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Game 42: Devils @ Anaheim

It is now officially the second half of the season for the New Jersey Devils, they play the Anaheim Ducks tonight at the Honda Center. Last night was a big win for the Devils. They looked good, they felt good, and they were quite good in a 5-1 win over the Kings. Chere's got the post-game quotes should you be so inclined. As great as the win was, the team really can't savor it. They need to get it together tonight against what is likely an unhappy Ducks team. That it's less than 24 hours from the Kings game will make it difficult enough, more so when you consider how physical the Kings played last night.

The Ducks lost to their cross-state rivals LA on Thursday, lost to Tampa Bay on Friday, and they're looking to prevent a losing streak from forming. The Ducks feature some strong talent in net between Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Jonas Hiller. Their blueline has two Hall of Famers taking most of the minutes: Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer. According to Curtis Zupke of the OC Register Ducks Blog, the Ducks will welcome the return of Corey Perry into the lineup which should give them a boost on offense. Moreover, Ryan Getzlaf is having an excellent season, Bobby Ryan is surging as a rookie, and even Teemu Selanne is still quite productive.

2008 - Ryan Getzlaf 42 15 34 49 3 79 3 0 2 0 134 11.2

2008 - Corey Perry 39 10 24 34 4 62 3 0 2 1 133 7.5

Yet, the team is only average in terms of scoring goals (2.77 per game, 16th in the league), allowing goals (2.77 per game, 15th in the league), shooting (29.2 per game, 17th in the league), and in penalty killing efficiency (81.4%, 16th in the league). The Ducks have a strong power play at a 21.8% effectiveness rate; but they are surprisingly weak in shots allowed. Anaheim, who has Neidermayer and Pronger, has allowed an average of 31.7 shots against per game. I don't think the Devils should have problems finding shots tonight. And Giguere has been struggling as of late, as Kupke of the OC Register Ducks Blog reports. If he's in net, the Devils would be well to keep firing at him all night long. Lastly, the Ducks have been struggling as of late. Their record, 21-17-5, is good. Yet, they are 2-2-1 in their last 5 games; and 3-5-2 in their last 10. They're trending down and they'd like to put an end to it.

So it is absolutely crucial that the Devils don't take the first period slowly. They really would be wise to get that first goal. Not just to set the tone of the game, but statistically Anaheim is one of the worst teams in the league when they are trailing first. Their winning percentage is a paltry .118 when they give up that first goal. This is a team that has been through some recent struggles, they lost their last two games despite making comebacks to tie it up, they have talent in all three positional groups, and they want points. The sooner the Devils can establish a lead, the better it will be for them overall. It's going to be difficult, considering the fatigue from last night's game and the Ducks' mindset - I imagine a returning second-leading scorer on the team would be a big boost to the team morale. Last night, the Devils have shown that they still have "it," if they can bring "it" out again tonight, it would be fantastic.

As always, feel free to discuss the game before, during, and afterwards. With the planned downtime tonight, I'm not sure if I'll have a postgame thought up right away. Regardless, one will eventually be up. Also, I'm sure Battle of California will have something up on this game soon. Keep it relevant, keep it clean, and keep it Jersey.