Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Game: Devils @ Pittsburgh, 6 of 8

The New Jersey Devils will go to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins tonight, the last game for the Devils this month.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Penguins: 3-2-0

The Devils will play in the Continental Airlines Arena for at least 2 more months. If you're wondering how the new arena is coming along, the official team site has updated their image galleries of the current construction. Thanks to SeatNJin16 at HFBoards for pointing this out. Looks like a roof is being built.

That does not matter, as the Devils are playing in Pittsburgh, looking for revenge. The Devils played the Penguins about 2 weeks ago and failed to complete a three-goal comeback to lose the game 5-4 (link goes to my recap of the game). Since that game, the Devils have done really well with a record of 4-1-0 in their last 5 games. The Penguins continued their ridiculously-hot streak with the win over NJ, but were proven to be mortal again to the Islanders last Monday in a wild 6-5 loss. They recovered with a 2-1 win over Florida, but lost their last game to Tampa Bay by a score of 5-1.

While Scott Clemmensen looked good in the Devils' recent 3-2 win over Washington on Sunday, you can bank on Martin Brodeur starting in net tonight. You cannot, however, bank on Brian Gionta or David Hale playing tonight. Gionta is still day-to-day with a groin injury. Hale is out with a cold and did not make the trip to Pittsburgh as Colin Stephenson reports in today's Star Ledger. The same article notes that Rod Pelley was sent back to Lowell, so expect Jim Dowd to retain his spot centering the fourth line. Also expect someone come up from Lowell, Mark Fraser perhaps, to be called up to replace David Hale's spot for tonight's game. On Pittsburgh's end, they may have completed trade: forward Gary Roberts will go the Penguins while defenseman Noah Welch goes to Florida - giving the Penguins more veteran help up front. I don't think either Roberts or Welch will play tonight for Pittsburgh, though.

In any case, the big key for the Devils is to not get behind early. Giving up three straight goals to Pittsburgh is what doomed them right from the start, as it gave the Penguins the confidence to take more shots (which they did) and a good chunk of momentum for a good chunk of the game. What's more is that two of those three goals came from guys who are not, in any sense of the word, scorers on the Penguins - Jarkko Ruttu and Rob Scuderi. The Devils will need to be sharp on defense from second one. This means clogging the passing lanes and knocking down anyone who tries to screen Brodeur in the slot. It also means not letting up if an opposing forward's line does not have Sidney Crosby (26 G, 71 A), Jordan Staal (25 G, 7 A), or Evgeni Malkin (29 G, 40 A). Again, that is what doomed the Devils in their last game against Pittsburgh.

That said, the Devils really need to contain Crosby and Malkin. Both are riding 7 game point streaks. When the NHL's leading scorer and the NHL's leading rookie scorer are on point streaks, it means the Devils will need to shadow both of them. In other words, stick the Madden line (Jay Pandolfo-John Madden-Erik Rasmussen) on the two and be wary if Penguins coach Michael Therrien splits up Crosby and Malkin during the game. I shouldn't have to say it, but letting those two do what they want on the ice and with the puck is a great way to lose to Pittsburgh.

As far as offense goes, Marc-Andre Fleury has been iffy. He's 4-1-0 in his last 5 starts, but with a 4.40 GAA according to the helpful preview at NHL.com. That means he's not playing too well and the Penguins have won more with offense than defense. It also means if the Devils can clamp down the Penguins' offense - and if any team can do that, it's New Jersey - then the Devils simply need to put a lot of rubber on Fleury to generate goals. The Penguins' defense is still lacking in some regards so Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and the PZL unit should exploit their proverbial holes early and often.

You may not see a postgame review as class tonight means I'm watching this after the fact. Which sucks because it's going to be an exciting game, considering it is Sidney Crosby's Penguins trying to reduce New Jersey's 9 point lead on the division. All the same, GO DEVILS!


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