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Game 24: Devils @ Montreal

The New Jersey Devils get to end a 5 game road trip against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference: The Montreal Canadiens. And they are formidable. They won 4 out of their last 5 games, most recently a 6-2 beatdown of Our Hated Rivals, the NY Rangers. I thank the Montreal organization for providing the whooping to a Blueshirt team that presented a lot of butt. The team with massive voter fraud votes for the upcoming All Star game are playing like a bunch of all stars and to take them lightly would be a poor choice.

For a historical perspective between the two rivals from the Canadiens point of view, check out Robert's post at Eyes of the Prize. The Devils built up their success by using the Canadiens organization model. From their players to coaches to previous on-ice strategies from the 1970s and even to the team photographer, the Montreal influence has been ever-present. It's a great read, Les Habs will not have to worry about Martin Brodeur stopping everything they throw at them. No, Brodeur and his 21-10-7 record against Montreal since Feb. 1, 1997 will obviously not be there. They get to face Scott Clemmensen tonight instead.

The biggest headache the Devils will have to face will be Carey Price. He's having a strong season and if it's one thing that a team could have to frustrate the Devils: it's a goalie having a great night. While the Devils have the talent at forward to make goals happen and the mindset to get pucks on net, they can be frustrated more than most with strong goaltending play. If Andrei Markov, Josh Georges, Roman Hamrlik, and the rest of the defenders don't mind giving up part of their bodies to the realm of pain; then the Canadiens can find much success blocking a good number of shots with a Devils team willing to shoot through players.

2008 - Carey Price 20 1207 13 4 3 1 48 2.39 593 545 .919 1

That's not to ignore the other Canadiens. Unlike the Flyers, the Canadiens don't boast a number of players with a ton of points to watch out for. They have a number of threatening players on a given night. It could be Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev tonight. It could be Markov from the point and Alex Tanguay cleaning up the loose pucks. Perhaps Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn will make some brotherly noise on the ice. Robert Lang and Tomas Plekanec could have flyers of a game. I just don't know and with the team playing as well as they are, that's a challenge. The Devils defenders will have to be fully focused for all 60 minutes. As Colin Stephenson reported in the Star Ledger, Sutter is allowing the defensemen to pinch in more and it's been noticible (and successful at times) this season. However, if they aren't careful, they will get burned by the Canadiens.

As far as the Devils go, Gulitti has reported that Bobby Holik will be back, Scott Clemmensen is starting, and Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond will play in front of his friends and family. Well,12 of them, to be honest. Anyway, Mike Rupp isn't playing and according to Gulitti, he's not happy about it. I don't blame Rupp. He's done his job, and he's done it fairly well. He brings some energy, he drives to the net when needed, and he's responsible enough for the minutes he does get. With all the players coming back, though, this is what's going to happen. Instead of guys being called up to fill in roles, we'll see more healthy scratches to give time to everyone. In defense of Leblond, he's likely going to be real geared up to play in his home province and he's done well enough in his time in a NJ uniform. That Sutter openly told the press that he wasn't taking David Clarkson out shows how much he's regarded by the team. The numbers show that one of them had to sit, so tonight it's Rupp. In the long term, I expect will see Leblond go back to Lowell.

What will be of interest tonight, outside of hopefully seeing a Devils win, is to see how Bobby Holik factors in tonight and whether Brian Rolston will do better. Rolston definitely looked rusty against Philadelphia, especially in terms of making and receiving passes. But he didn't harm the team significantly against Philadelphia - none of what he didn't do well led to a goal or anything like that. Still, he didn't play for a while and it really showed by seeing him out there. And Rolston even admitted it after the Flyers game, according to Gulitti. I expect him to do better, now that he got some game action. Bobby Holik has been out for a significant amount of time, so I expect similar rustiness. However, Holik will likely be regulated to fourth line duty only; unlike Rolston, who was got some power play minutes against Philadelphia. So any poor play due to inactivity by Holik will be limited.

As always, please use this thread to discuss tonight's game: before, during, and after. I'll be around, so I would love to keep up with any comments during the game. Keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it New Jersey.