it’s the New Jersey Devils, it’s an even bigger one.
The Devils are very good, to say the least. They sit atop the Metro Division with a 19-4-1 record and are coming off of an overtime loss in an overall thrilling game against the Nashville Predators. The Philadelphia Flyers are one of the four teams to have beaten the Devils in regulation so far this season, which happened in both team’s first game of the season with a 5-2 victory.
Since then, the teams have gone in separate directions. The Devils are looking to keep trending up and the Flyers continue to move down the totem pole, even though they did snap a 10 game win streak against the New York Islanders on Tuesday before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
What to Watch from The Opponent
The Devils have a plethora of weapons for the Flyers to watch out for. It all starts with the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft — Jack Hughes. He leads the team in goals with 12 and points with 28 in 24 games played. If you didn’t believe that he had found his stride in the NHL, there's no denying it now. There’s also Jesper Bratt, who is currently in search of as many points as possible during a contract year, and Nico Hischier, who have been very threatening in their own rights.
On the backend, Dougie Hamilton leads the charge offensively with 16 points in 24 games, as well as playing some stellar defense. He and his defense partner Jonas Siegenthaler lead the NHL as a pair (among those with 100 minutes minimum) in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at an insane 66.14%.
There are so many weapons that head coach Lindy Ruff has at his disposal, and it’s going to be a tough test for the Flyers.
The Flyers had three different goal contributors in their first matchup with the Devils. Travis Konecny, who just recently came off injured-reserve and was a game time decision for the game against the Lightning, and Morgan Frost both scored two goals while Wade Allison tallied his first of the three goals that he has this season.
John Tortorella’s team faced Mackenzie Blackwood in that first game before he suffered an MCL sprain against the Edmonton Oilers. Now, the offense that ranks 31st in the NHL in goals for per game will face the defense that gives up the second fewest.
Over the last five games, it’s Kevin Hayes continuing to lead the charge with three goals and five points, while Ivan Provorov has tallied three assists over that span. Hayes is also a point per game on the season with 24 points in 24 games.
One interesting thing that was noted in practice by our good friend Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic, which was regarding Cam Atkinson wearing the color of jersey that would indicate he’s playing on a game line.
Cam Atkinson is wearing an orange jersey today, which is the color jersey a player would wear who is going to be skating on a game line.— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) December 2, 2022
So that's interesting.
Now, whether or not this means anything is unclear. He was on the “fifth line” during the practice skate, and with an undisclosed upper-body injury and timeline on it, this could be very good news.
Playing New Jersey is a big test for a team that is currently sitting only three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for last place in the Metropolitan Division. The good news is, there should be some confidence, as they’re taking on a team that just lost a thriller and a team that they have beaten before, even though the two teams are in very different spots and the start of the season feels like ages ago.
Hayes - Cates - Konecny
Willman - Sedlak - Tippett
Laughton - Frost - Farabee
Deslauriers - Brown - MacEwen
Provorov - Ristolainen
Sanheim - Braun
Seeler - DeAngelo
This is the first game of two that these teams will play over a span of 12 days, and it will either be very exciting, or there’s bound to be one team that takes over the game entirely.