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New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: A playoff rematch

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Two teams off to strong starts meet in Amalie Arena.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Team at Team: Game #11

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, MSG+

Opponent SBNation Site: All About the Jersey

Preview:

The Lightning return home after a five-game road trip where they picked up points in four of those games to face the New Jersey Devils. The Devils start a seven-game road trip of their own tonight. With a long couple of weeks of travel ahead of them, they’ll want to pick up as many points as they can early in the trip before fatigue takes effect.

This is a rematch of the first round of last season’s playoffs when the Lightning eliminated the Devils in five games. New Jersey was one of the surprises of last season powered by Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy winning performance. Hall continues to be the key player for the Devils but Kyle Palmieri is off to a hot start with eight goals and thirteen points in just eight games.

Cory Schneider returned to the Devils yesterday following his conditioning stint in the AHL but he won’t be ready to play tonight. Keith Kinkaid will get the start. That might sound like a fortunate break for the Lightning but that’s not the case. Kinkaid has been outstanding to start the season and is among the best goaltenders in the league to this point in the season.

The Lightning will continue to be without Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat. The team gave up seven goals on Saturday night in Arizona without two of their key defensive contributors. They’ll need to improve on that performance if they want to get points against a good New Jersey team.

In that blowout loss, the coaches paired Slater Koekkoek with Mikhail Sergachev. That pairing struggled and it will be interesting to see if the coaches stick with that arrangement tonight. Pairing Koekkoek with Dan Girardi and Sergachev with Braydon Coburn seems more sensible given the skill sets of the four players.

And in fact, this appears likely to happen:

Comparison chart:

With the Lightning having played ten games, we can break out the team comparison charts. If we look at the “5v5 Total” section, we see two strong teams. Both are among the league leaders in expected goal share. But they’ve gotten there in different ways.

The Lightning have excelled in limiting dangerous chances for their opposition while the Devils have excelled in exactly that area. At the other end of the ice, the Lightning haven’t generated lots of dangerous chances while the Devils have allowed many. That matchup could be key to the game. If the Lightning can clamp down on the Devils’ dangerous offense and take advantage of their defensive weaknesses, the Bolts should be in good shape.

On special teams, both teams have strong penalty kills and power plays that rely heavily on shooting talent. The difference is that the Lightning have been getting outstanding goaltending while shorthanded.

On paper, this is matchup of two of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference early in the season. And given the playoff history between the teams from last season, this could be a fun one.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

JT Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Danick Martel

Defense Pairings

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek - Mikhail Sergachev

Cameron Gaunce

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

New Jersey Devils

Forward Lines

Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri

Marcus Johansson - Pavel Zacha - Jean-Sebastien Dea

Miles Wood - Travis Zajac - Blake Coleman

Brian Boyle - Kevin Rooney - Stefan Noesen

Defense Pairings

Mirco Mueller - Sami Vatanen

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Will Butcher - Eric Gryba

Goalies

Keith Kinkaid

Cory Schneider