Friday, January 12, 2007


Game: Atlanta @ Devils, 3 of 4

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

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Thrashers: 0-1-1 Preview

The team that has New Jersey's number all year has been struggling as of late. The Thrashers lost to Montreal on Tuesday, which was their fourth straight loss. Unfortunately, this may be a case of history repeating itself. The Thrashers brought a five game losing streak into New Jersey in December, and broke that streak with a 4-3 shootout win. I don't think I need to remind you that the Thrashers are strong up top with Marian Hossa (26 G, 32 A), Ilya Kovalchuk (23 G, 22 A), and Slava Kozlov (17 G, 28 A). They have a pretty good goaltender in Kari Lehtonen, as well. Let's not forget about the checkers for Atlanta, led by Bobby Holik (8 G, 11 A, +6) - they have given the Devils' forwards fits in past Atlanta-New Jersey games. The Thrashers are definitely looking forward to tonight's game to break their losing streak and to re-assert their recent dominance over the Devils.

The New Jersey Devils lost to St. Louis on Wednesday 3-2, which was disappointing. Looking at the big picture, it's a cloud on an otherwise open and sunny sky. Since New Jersey's last loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, they have went 6-1-1 with 3 shutouts - featuring victories over the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Ottawa Senators. I'd still say Martin Brodeur's 6-1-1, 1.61 GAA, and 3 shutout stat line over that span still makes him "hot." Brian Gionta is blazing as well with 5 goals in his last 3 games. Patrik Elias remains to put up points, as the preview notes his last 11 games had him light the lamp 6 times and assist others lighting said lamp 8 times.

Tonight also features the return of Colin White. This is mentioned in the notes section of Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger about how Brodeur may be the only All Star for New Jersey. While I expect some of the proverbial rust on Colin White tonight, his return means Brad Lukowich, Brian Rafalski, and Paul Martin do not have to have 30 minutes of ice time each for much longer. There is some bad news, however, Alex Brooks will be out three weeks with a fractured left foot after taking a shot there - presumably in the recent game against the Blues. He has been placed on long term injured reserve, allowing some cap space for a defenseman to be called up. Mark Fraser was sent down to Lowell, so I wonder if we will see the debut of Andy Greene. I'm just guessing, it could just as easily be Thomas Harant. All I know that it is not Richard Matvichuk nor is it Johnny Oduya, who will not be ready in time for the games this weekend.

Anyway, the return of Colin White should provide an emotional boost for the Devils tonight. Regardless, the Devils defense needs to make sure the top three forwards for Atlanta are contained as much as possible. Marian Hossa has lit up the Devils before, and while shorthanded. Even with a power play, the defense must be concerned with Atlanta's talent at forward. On the offensive side of things, the Devils need to take advantage of using the end boards. If I recall correctly, the Thrashers are pretty good in collapsing in their own zone (again, I think this is true), so the Devils will need to skate quite hard and establish puck possession in the offensive zone quickly along the sides. When the defense starts advancing (or if they are already there) along the sides, that's when the Devils should look for a pass to the center or to the point to maintain possession and get a shot. And when I say get a shot, I mean a clear one. Nobody scores on blocked shots, so shots taken with three bodies in front of the shooter are ill advised.

Projected lines with the return of Colin White:




Go Devils and good luck.

UPDATE: According to the AHL's transaction page, Andy Greene will be that 6th defenseman. He was called up from Lowell in order to play in his first NHL game tonight. Hopefully, head coach Claude Julien gives him more than 1 minute of ice time.


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