Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Game: Atlanta @ Devils, 1 of 4

The Atlanta Thrashers come to the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
NHL.com Preview

The Devils are coming off a win so big against the Rangers, I dare suggest it was huuuuge (say it like Mike Francesca). While the discipline could have been better and the Rangers made Marty see a lot of pucks, the Devils outplayed the Rangers and lit them up. Especially on the powerplay. The Devils are rolling, with Patrik Elias catching fire. Elias has 7 goals and 8 assists in his last 10 games, a stretch wherein the Devils went 6-3-1. Tom Gulitti's article in today's Bergen Record focuses on the Devils' captain and how far he has come (which is incredible to say the least). So while NJ was on a three game losing streak prior to the Rangers game, the 6-1 win out of MSG from Sunday has them feeling pretty good. The team is about to get another positive "bump" soon. Rich Chere of the Star Ledger reports today that Cam Janssen practiced yesterday and will be ready soon - though he won't play tonight. Cam says he's ready, but he'll need medical clearance before returning.

The Thrashers could be doing better as of late. While they lead the Southeast Division, they have lost their last 3 games: 2-1 to Anaheim, 3-2 to Washington, and they were subject to a 6-0 rout at the home of the New York Islanders. The Thrashers are struggling, to say the least. However, doubting the Thrashers' quality is a poor choice. Atlanta did defeat the Devils in all of the four regular season games they played each other last season. Furthermore, the team does have quite a bit of talent. Marian Hossa (22 G, 20 A), Slava Kozlov (11 G, 26 A), and Ilya Kovalchuk (18 G, 18 A) are all ace on offense. Those three alone will present a challenge for John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Sergei Brylin, and the Devils' blueline to contain - and possibly stop - them. The Thrashers also boast a set of good character and defensive forwards such as ex-Devil Bobby Holik, two-way center Steve Rucchin, Glen Metropolit, and pre-season superstar Jon Sim. Kari Lehtonen is the Thrashers' top goaltender and I can't imagine why he wouldn't start. He currently boasts a 13-7-6 record with a 2.86 GAA, a 90.7% save percentage, and 4 shutouts. Lehtonen hasn't done as well as of late, losing his last 4 starts; but when he's on, he's incredibly tough to beat.

The Devils need to come out right from the first second and start pressing the Thrashers' defense. Led by Greg de Vries, they have done pretty well; but they are not unbeatable. The Devils need to establish the pace of the game early on and force Atlanta to play catch up early. The checking unit needs to have their "A" game, as Kovalchuk, Hossa, and Kozlov are not guys you want to have skating about causing havoc on offense. They are incredibly talented and will score if allowed. In short, play them like they were the Rangers just like from Sunday night and NJ should be fine. Expect the same lines as we have seen in the last few games. GO DEVILS!


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