Travis Zajac

Blake Coleman of New Jersey Devils shoots on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price
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The Buzzer: Coleman’s special birthday carries Devils

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Three Stars

1) Blake Coleman, New Jersey Devils

When your birthday is in late November, it usually falls on American Thanksgiving once in a while. Coleman celebrated with his first career four-point game in the Devils’ 6-4 win against the Canadiens. He scored his eighth of the season when he opened the scoring at the Bell Centre at 7:19 of the first period. Nikita Gusev faked a shot then slid a pass through Shea Weber as he and Coleman executed a two-on-one opportunity. Coleman would go on to add two more assists and an empty netter to seal the 6-4 victory late in the third period.

2) Nikita Gusev, New Jersey Devils

The Russian winger collected three assists and recorded his first multi-point game of his NHL career. Gusev has 11 points in 21 games this season and has effectively made a smooth transition to North America after playing the previous four seasons in the KHL. The Devils have not gotten the goaltending needed to have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason, but Gusev’s ability to adapt to new surroundings has been a minor bright spot in a bleak season.

3) Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

Zajac wonderfully batted a bouncing puck past Carey Price as the alternate captain collected his third goal of the season to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Gusev picked up his second assist of the night when he sent a fluttering puck toward the net. Zajac darted toward the cage and got behind Jesperi Kotkaniemi before the beautiful finish.

Highlight of the night

Price has been under a lot of scrutiny due to his inconsistent play in recent games. At the end of the second period, Price reminded Kyle Palmieri and the audience why he is one of the best goaltenders of this generation with this stellar glove save.

Factoids

  • The Canadiens set a franchise record by allowing 20 goals in their last three home games [Sportsnet Stats].
  • The Devils improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine games against the Canadiens dating back to February 27, 2017 [NHL PR].
  • The Devils/Rockies/Scouts franchise earned a win on U.S. Thanksgiving for the third time in its history [NHL PR].
  • On this date 40 years ago, Billy Smith of the New York Islanders became the first goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal [NHL PR].

Scores

Devils 6, Canadiens 4

Wednesday Night Hockey: Devils searching for first win of season

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After failing to make the playoffs last season, the Devils made some significant changes to their roster during the summer. First, they drafted Jack Hughes number one overall. Second, they swung deals with the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev. Third, they signed Wayne Simmonds to a one-year contract. That’s some significant movement.

So, it’s only natural that general manager Ray Shero would be disappointed by his team’s 0-1-1 start. They dropped their home opener, 5-4 in a shootout, to the Winnipeg Jets and they also proceeded to get pounded 7-2 on the road in Buffalo. Giving up 11 goals in the first two games is less than ideal and they need to find a way to fix their issues.

“We’re playing soft and light, and we’re playing like we want to have an easy game,” Devils coach John Hynes said after the loss to the Sabres, per NHL.com. “We can talk about it nine different ways; that’s the reality of where we’re at right now, so we’ve got to fix it.”

Of course, the lack of stability between the pipes is also an issue. Cory Schneider was forced to leave Thursday’s game against Winnipeg because of cramps. Mackenzie Blackwood, who entered the game in relief, gave up two goals on nine shots and then lost in the shootout. Blackwood was forced to play the next night and he gave up seven goals on 36 shots.

It sounds like Schneider will be available for tonight’s clash against the Flyers, but the players in front of him need to make life a little easier for whoever is in their goal.

“Defensively, we haven’t been hard enough in any plays, and we’re allowing teams too much time and space,” forward Travis Zajac said. “We know what we have to do and what’s our identity and what’s expected of us as a team, and we just haven’t been able to get to our identity.”

Hynes had the benefit of not having a game for three full days (Sunday through Tuesday), so his team had time to work on things on the practice rink. They better have found a solution to their issues because their upcoming schedule will be tough, as they’ll play in Philly tonight, at home against the Oilers tomorrow night, in Boston on Saturday and at home against the Panthers on Monday afternoon.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Tonight, the Devils face a Flyers team that’s making their season-debut in North America. Philadelphia took down the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague last week. They’ll now look to keep the ball rolling against a struggling divisional opponent.

The Flyers will go head-to-head against a familiar face, as they’ll welcome Wayne Simmonds back to Philadelphia for the first time since they traded him to Nashville last season.

“Hopefully I get some cheers. I was pretty deep-rooted in that community,” Simmonds told NJ.com. “I spent eight years there and had a great time. I enjoyed Philadelphia thoroughly. So I was proud to be a part of that franchise and don’t regret anything I did in a Flyers uniform.”

On Wednesday night’s season debut of Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN, NHL fans will be able to get a sneak peek to a yet to be released Green Day song called “Fire, Ready, Aim”. The song will serve as the opening theme song of Wednesday Night Hockey throughout the 2019-20 season and will be featured on NHL on NBC Sports broadcasts throughout the season.

Produced by NBC Sports, the high-energy show open features the band playing their new song on a hockey rink interspersed with action shots of more than a dozen NHL players, including Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, among others.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Zajac ‘not sure’ how Shero hire will affect future with Devils

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Like many of his Devils teammates, Travis Zajac doesn’t know what the future holds with Lou Lamoriello out and Ray Shero in as GM.

“To be honest, I’m not sure how I’ll be affected,” Zajac told NJ Advance Media. “I think I’m a very coachable player. Whatever they expect from me or want me to do, I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team in any way. I believe in this organization.

“I don’t see the change being too much of a problem for me. But with Ray, and when we get a new head coach, we’ll sit down and see what they expect from me. I have a lot to give still and I feel like I can still help this organization and this team.”

Zajac — who Lamoriello signed to an eight-year, $46 million extension in 2013 — has been something of a disappointment in recent campaigns and has yet to rediscover the form that saw him score 67 points in 82 games in 2009-10. Of course, that team featured the likes of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, a far cry from the offensively-challenged Devils of last season, when Zajac scored just 25 points.

To that end, he feels it’s important for Shero to add some talent that’ll help the team find the back of the net.

“We would all like to score more goals. There is no doubt about that,” he said. “We could use some help at some positions and hopefully we can get that. If not, everyone will have to elevate their game. I don’t think we’re far away from where we want to be, but you can always bring in pieces that can help.”

PHT Morning Skate: Henrik Sedin gives 700th assist puck to fan with Make-A-Wish

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Henrik Sedin gave his 700th assist milestone puck to Alex, who spent a day with the Vancouver Canucks with the help of Make-A-Wish:

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $10,000 league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $1,200. Starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET. Play Now!

By helping the Florida Panthers beat the Boston Bruins on Thursday, Jaromir Jagr thinks he’s given Pittsburgh Penguins fans a reason to like him again. (Steve Goldstein)

Travis Zajac sees the criticism he’s been on the receiving end of as something that “comes with that territory.” Zajac, who agreed to a eight-year, $46 million deal in 2013, has 24 points in 73 games this season. (The Bergen Record)

Here are the highlights from St. Louis’ 2-1 win over Chicago:

Here are five things the Detroit Red Wings had working for them in their successful quest to clinch the playoffs for a 24th straight campaign. (NHL.com)

If the Ottawa Senators make the playoffs, then there will be five Canadian teams in the first round. That’s not a scenario many people would have predicted going into the 2014-15 campaign. (Toronto Sun)

Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers are wrapping up a campaign that fans might wish they could forget. (Edmonton Journal)

Elias joins the 1,000 point club in Devils win over the Sabres

With the New Jersey Devils already leading 3-1, Patrik Elias setup Mike Cammalleri’s empty net goal giving him 1,000 career NHL points.

Elias becomes just the fifth Czech-born player to reach the 1,000 point mark. He is also the 82nd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

Elias also had a goal in the win and setup Travis Zajac’s shorthanded marker.

Jordin Tootoo other Devils goal.

Mikhail Grigorenko had his first goal for the Sabres since Jan. 29, 2013.