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The Foundations of Decay: Blackhawks at Devils Preview

Back on the losing side of the column, the Blackhawks face one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

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New Jersey Devils v Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Graves of the New Jersey Devils approaches the puck ahead of Philipp Kurashev of the Chicago Blackhawks
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks took another loss on Sunday, during the second game of a back-to-back set. Now, they’ll face one of the hottest teams in the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils are 20-4-1 more than a quarter of the way through the season behind head coach Lindy Ruff. Gone are the chants of “fire Lindy” from the beginning of the season and instead, here are talks of the Devils re-signing the coach, the fifth to hit 800 career wins.

The Devils are led by a trio of scorers, all over a point-per-game pace. Jack Hughes looks like the number one overall pick he was drafted to become, with 29 points, including 13 goals, in 25 games. Jesper Bratt has 27 points in 25 games and Nico Hischier has 26 in 24. Oh, by the way, all three of those players are under 25 years of age.

Dawson Mercer, age 21, continues to look like an impressive player with 15 points in 25 games, while Dougie Hamilton, 29, leads New Jersey with 16 points and six goals. This young team now has an eight-point lead in the division over the Hurricanes. They have one of the best odds of making the playoffs, according to MoneyPuck.

The team is currently shooting 10.5 percent with a .915 team save percentage. That’s in part because of Akira Schmid, the Devils’ very recently promoted 22-year-old goaltender with a .949 save percentage in four starts. Vitek Vanecek, part of arguably the worst tandem in the league last year, has a .918 save percentage as the Devils’ starter in 14 starts.

This isn’t all a PDO bender, however. The Devils have the league’s best expected goal share with 60.32 percent at 5-on-5 and also have a 62.2 percent high-danger share at 5-on-5.

The Devils are crazy good this season and have all the tools to sustain that momentum. This is also largely without Ondrej Palat, the high-profile free agent the Devils signed this offseason, who was hurt back in October. Palat, a two-way forward, is likely going to make a positive impact upon return.

The Blackhawks looked less than lackluster against the Islanders on Sunday and the defense at this point just seems... defeated. Against a high-gear offense where 11 players are so far in the double digits for points, that might be a problem.

I’m not gonna say it cause it’s apparently bad luck, Hawks.

Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Devils

41.38% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 56.5% (2nd)

41.39% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 60.32% (1st)

2.54 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.72 (4th)

3.58 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.28 (2nd)

56.2% (1st) — Faceoffs — 53.4% (5th)

25.3% (11th) — Power play — 20% (24th)

74.7% (23rd) — Penalty kill — 81.6% (6th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Athanasiou — Toews— Kane

Kurashev — Domi — Raddysh

Khaira — Dickinson — Blackwell

Katchouk — Entwistle — R. Johnson

J. Johnson — S. Jones

Roos — Murphy

McCabe — C. Jones

Söderblom

Stauber

Devils

Tatar — Hischier — Bratt

Haula — Hughes — Mercer

Wood — McLeod — Zetterlund

Sharangovich — Boqvist — Holtz

Siegenthaler — Hamilton

Graves — Marino

Smith — Severson

Vanecek/Schmid

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Prudential Center, Newark

TV: NBCSCH

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV