Thursday, February 08, 2007


Game: Islanders @ Devils, 5 of 8

The New Jersey Devils will host the New York Islanders in their third straight home game tonight.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Islanders: 3-1-0 Preview

The New Jersey Devils have got to be feeling good. They won their last three games, all one-goal games against a range of teams both good (Buffalo), bad (Philadelphia), and not-so-good (Rangers). Combine that with how the team seems to be put together, and it's easy to see why in today's Star Ledger that Scott Gomez says the Devils has some of the characteristics they had in their last Stanley Cup winning teams. To be fair, I can't disagree; the team is balanced in all facets. You have your ace goaltender (Martin Brodeur), a stable blueline with a mix of more two-way forwards (Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin) and defensive defensemen (Colin White, Brad Lukowich), a solid shut-down checking line (the Madden unit), two scoring lines (EGG and PZL, when they are "on"), and some character guys to provide spark (Cam Janssen, Jim Dowd, Mike Rupp). It's good to see that Lou agrees - he kind of has to, considering how close the team is already at the salary cap. The Devils don't "show their hand" when trades are discussed, they usually come out of nowhere. However, for this season, I honestly wouldn't expect any deals if only because the Devils are too close to the salary cap ceiling as it is.

Anyway, Gomez and the Devils will have to focus for tonight's game. They get to take on a divisional opponent and other rival the New York Islanders. Last season, the Islanders knew how to defeat NJ and did it often. This season, the Islanders have kept it close, intense, and exciting; but they have not had nearly as much success. They are coming off big 2-0 win in Philadelphia from last night, so while they may be a bit more tired than the Devils, they'll certainly be full of momentum coming into tonight's game. The Islanders are currently in tenth place and only two points behind eighth place Carolina for that final playoff spot. They will need to take every chance to earn some points considering how tight it is in the Eastern Conference. This is not the first time I'm mentioning it, and I'm repeating it because this fact alone will likely give the Devils' opponents for the rest of the season a big reason to come out hard and with fire. The Devils will need to make a point of not coming out flat; as it could easily spell doom in the game and hurt the Devils' chances at taking the Eastern Conference lead.

Now, the one thing the Devils will need to be especially concerned with will be discipline. Against the Rangers on Tuesday, the Devils handed the blueshirts 6 power plays. That is far too many opportunities to give an opponent under any circumstance. Against Buffalo, the Devils were better; but still gave the highest scoring team in the league 3 chances with a man advantage. Against the Flyers last week, the Devils gave Philadelphia 4 man advantages of which they score twice on - much more effective than the Devils going 1-for-7. Still, those 4 power plays made the Devils' efforts that much more difficult than necessary. Lastly, just to stay within recent games, the Devils shootout loss to Atlanta last Tuesday went that far namely because the Devils gave the Thrashers 6 power plays, of which the Thrashers converted on 3 of them. My point is that the Devils have not played with a lot of discipline recently; and some opponents have taken advantage of these man advantages they are gifted. I don't want to hear about how the referees are (supposedly) killing hockey, a lot of these are calls such as hooking, holding, and tripping. Infractions that the Devils players should know better than to commit. I guarantee that if the Devils take more of these calls than usual as they have done recently, the Islanders will have a great chance to win the game.

That's my major concern. I'm not worried as to whether the Devils will be poor in their own end or be muscled out of the game. The Islanders come at the Devils hard, but the Devils have seen their game four times already this year and know what they must do to counter it and take things into their own hands. I'm confident the Devils will do that much (in that I hope the Devils don't prove me wrong here); hence, I just wanted to highlight the discipline issue. All the same, GO DEVILS!


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