Thursday, March 08, 2007


Game: Devils @ Pittsburgh, 7 of 8

Today, the New Jersey Devils will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road, looking to stop a 3 game losing streak from becoming a 4 game losing streak.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
National TV: HD Net
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Penguins: 4-2-0 Preview

In yesterday's Star Ledger, Rich Chere reports that the Devils will likely be without Brian Gionta. While it's a big loss, especially if he's out for an extended period this time, the offense and the Devils overall has shown it can make do without him. I'd like to see him back, and at 100% health of course; but I don't think it's a vital loss. Fortunately, Brian Gionta had this to say (from the Chere article):
"I just tweaked it again," Gionta reported. "I decided to be on the cautious side. It happened on a hit in our end along the boards at the end of the first. It's not as bad as it first was. We'll see how it goes.
Well, that's re-assuring. Somewhat. In any case, with or without Gionta, the plan should be the same for the offense. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is no stranger to giving up fluky and soft goals, so plenty of shots on Pittsburgh's yellow-clad goaltender should yield results.

All the same, the defense will need to be on point. The Penguins' 3 wonder kids of Sidney Crosby (27 G, 71 A), Evegni Malkin (29 G, 40 A), and Jordan Staal (27 G, 7 A) will absolutely torch Brodeur if Pittsburgh drops 30-40 shots on Marty and if Brodeur isn't 100% perfect. Not to say that Mark Recchi (22 G, 38 A) can't bring some damage; it's just those three are not just names on the team but future franchise guys. I know Brodeur is the best goalie around all things considered, but he can't face an entire offense without some defensive help. The Philadelphia game from Tuesday is clear proof of that. Keep an eye on Oduya and Lukowich, those two in particular need to step it up if only because we all have seen them perform much better in their own end this season.

Pittsburgh doesn't just have making the playoffs in mind, they have securing a place to play next season in mind. I know the NHL is fighting hard to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh and I certainly don't want a team who has been in a city for 40 years to move, but the city doesn't want to help in building an arena and the team doesn't seem interested in staying there if they don't. In a perfect world, the owner pays for the arena period, no one else. But we don't live in a perfect world and this is how it is in all sports; hence, my lack of griping about the subject. The latest rumor is that the team will move to Las Vegas, as reported by the AP yesterday (appeared in today's Star Ledger); but Kansas City may be more likely if only because they already have an arena. Personally, this reminds me of the posturing the Devils had with the NJSEA back in 1995, when it seemed that the Devils were ready to pack up and move to Nashville. Fortunately, a deal was secured to keep the Devils in NJ. I only hope that something similar happens for the Penguins. Essentially, this may be the last time the Devils play Pittsburgh in the Mellon Arena for a regular season game.

Will this affect the Penguins performance? Probably not. They're facing a team who is currently struggling and is only 7 points ahead of them in the standings and the Penguins have been playing well, recently coming back from three goals down to win against Ottawa 5-4 in a shootout. That shows guts, that shows determination, and that definitely shows a never-say-die attitude. Which is all but good from the Devils perspective; it reiterates that the Devils must play strong defense for all 60 minutes. Even a 3 goal lead isn't safe against these guys. We've seen them do that to the Penguins multiple times this season, so it's possible; but I can't say with any confidence that it's probable until the actual event of a game occurs.

The fact is that this isn't just a rivalry game. If the Devils win and maintain their position, the Devils will surely win the division title. If the Penguins win, it's a big 2 points in their favor and can sneak up on New Jersey to take the division. Obviously, I don't want that to happen and I'm sure the Devils are aware that another lackadaisical performance on defense will ensure a Penguins victory and/or make it really hard for the Devils to win. Let's be fair, the Devils are not a team who relies on just offense to win games. Hopefully they remember what they did to keep the Penguins scoreless like the last time these two teams played each other. On second thought, perhaps not, in that it was a really sloppy game by both teams that night.

All the same, the game looks to be an exciting one. Two teams jockeying for position, division rivals, and Crosby versus the best player in the NHL. GO DEVILS!

ASIDE: Two new links on the side here. The NHL Arena is a relatively new NHL message board. If you're looking for a hockey forum and one that isn't ridiculously huge or specific to one team, check it out. The NHL Arena Program is a blog performed by those at The NHL Arena, with posts for many kinds of teams - including the Devils.


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