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Game 23: Devils @ Philadelphia

The New Jersey Devils will continue their road trip with a trip down South and across the Delaware to the Wachovia Center to take on the Flyers.

According to Gulitti's notes today, it appears that Scott Clemmensen will be starting, Brian Rolston may return to the lineup, and we could see five forwards on the power play. Though, it must be said, that's not a guarantee. Gulitti's assesment on the starting goaltender is based off a trend he has seen in practice. Rolston has admitted that the decision is up to Lou, though he's looking forward to it. And if Rolston isn't playing, I don't think the Devils will throw 5 forwards out on a man advantage unless it's late in the game and the Devils need something. I'd wait and check with Gulitti (or the pre-game show on FSNY MSG+) tomorrow on all of that.

One thing is for sure, Bobby Holik won't be playing.

As far as the Flyers go, well, they've slowed down from being a goal sieve like they were in the beginning of the season and they have been hot as of late. They are led by a fearsome threesome:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Simon Gagne 23 13 18 31 16 8 2 4 0 0 55 23.6


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mike Richards 24 10 16 26 13 23 3 3 3 0 76 13.2


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Jeff Carter 24 18 7 25 2 18 5 2 3 0 113 15.9

These three forwards lead the Flyers on offense in terms of goals, assists, power play goals, short handed goals (9 of those 10 shorties scored by Philly, as Gulitti noted), and shots. If they can, the best way for the Devils to get a win would be to keep these three as quiet as possible. Even if you manage to get two back to complete a comeback in the third period, like ex-Flyer Steve Downie did on Tuesday, the Flyers can still get it done in overtime to get points. In Tuesday's case, it was Mike Richards slotting home a game winner to give the Flyers a win over Tampa Bay. While the win got the Flyers to 7-1-2 in their last 10, Daniel Briere left the game with an injury. The dynamic center suffered a groin strain, the headlines at NHL.com state that he will be out for 4-5 weeks. While Briere is a great player, the Flyers won't be short on offense as long as Gagne, Richard, and Carter are on the ice.

While they have been better, Martin Biron hasn't looked great in his recent outings, cracking the 90% saved plateau twice (an even 90% against Carolina and 92.1% against Tampa Bay on Tuesday). What's more is that he's given up at least 3 goals in each of his last 5 games. Granted if Antero Niitymaki is in net, this is all moot. Should the Devils want to keep pace and Biron's in net as the starter, the Elias-Zubrus-Gionta and Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner units would be wise to constantly challenge him. Shots from afar, up close, from the sideboards, whereever. The Flyers have improved on defense, but they still average 30.3 shots against per game for a reason. Short of a total lockdown, a hardworking Devils team (assuming they will work hard) should get opportunities.

Of particular interest will be where Rolston is playing. With the top two lines set in stone, the third line likely being Pandolfo-Madden-Clarkson, it's going to be interesting to see how a newly-healthy Rolston will handle playing on a physical line. I expect his time to be limited except for the power play, just to ease him in. Though given the Flyers tendency to do the unexpected, maybe it's not the best game for it. However, we won't know until we see it. And I unfortunately won't see this one live. I'll see it tomorrow; but that shouldn't stop you from discussing the game. Before, during, and after. Just keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it New Jersey.