Calgary Flames vs. New Jersey Devils Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 9th 2023

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The struggles of November appear to be firmly in the past for the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils continue their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee contest against the Calgary Flames having won the first two games, the latest a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.

New Jersey, which struggled last month in big part due to injuries, has won five of six outings.

That is not the only good news for the Devils. The arrival of 2022 second overall draft pick Simon Nemec has paid dividends. His first career NHL goal, in just his third game, was the game-winner against the Kraken.

“I didn’t think,” Nemec said of his tally that came when he buried a one-timer from the slot. “I didn’t even (celebrate) or something. It’s there. I was really happy. I didn’t look happy, but I was. First goal, you’ll remember forever.”

The 19-year-old has also collected two assists in his first three NHL games.

“Another strong game (from Nemec),” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “He was able to jump in and find a lane, great shot. He had a couple opportunities where he was in on good offensive plays. His hockey sense, his ability to pick the right time is good.”

The goal, which came 9:08 into the second period, held up to be the game-winner in big part because of goaltender Akira Schmid, who made 16 of his 37 saves in the third period.

“When you’ve got a one-goal lead, it’s an uncomfortable feeling, but you have to execute the right plays,” Ruff said. “I think (Thursday) was a step again in the right direction.”

The Flames snapped a two-game losing skid with yet another comeback victory. Calgary erased a two-goal third-period deficit en route to a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

The Flames are finishing a six-game homestand and have won three of the previous five games with comebacks. Already this season, they have won five games when trailing through two periods and eight times when trailing at any point.

“There’s only two ways to win in this league and we’ve got one of them down pretty dang well,” said forward Blake Coleman, whose short-handed goal served as the winner against the Hurricanes. “If we can figure out the other half, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

As exciting as the comeback victories have been, the Flames are well aware it is not a recipe to make the playoffs. They have trailed in 21 of 22 games and surrendered the first goal in eight consecutive outings.

A huge reason they sit outside a playoff position is that inability to draw first blood, and they know it.

“You don’t want to chase games, we’ve talked about that a lot, but the resolve and the courage, whatever you want to call it, these guys have it,” coach Ryan Huska said. “They continue to play hard. I didn’t mind our start. We were down 2-0 on two deflections. … I didn’t mind our start, other than the score.”

Huska would not divulge Friday which goaltender will be tagged to start. Dan Vladar was pulled in his first start after No. 1 netminder Jacob Markstrom was sidelined due to a broken finger suffered in Monday’s practice, and rookie Dustin Wolf sparkled in the Carolina win, making 28 saves.

–Field Level Media

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