Coming off a pulsating victory over their most bitter rival, the New Jersey Devils must be wary of an emotional letdown when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in the final game before the Christmas break. New Jersey made it three straight wins with a dramatic shootout victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
A number of players cited a ”playoff“ atmosphere in Thursday’s win as the Devils earned some payback, running their point streak to five games since a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 9. New Jersey had perhaps its worst period and best comeback of the season versus the Blackhawks last month, allowing four goals in the opening 20 minutes before storming back for a 7-5 victory at Chicago behind Miles Wood’s first career hat trick. The Blackhawks were on a roll with five consecutive wins before stumbling to a 4-0 setback at Dallas on Thursday in the opener of a season-high six-game road trip. “We only have ourselves to blame,” captain Jonathan Toews said of the clunker versus the Stars. “Our effort was unlike the efforts we’ve seen in the last five or six games.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), MSG Plus (New Jersey)
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (17-12-5): Chicago had permitted only seven goals during its five-game winning streak, prompting forward Brandon Saad to say the team was “embarrassed” in its third loss to Dallas since Nov. 30. Forward Patrick Sharp, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks who spent the previous two seasons in Dallas, was a healthy scratch Thursday for the first time in 12 years. “Certain guys, when it’s the first time for that, it’s never easy,” said coach Joel Quenneville.
ABOUT THE DEVILS (20-9-5): Brian Boyle, who didn’t make his season debut until Nov. 1 after disclosing in mid-September that he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, tormented his former team by scoring the tying goal in the third period and the decisive tally in the shootout. “It’s been amazing to have him back,” forward Kyle Palmieri said. “In big moments, he steps up.” Boyle has scored eight times in the last 13 games and has three tallies and seven points during the three-game winning streak.
1. The Blackhawks have failed on their last 15 chances on the power play.
2. Devils G Cory Schneider is 4-0-1 in his last five starts but owns a 4-3-2 mark and 3.04 goals-against versus Chicago.
3. Blackhawks G Corey Crawford has struggled against New Jersey with a 3-3-1 record and 3.13 GAA.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Devils 3