Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Game: Devils @ Toronto, 4 of 4

The New Jersey Devils will once again take on another team fighting for their playoff lives tonight at the Air Canada Center.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Toronto: 2-0-1
NHL.com Preview
Additional Previews: Trendon Lynch at On Fire: Calling for a Re-Do.

The big "hook" for tonight's game is that this will be Cam Janssen's first game in Toronto since his hit knocked Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle into the boards, in which he fell awkwardly into and thus getting injured and stretchered off the ice. Kaberle won't play tonight, according to the NHL.com preview, but he will play soon; which is good to hear. In yesterday's Star Ledger, Rich Chere's article states that Janssen isn't going to change his energy-forward style at all for tonight's game. In today's Star Ledger, Chere's article touches upon this but is really focused on Devils right winger David Clarkson's first NHL game in his hometown.

The most significant news Devils-wise is in the notes section of today's Chere article. Patrik Elias and John Madden are still injured with groin injuries and did not make the trip to Toronto. Worryingly, it is not known whether they'll join the Devils on any part of the trip. The NHL.com preview states that the two are day-to-day, but at this point in the season that can feel like an eternity. Brian Gionta is skating again, which is good, but because he's on long term injured reserve anyway, he can take his time. He won't be eligible to play (and come off the IR) until April 1 against Boston.

So the Devils will have Rod Pelley taking John Madden's role and David Clarkson where Jamie Langenbrunner normally is slotted, as Langenbrunner will be up on the first line again. The lines don't matter as much as the team's effort on the ice. Without Elias, Gionta, and Madden, the Devils will really need to out-work the Maple Leafs from minute 1 all the way through minute 60. I do not mean the Devils necessarily need to out-shoot or out-hit or out-skate in a dominating fashion. What I do mean is that the Devils need to win the little battles along the boards, take many simple shots on Andrew Raycroft (example: ones without opposing defensemen or backchecking forwards standing right in front of the shooter, ones that make Raycroft do more than get his chest in front of it, etc.), and get the Leafs' face as much as possible. Especially their leading scorer and captain, Mats Sundin (25 G, 38 A). I know he's a center but maybe it is worth sticking Jay Pandolfo on Sundin, shadowing him as much as possible. It's just an idea.

In any case, the Devils need to play with fire and give a real good effort to make this game competitive, much less have a chance to win it. While Darcy Tucker (22 G, 14 A, 70 PIM) once wanted Janssen's blood, in the NHL.com preview he is more concerned with winning the game.
(As an aside, that coming from Tucker of all people is refreshing; hockey games are all about competition; going for someone's head or running a player as "revenge" should have no place in the game.) Expect that to be the general sentiment in the locker room. The Maple Leafs are just outside of the playoffs and with 10 games remaining for them, they need all the wins they can get. They're at home, the crowd is going to be loud, New Jersey is coming off a really miserable loss, you can expect the Leafs to try and take advantage early. The Devils need to ward them off whilst working them down as the game goes on. Fortunately, the Devils have Martin Brodeur to do that; but this requires playing a suffocating defense and perhaps using the dreaded and reviled 1-2-2 trap (something New Jersey didn't do much of in their previous 3 games).

It should be an intense game if only for the emotion alone. The Devils need the win to protect their own position; the Leafs need the win to keep their playoff hopes alive; and I will miss it due to class. Bah. So if you don't see a recap of the game, there's your reason. Sorry. In any case, GO DEVILS!


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