The Tampa Bay Lightning head to New Jersey looking to get some much needed momentum after a horrific performance at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. After opening up a 1-0 lead in the first period the Lightning were held scoreless as the Rangers scored 4 unanswered goals to win 4-1. Tampa had won 4 of 6 but are now on a two game losing streak following a home loss to Nashville in overtime and last night’s loss to the Rangers.
The lightning need momentum but it’s unclear what the Devils need. They have won two of their last three games with victories over the Rangers and Canucks at home but they lost to Arizona last time out 5-3. The Devils had relatively high expectations coming into the season but so far haven’t just fallen short–they’ve fallen on their face. They’ve got the worst record in the NHL though they’re a reasonable 2-2-2 at home. They haven’t won on the road yet and with a brutal five game road trip to start the month of November they could realistically find themselves at 0-8-0 away from home when it ends.
Corey Schneider will get the start tonight for New Jersey and he’s been downright awful so far this year at 0-3-0 with a 4.08 goals against average and a .876 save percentage. His performance is even worse in context since the Devils have done a good job of limiting opponent shots on goal—only 3 teams in the league have allowed fewer than their 29 per game. They need to be getting more shots on goal, however, as they rank #24 in that category ranking #24 in that category with 29.3 per game. Other than limiting shots on goal, the Devils have done little right ranking #27 in scoring offense (2.44 goals per game) and #30 in scoring defense (3.78 goals per game against). The power play has been terrible (tied for #29 in the league) connecting on a mere 8.8% of man advantage opportunities. The penalty kill has been only marginally better ranking #24-T at 75%.
There was reason to expect that Tampa Bay would regress somewhat during the regular season after last year’s torrid performance and it’s probably too early to panic. Curtis McElhinney should get the start in net tonight and while he hasn’t been great he’s been better than the Devils’ Schneider. The Bolts might not be playing up to their abilities but they’re nowhere near the mess that New Jersey is and they should get the victory here. Tampa won all three meetings last year by a combined margin of 18-6.