0
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #25: Three things to watch for against New Jersey

With American Thanksgiving a week away, the Red Wings are well into the season. Now at game No. 25, their next stop is in Newark, N.J., to take on the New Jersey Devils. The Devils garnered massive hype entering the season. Adding the likes of rookie phenom Jack Hughes and KHL star Nikita Gusev up-front will do that. Acquiring the lively P.K. Subban also turned heads. So this group is certainly improved from last year, but expectations may have been too much, and they’ve in turn disappointed as of late, going 7-10-4 to start.

Star power wise, this looks like a mismatch on paper for the Red Wings. But due to New Jersey’s inconsistent ways, this could be an interesting one.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

It seems the lines will remain the same as they did in Columbus. Detroit is still dealing with a parade of injuries. Specifically on the defensive corps. Danny DeKeyser and Patrik Nemeth remain sidelined. Mike Green’s status is uncertain, however, he could be close to a return. Joe Hicketts was returned to Grand Rapids this morning, which is a good sign for one of the three injured defensemen.

Taro Hirose draws into the forward group after being a healthy scratch a handful of times in the most recent games. This will be his opportunity to grab a permanent spot in the top-12 of the lineup.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

New Jersey

Its hard to believe the rocky start to the season the Devils have had. Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier is a lethal combination on the top-line and their is depth all throughout the forward core. Jack Hughes, of course, its the biggest wildcard here, having just found his footing in the NHL. The first overall pick from this past June’s draft is an electrifying talent that is bound for super-stardom in the near future.

On defense, Will Butcher is an underrated blue-liner paired with the flashy P.K. Subban. Those two are dangerous weapons on the powerplay that gives this team a dimension they’ve been missing for years.

Three Thoughts

1.) Jack Hughes in uncharted territory

Hughes made history by debuting in the NHL as an 18-year-old out of the United States National Development Team Program. The USNTDP has seen many future NHL stars come through the program, including No. 1 picks in Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Erik Johnson. However, never has a player jumped straight to the NHL from the USNTDP. That is, until Hughes came around.

Hughes’ inexperience against tougher competition, such as division one college hockey, drew some question marks of how smoothly his transition would go. Statistically he had a slow start, but he’s picked it up with 10 points in the past 15 games. Detroit’s patched up defense draws great concern with an opponent like Hughes. His speed and creativity could be too much to handle.

2.) Defensive deployment

Jeff Blashill’s hands are pretty much tied right now. His two best defensemen are injured, leaving him with Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski as his only real defenders capable of playing big minutes. In Columbus Hronek played over 27 minutes, a huge total for a second year player.

Blashill has obviously tried to limit the minutes of the bottom pair. Dylan McIlrath only played 7 minutes versus the Blue Jackets, being benched in the third period. In that same game Alex Biega only played 10 minutes. That’s lead to an uptick in playing time for Madison Bowey. Not a good sign, seeing as Bowey was being healthy scratched earlier in the year. Its really been a case of making the best out of a bad situation.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

3.) Fabbri stays hot

Robby Fabbri is playing the best hockey of his career right now. A coincidence, seeing as he was just acquired via trade? Possibly, but this could also just be a perfect fit. He’s picked up points in 6 of his 7 games with the Red Wings and has 8 points overall.

His quick start is huge for a Red Wings team that was desperate for any sort of secondary scoring. They still need all the help they can get, but Fabbri is certainly mitigating the problem.