The Devils will take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at the RBC Center.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM EST
Local TV: MSG
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Canes: 2-0-0
Those question marks might be Rod Pelley and maybe Barry Tallackson in an earlier era, but with the salary cap and a limit on call ups, the Devils may be short two forwards tonight. Their top scorer and their top shutdown defenseman. Needless to say, tonight's not looking good already for New Jersey. Martin Brodeur usually plays well after a not-so-great game but he's going to have to be dynamite for the Devils to have a chance tonight. It goes without saying that the forwards must do a better job on offense.
The Hurricanes are fighting as hard as they can to avoid being first team since 1996 to not make the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup. Their top goaltender, Cam Ward, is out for the season; so they're doing it with John Grahame. Grahame isn't too bad; he's done well against New Jersey in his career with a 4-2-0 record, 1 shutout, a 2.06 GAA, and a save percentage of 91.5%. But because of Ward, he's not a #1 guy until now. The Devils traditionally struggle against backups, but is Grahame a backup if he's now the #1 to replace Ward? More importantly, does it matter when it looks like Mike Rupp is going to get Elias' minutes and after a game where the forwards were poor overall? The PZL line will have to step it up, but given their lack of anything resembling "pop" or whathaveyou from last night, I can't confidently expect them to carry the offensive flag.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this game will be tough. The Carolina Hurricanes may be without Cam Ward, but they still pack a punch up front. Believe it or not, the two top guys to worry about are Ray Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour. Whitney is having an excellent season with 27 goals and 47 assists; and Brind'Amour is one of the top faceoff men in the NHL (59.2% faceoff wins) as well as a potent point producer with 22 goals and 51 assists. This is also the squad that boasts the young budding star that is Eric Staal (26 G, 36 A), a strong sniper in Justin Williams (33 G, 28 A), and power forward Erik Cole (25 G, 27 A). The Devils defenders will have to play big tonight and do the best they can in limiting them. Especially if John Madden isn't around to duel with Rod Brind'Amour on faceoffs as well as covering him normally. Again, I cannot emphasize that the Hurricanes are in the middle of a tough playoff race. If anything, they will come out hard as they need every point to stay in playoff contention. Expecting the Hurricanes to come out flat will likely lead to disappointment.
Tonight will be a good test to see whether the Devils can play well without two of their top skaters, assuming that they will not play. Groin injuries are nasty in that returning too early can result in an even worse injury of the groin. We saw it with Scott Gomez earlier this season, and I would think that's why Brian Gionta is taking his time in recovery. It would be unfortunate but understandable if that's the reason Elias and Madden do not play tonight. All, the same, GO DEVILS.
UPDATE: You know what I said about no call ups? I was wrong. The HF Devils crew alerted me to the Devils gameday preview (currently on TV) noted that the Devils have made some moves with respect to injuries. Brian Gionta has been placed on injured reserve. David Clarkson and Rod Pelley have been called up from Lowell. Pelley, we've seen before, I'd expect him at center on the fourth line. Clarkson is someone I've heard about. He's got a bit of a scoring touch to go with some grit. All the same, best of luck to the Devils tonight.
Labels: Devils Game