Saturday, November 25, 2006


Game: Devils @ San Jose

The New Jersey Devils will take on the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavillion.

Local TV: FSNY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN Preview

Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports that Cam Janssen separated his shoulder in a fight with Anaheim's George Parros and has returned to NJ for an MRI. So clearly, the Devils will be a bit short on physical presence for tonight's game. Rich Chere of the Star Ledger notes that Jim Dowd was scratched against Anaheim, so I can't imagine that he won't play tonight. My predicted lines for tonight are:



Now, the big question is: Does Martin Brodeur play tonight? Brodeur is known to have great stamina and to bounce back from less than stellar games. On the other hand, he has played 20 of the Devils' 21 games so far and faced 36 shots yesterday. I'm going to guess that Scott Clemmensen will get the start tonight for the latter reason alone. Brodeur may play out of this world, but his body is still human and still subject to fatigue.

For San Jose, the Sharks are pretty dang good. They are 16-7-0, with a 8-2-0 record at home. More importantly, they are aces on special teams. They boast the top ranking power play in the NHL with a 24.4% effective rate (and 0 shorthanded goals against); and they are right behind NJ on the penalty kill - 7th in the league with a 85.7% effective rate (and 3 shorthanded goals). For more on the Sharks, check out this article by David Pollak of the Mercury News. 14 wins in 16 games against the Eastern Conference. And the team is not taking the Devils lightly despite a terrible performance against Phoenix and a not-so-good performance against Anaheim. Mike Grier explains as such from the Pollak article:
Expect "a very patient game,'' Sharks forward Mike Grier advised Friday.

"It'll be a good test for us, to see if we can stay within the game plan and not turn pucks over, because New Jersey is as disciplined as any team we'll play this year,'' he added.

Now, the Sharks will likely be without forwards Milan Michalek and Johnathon Cheechoo. They can still put up big scoring nights, as the Sharks defeated the LA Kings on Wednesday, 6-3. They still have Patrick Marleau (13 G, 14 A) who is their leading scorer so far this season, Joe Thornton (6 G, 20 A), Steve Bernier (7 G, 12 A), defenseman Matthew Carle (3 G, 11 A) and a group of players who can put numbers up as a unit (e.g. Mike Grier, Marcel Goc, Mark Bell). While they are splitting starts, Vesa Toskala (11-2, 2.13 GAA, 92.5 Sv%) and Evgeni Nabokov (5-5, 2.54 GAA, 91.6 Sv%) are doing pretty well for the Sharks in net. Both are very talented netminders so it'll be a challenge for the Devils' skaters to beat them. Needless to say, the Devils can not take the Sharks lightly.

The key to the game will be for NJ to score first and generally control the game. That means putting shots on net. That means taking advantage of the powerplay. More importantly, that means limiting the Sharks' offense. Letting up so many shots is just asking for A) the goalie to stand on his head and B) the other team to score a ton of goals. Given how lackluster the Devils' overall offensive production has been so far this season, inviting the other team to have over 25 chances to put the puck in the net is, at least, a really poor idea. Block the shooting lanes, swarm the passing lanes, force the Sharks to make bad decisions, and above all NO SHORTHANDED GOALS. The Devils are tied with Philadelphia and Columbus with 5 shorthanded goals against, only the Ottawa Senators have let up more (with a staggering 8).

Either way, go Devils. (And you better play better tonight, Paul Martin, to give the Devils the best chance to win tonight. Play like the top 4 d-man we all know you are/can be.)


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