Thursday, January 18, 2007


Game: Tampa Bay @ Devils, 1 of 4

The New Jersey Devils will host the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this season at the Continental Airlines Arena.

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

Before I get into the game I want to point that the Canadian Press is not ignoring Martin Brodeur's monster season (via As they shouldn't ignore him, in fact, they should keep fanning flames of the fire that is the drive for Martin Brodeur's Hart Trophy Campaign. I, on the other hand, should stop using clumsy metaphors.

Anyway, the Devils will take on the Lightning and it should be a good one. The Devils are clearly hot after defeating the Rangers on Tuesday and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Lightning was on a 5 game winning streak before losing to Toronto on Tuesday; they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. So tonight's game should be pretty good with both teams playing very well as of late.

The Devils are solid at both ends of the game and Martin Brodeur has been playing like, well, an all star this season. There are only two things I would caution the Devils here is to take advantage of any power plays the Devils get and do not underestimate the Lightning. First, the power play. The Lightning has second worst penalty killing unit in the NHL, with a success rate of 76.3%. If the Devils do not capitalize against the Lightning in this regard, I fear it will be a long night for the Lightning. (Also, as an aside, don't give up any scoring chances whilst on the power play as the Lightning have scored 7 shorthanded goals this season.)

The second is defense. The Lightning boast an incredibly powerful offense. While they only average 3.1 goals per game, they are loaded up front. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are only behind Sidney Crosby in the NHL in terms of scoring. St. Louis (29 G, 34 A) and Lecavalier (29 G, 34 A) are very good players and it will be up to Jay Pandolfo and John Madden to contain them as much as they can. It will be tough as St. Louis has a 12 game point streak and Lecavalier has a similar 8 game streak, they are very hot right now. The defense must be mindful and not let these two Lightning forwards do what they want. Otherwise, these two can easily win the game for the Lightning. The Lightning also boasts Brad Richards (16 G, 24 A), Vaclav Prospal (7 G, 23 A), and defenseman Dan Boyle (11 G, 27 A) as scoring threats; so the Devils can not expect just one big scoring line from the Lightning. They can score from two lines and even from the blueline. I firmly believe the Devils must be strong on defense and contain the Lightning forwards if they want to have any to beat the Lightning. It goes without saying that giving Tampa Bay several power plays would be an incredibly bad idea.

The preview says that the Devils should expect Johan Holmqvist in net for Tampa Bay. He's won his last four games (Marc Denis played in their recent loss to Toronto), so the Devils forwards should be wary. They sometimes struggle against a team's backup/1-A goalie who is playing well. Regardless, the Devils should put up some goals provided they make the most of their shots. The Lightning are 23rd in goals against, giving up an average of 3.12 goals per game; yet they are the third best team in shots against by allowing only an average of 26.4 shots per game.

On the injury front, Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger notes that defenseman Alex Brooks will not need surgery for his fractured foot and that defenseman Johnny Oduya took part in an optional practice yesterday. Oduya is questionable for tonight, so if he's not playing (and I don't expect him to), expect nothing to change with the current Devils' lineup. Andy Greene has played well in his first few games with the Devils. As an aside, the main story in the article emphasizes that the Devils should not take their Atlantic Division lead for granted. The Devils should know well enough not to, they went on a crazy winning streak to ruin a similarly large lead the Rangers held last season.

As I stated earlier, this should be a rather exciting game. Both teams have played well as of late, and it won't be easy for either team to get a win tonight. That said, it shouldn't surprise you that I hope the Devils get it tonight. GO DEVILS!!


now that devils have a 10 point lead, they can afford to play around with their lines.

i'd like to see gionta on the same line with parise and zajac.
Hey there. As a fellow Devils fan, I've been checking out your blog...there is always good info and conciseness. Keep up the great work.
Thanks, Stevens.

Anon: I don't think now is the best time to change lines. Generally, one does that to either spark a change among players, hopefully get the team to do better (usually during a slump), or due to injuries. Given that the Devils have done very well as of late, I don't see the need to switch players around.

Though Gionta with Parise and Zajac wouldn't be a bad idea.
yeah, i hear ya.

just throwing some ideas out there. i don't think i've seen gio play with zach and zaj. and given gio's ability to finish in front of the net and the playmaking abilities of the two kids, he might work out better than langenbrunner.

but just a thought...
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