Friday, January 26, 2007


Game: Devils @ Tampa Bay, 2 of 4

The real second half of the season begins with a four game road trip for the New Jersey Devils; they will start it off tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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

Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger is on the mark with tonight's situation. The Devils and the Lightning have not played in the last four days save for Zach Parise, Martin Brodeur, Brian Rafalski, Paul Ranger, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis. And those six guys were playing exhibition games, so tonight is a good time as any for both teams to start their push to the playoffs on the right foot.

For the Lightning, it's the time to take it into second gear. A quick look at the conference standings (available here at shows Tampa Bay enjoying a nice four point lead over 3 teams next in line for the playoffs. It's a tight race and a losing streak could be lethal. As I mentioned in my last game preview of the Lightning, they pack a powerful offensive punch - meaning the Madden unit better be ready to swarm St. Louis and Lecavalier and the defense needs to clog those passing lanes ASAP PDQ. I'd almost go as far as to suggest a constant collapsing by the Devils defense in their own zone if only to force Tampa Bay to take more long-range shots. In any case, the Devils start their road trip against a formidable opponent.

The Devils need to do three things to at least stay with the Lightning in this game. The first is to play a whole sixty minutes. This is what happened the last time they played the Lightning, the Devils were only "up for it" for maybe one and a half periods. The second is to utilize that power play. The Lightning still have one of the least effective penalty killing units in the league and the Devils offense should not be quaking in their skates at the goaltending of either Marc Denis or Johan Holmqvist. They should be aggressive by shooting early and shooting often (and I shouldn't even have to say it should be on net). The third is to limit the Lightning's top forwards. The Devils actually did this very well in their last game against Tampa Bay; but because they did not give a strong effort for much of the game and their power play was not that effective (save for the game tying goal), they were fortunate to get a point out of the game. As far as I know Andy Greene is still in Lowell, so David Hale gets a shot at redemption (and maybe some minutes) on the blueline. Regardless of who is in the line up, the Devils defense will need to step up a second time.

With respect to the rest of the season, now is the time for Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta to take it to the proverbial next level. Elias has 16 goals and 28 assists; Gomez has 9 goals and 27 assists; and Gionta has 21 goals and 17 assists. These are good numbers; but a big reason why the Devils were so strong in the last 3 months of the season was because few teams could legitimately stop the EGG line. Elias in particular was a beast last season, with 16 goals and 29 assists in 38 games; a big reason as to the team playing far better after his return, a big reason as to the Devils not only making the playoffs but taking the Atlantic Division, and a big reason why he was selected as captain after Scott Stevens retired. I'm confident each of these three players has the ability to be massive point producers; now is a great time to begin a torrid streak of goals and assists from this line. They can even do it on the power play, essentially smashing two birds with one puck.

Regardless, it should be another entertaining game tonight. I hope you enjoy it, I know I will. GO DEVILS!


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