Off big win, Blackhawks visit new-look Devils
On Thursday night, the struggling Chicago Blackhawks experienced the euphoria that comes with beating the hottest team in the NHL.
The New Jersey Devils are at the point where beating anybody will generate a celebration.
The Devils will look to win their first game under interim head coach Alain Nasreddine on Friday night when they host the Blackhawks in a battle of last-place teams in Newark. N.J.
The Devils have been off since Tuesday, when Nasreddine replaced the fired John Hynes hours before New Jersey squandered a pair of leads in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.
The Blackhawks will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set after snapping a three-game losing streak Thursday night with a 4-3 overtime victory over the host Boston Bruins, despite blowing a three-goal, third-period lead.
Nasreddine oversaw his first practice as head coach Thursday, but Devils players were still bemoaning the sequence of events that led to Hynes' dismissal. New Jersey has the second-fewest points (22) in the NHL and was outscored 11-1 by the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres in Hynes' final two games behind the bench.
"You don't change coaches because things are going well," Devils center Blake Coleman told reporters after practice. "I feel like, to a man, we didn't do our part. And it's a shame because (Hynes) is a great coach and a good person.
"I feel for him and his family, and it sucks to know that maybe we could have been better and could have avoided that."
The Blackhawks, who have the second-fewest points (27) in the Western Conference, aren't likely headed for a coaching change under second-year head coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over for three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville 15 games into last season. But Chicago, which was outscored 16-5 during its losing streak and entered Thursday with just one win in its last seven games, was mired in a funk even deeper than the one that got Hynes fired.
Perhaps racing out to a 3-0 lead against the Bruins before earning the win in overtime on Jonathan Toews' goal 54 seconds into overtime will have a building-block effect for the Blackhawks, who snapped Boston's eight-game winning streak.
"We had the start we needed tonight, and carried it through 60, for the most part," Toews said afterward. "It's got to be a confidence builder when you beat a team like Boston in their own building, but what matters is what you do next."
The Devils' No. 1 goalie, Mackenzie Blackwood, is likely to start in net for the Devils against the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford, who has been splitting time between the pipes with Robin Lehner.
Blackwood took the loss Tuesday, when he recorded 26 saves against the Golden Knights. Crawford last played Monday, when he made 26 saves and absorbed the defeat as the Blackhawks fell to the St. Louis Blues, 4-0.
Blackwood earned the win in his lone appearance against the Blackhawks on Jan. 14, when he stopped 27 shots in the Devils' 8-5 home victory. Crawford is 3-4-1 with an .878 save percentage and 3.49 goals-against average in eight career games against the Devils.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 6, 2019