Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Game: Ottawa @ Devils, 4 of 4

The New Jersey Devils will see their general manager Lou Lamoriello behind the bench for his first game this season tonight as they host the Ottawa Senators.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 92.3 FM, FREE
Devils Record Vs. Ottawa: 2-1-0
NHL.com Preview

I apologize in advance for the incredibly short preview today. First things first, the boss of the organization returns to coaching; expect him to motivate the Devils well tonight. Rich Chere has a large and detail-filled round up of the firing of Claude Julien in today's Star Ledger. However, let us only consider tonight's game. Let's face it, if the guy who is responsible for signing checks, signing players, trading players, and pretty much everything else involving the players is coaching you; then, I would think it would be a wise decision to step it up in front of him. Do not expect the Devils to change their style. They've been incredibly successful this season and in prior seasons with their defense-first, transition-heavy offense. They are definitely not going to change it tonight nor for the playoffs. You may see more forechecking than usual, but defense is still what keeps this team moving forward and winning hockey games.

Which will be important tonight as they will face the Ottawa Senators. Should the Devils not secure the Atlantic Division, they will face Ottawa in the first round - a quality opponent. They have won four of their last five games, eight in their last 10, just as many wins and points as the Devils (47 and 102, respectively), and the Senators boast an incredibly potent first line. The defense and John Madden's unit - expect to see a lot of Pandolfo and Madden - will have their work cut out for them against the Cash Line. Centered Jason Spezza (31 G, 53 A), flanked by captain Daniel Alfredsson (27 G, 55 A) and the team's leading scorer Dany Heatley (48 G, 52 A). Each of those players average at least 19 minutes a game on the ice, expect to see them on the power play, and each one of them can shoot hard, skate fast, and make plays. The defense and the third line will need to stop them as much as possible in order for the Devils to have any shot of winning this game. Fortunately, the Devils have some experience in that, defeating Ottawa 3-2 both times in their last two match-ups.

I would like to point out special teams for a moment here. The Devils should be disciplined enough to avoid giving the Senators so many man advantages. Interestingly, the Devils and the Senators have the same success rate on the power play 17.8%. However, with Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson, forget about the success rate. Giving them chances to move about with one less player defending on the ice is a mistake and is just asking them to light up Brodeur.

As far as offense is concerned, the Devils will need to be wary of the Senators' solid defense. It's not an elite defense, but it's pretty good with Wade Redden and Chris Phillips. I think the Devils offense will have to make the most of any odd-man rushes they can generate. Setting up the offense tonight may be a little tricky, but do-able. All the same, any time the Devils has more numbers going forward is a time to take advantage of that - and I don't mean always making a cross-ice pass. Most teams figured out that the Devils normally do that; I suggest that the puck carrier shoots it sometimes with the other Devils skating forward driving to the net for a rebound.

In any case, the Senators are a team that is playing very well so it will be difficult tonight, much less in the playoffs should the Devils not win the division. As it stands now, the Devils control their fate. Gomez is still uncertain to play, so I don't know whether we'll see him; but the game has to be played and the Devils should look for a win regardless. GO DEVILS!

TV UPDATE: The game is now on Fox Sports NY and not the over-run channel.


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