Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New Jersey Devils hosting the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:
• Even with STL’s forward line combinations in flux this season due to a series of injuries and illnesses, RW Vladimir Tarasenko has stepped up, scoring 6 goals in his last 4 games and powering the Blues to a 5-game win streak heading into tonight.
• Top forwards David Backes (concussion), T.J. Oshie (concussion), Joakim Lindstrom (bacterial infection) and Paul Stastny (shoulder) have all missed time this season, causing Blues coach Ken Hitchcock to use whatever combination “pops out of the blender” during morning skate for his starting top line. Backes and Lindstrom are now back, but Oshie and Stastny are not expected to play tonight.
• Tarasenko leads STL with 13 points (7G-6A) this season. The 22-year-old Russian, who told NHL.com he talks to his grandfather Vladimir after every game, had his first career hat trick in a 4-3 OT win over DAL last week. He scored a highlight-reel power-play goal in regulation and the shootout winner in STL’s 4-3 (SO) victory over NYR on Monday. But his grandfather always tells him “it’s only one night” and “tomorrow” is always the most important.
• Tarasenko previously played with Blues teammate Jori Lehtera at Sibir Novosibirsk of the KHL and represented Russia at the 2014 Sochi Games.
• NJ has won 3 of its last 4 games, but in all 3 of those victories the Devils have had to come from behind, which has frustrated their two Czech veterans, 42-year-old RW Jaromir Jagr and 38-year-old C Patrik Elias. NJ beat OTT, 3-2 (OT), on Oct. 25 and ended their 0-for-18 shootout game skid with a 2-1 (SO) win over WPG on Thursday before beating CBJ, 3-2, on Saturday.
• Jagr after beating CBJ: “I’m getting frustrated. We’re just wasting energy away and we don’t make plays. The third period comes and you’re going to put it together, and the power is here to win the hockey games, but we can make it so much easier for ourselves and more enjoyable by playing games the right way.”
• Elias after beating CBJ: “We’re not skating as well as we should, for whatever reason. You saw how we played in the first few games of the season. For six or seven games, even though we lost some of them, we were still playing well. That’s what we’ve got to get back to.”
• This is NJ’s first season since 1992-93 without G Martin Brodeur – the NHL’s all-time wins leader (688) – starting in net. After facing questions on whether he could handle Brodeur’s workload, American G Cory Schneider has started all 11 of the team’s games, posting a 6-3-2 record, 2.83 GAA and .909 SV%.
• 101st regular-season meeting and the first of 2 meetings this season between STL and NJ. They will play again on Thursday in STL.
• STL leads all-time series 49-36-14-1 (W-L-T-OL).
• Last season, NJ won 7-1 at home on Jan. 21, and STL won 3-0 at home on Jan. 28. In the first game, 7 different players scored goals for NJ.
• STL: Since 2013, the Blues’ .781 (12-3-1 record) winning percentage in the month of November is the best in the NHL (Per Elias).
• NJ: 10-for-38 on the power play this season (26.3% – 3rd best in NHL).
• NJ: 33-for-48 on the penalty kill this season. (68.8% – 2nd worst in NHL).
• NJ: RW Jaromir Jagr needs 1 goal to tie Mike Gartner for 6th on the all-time goal list with 708. Jagr already has the most career goals among active NHL players with 707.
• STL: C Paul Stastny (shoulder) and RW T.J. Oshie (concussion) are both day-to-day.
• NJ: LW Mike Cammalleri (jaw/neck) and RW Jordin Tootoo (foot) are both day-to-day.
• STL: C David Backes: 1G-5A in 7 career GP vs. NJ.
• STL: LW Alexander Steen: 2G in 2 GP vs. NJ last season, including one game-winner.
• NJ: RW Damien Brunner / D Eric Gelinas: Both had 1G-2A in NJ’s 7-1 win over STL on Jan. 21 last season.
• NJ: RW Jaromir Jagr: 8G-16A, including 3 PPG, in 27 career GP vs. STL.
BLUES TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• Captain C David Backes, a two-time U.S. Olympian, returned to the lineup on Nov. 1 vs. COL after missing one game with a concussion. He was third on STL with 57 points last season, but has just 2G-3A so far this season, putting him seventh on the team with 5 points.
• RW T.J. Oshie is day-to-day after suffering a concussion vs. DAL on Oct. 30. He has 1 assist in 8 games this season, one in which he’s caring for both his 8-month-old daughter and his father with Alzheimer’s off the ice.
• Oshie became a worldwide star last February at the Sochi 2014 Games, converting 4 of 6 shootout attempts vs. Russia to give the U.S. a 3-2 victory in the preliminary round. He is 27-for-49 (55.1%) in shootouts in six-plus seasons with STL, including an NHL-leading 9 shootout goals last season. He is 0-for-1 on shootout attempts this season.
• D Alex Pietrangelo, part of Canada’s gold-medal winning Sochi 2014 Olympic team, leads STL this season with 25:38 TOI/G. For the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, he shaved his head in late October to support his girlfriend’s niece, Ellie, who was diagnosed with cancer last August.
• Following the departures of G Jaroslav Halak and G Ryan Miller, G Brian Elliott took over as the team’s top goaltender to start the season despite having never played more than 38 games in a season in three years with STL. Because Elliott played Monday against NYR, G Jake Allen is expected to make the start at NJ tonight.
• STL is allowing 2.00 goals/game this season (T-6th best in NHL). Allen is 2-1-0 in 3 starts so far in his first full NHL season with a 1.34 GAA and .944 SV%.
DEVILS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• C Adam Henrique leads NJ with 9 points (4G-5A) this season and has an upbringing unlike any of his teammates. Henrique and his three brothers were raised on a family tobacco farm in Burford, Ontario, and it was his job to prime the leaves.
• In May 2012, Henrique told the New York Times that priming tobacco growing up made him chase a career in hockey a little harder: “You’re like this, picking leaves, putting the leaves in your bag, and the leaves are hitting you in the face, and it’s wet. You got tar all over you, and you’ve got an 80-pound bag that you’re filling up. It’s no fun.”
• Henrique is expected to be put on the same line with C Patrik Elias tonight to give the Devils offense a jolt. Elias has gone 10 straight games without a goal.
• At 42, RW Jaromir Jagr is in his 21st season with his 7th NHL team and is tied for second on NJ with 8 points this season. He leads all active players in goals (707), assists (1,056), points (1,763) and games played (1,484).
• The 5-time Olympian and 5-time Art Ross Trophy winner (NHL scoring leader) is one of 25 players in the Triple Gold Club, having won two Stanley Cups with PIT (1991, 1992), an Olympic gold with the Czech Republic (1998) and two IIHF World Championships with the Czech Republic (2005, 2010).
• D Damon Severson, 22 years younger than Jagr, already has 4G-4A and in 21:59 TOI/G in his rookie season.