Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Game: Pittsburgh @ Devils, 8 of 8

The New Jersey Devils look to close out their season series against Pittsburgh with a win tonight.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Pittsburgh: 5-2-0 Preview

Before I begin my preview, I'd like to point out that Tom Lycan has a good summary of recent events up until tonight's game at Devils Due.

The Penguins got a big win in a shootout over the Buffalo Sabres last night. Now the Penguins are 6 points behind New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead. It was recently announced that the Penguins will remain in Pittsburgh and that they will get a new arena in the future; so they have that going for them in addition to the momentum gained by beating Buffalo. For the Penguins, while they may be tired, they should be up for this one since a win will certainly put them in a good position to chase New Jersey for the remaining 13 games of their season. It's important that the Devils win tonight if only to keep Pittsburgh off their backs. Furthermore, a win will give them 94 points, the exact same amount as the first place Buffalo Sabres. While the Sabres would retain the Eastern Conference lead with more wins than the Devils as well as having a game in hand, it would be an important step in their efforts to win the conference.

The Devils get a boost of their own. Colin Stephenson reported in the Star Ledger yesterday that Colin White is back from his hand injury. This is excellent in that the Devils, at the least, will have six defensemen on the bench tonight. The defense really stepped up in the last two games with only five defensemen available, but it's great that certain players (namely Paul Martin) won't have to play heavy minutes in Colin White's place. Incidentally check out for the column for some deserved praise for Martin. In Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger, Brian Gionta will not play tonight or tomorrow (not wanting to injure his groin further is a good reason). Fortunately, Erik Rasmussen will play, giving the Devils a full roster tonight against the Penguins. This all in the notes of the article. The main point of Chere's article is about the hit Colby Armstrong gave Brad Lukowich which "rung his bell" so to speak. Good on Lukowich to not desire revenge in the old-fashioned/The Code(tm) way. To turn on a cliche, I think scoring goals and winning games are the best revenge.

As far as what the Devils need to do tonight, there are two things I want to point out. The first is to cover Sidney Crosby (29 G, 74 A) and Evgeni Malkin (31 G, 42 A) tightly. Crosby is the first NHL player to score 100 or more points this season (in 65 games, if I recall correctly) for a reason, I shouldn't have to further explain why he can't be roaming around with or without the puck. Malkin has had more success against New Jersey, scoring a goal in the last game between the two teams, he too should not be left uncovered.

The second is to clog and crash the net. The top goaltender on Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury, is very quick, but he has poor rebound control. The Penguins defense is their weak link and they can have trouble knocking guys down in their own zone and clearing pucks at time. The Devils will have an easier time scoring goals if they try to pounce on loose pucks and rebounds. It may not be pretty, but Devils hockey is beautiful in its effectiveness. I think such an offensive gameplan would be very effective. Either take (hard) shots from the point or the top part of the slot and if someone is in position in front or near the crease, they will have opportunities to collect on the eventual rebounds Fleury will give up - with the Penguins defense not reacting as fast as they should in some of those situations.

The game is significant for positioning, tonight would go a long way in truly securing first in the division and in chasing the Sabres for first in the conference. GO DEVILS!

CORRECTION: It's my understanding that backup Jocelyn Thibault may start tonight instead of Fleury. If I recall correctly, Thibault's rebound control isn't a strength, so it doesn't change much of what I think the Devils do. In fact, I'd also add that the Devils should challenge Thibault with shots early and often in addition to pounding and clogging the slot down low. Namely because Thibault isn't a good goaltender, if I recall correctly.


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