The New Jersey Devils kick off the new year with a tough, if depleted, opponent: the Montreal Canadiens. I summarized how the Devils did throughout the last month, repeating how they have done recently would be just that: repeating. I'll just summarize what we want to see:
- Better defending in our own zone.
- Better backchecking from the forwards.
- A more threatening power play, or at least one that doesn't give up scoring chances to the shorthanded team.
That about does it. What we will not see tonight is #5 Colin White skating in uniform. According to Gulitti, he's skating but will not play tonight. Gulitti also reports that Scott Clemmensen is playing, the lines should remain the same (who would have thought we can confidently say that under Sutter considering the 2007-08 season?), and the Canadiens are hurting on the roster (Gulitti's got a list there). Robert at Habs' Eye on the Prize properly praises the punchy squad for performing so powerfully as of late in spite of the injuries. The Canadiens are doing better than last year's team in spite of it as well. So anyone expecting a weaker team tonight will be in for a big shock. Just look at their last 5 games played.
Canadiens Schedule - LAST 5 GAMES
That's 9 out of a possible 10 points. Amazing. Montreal is feeling it and it'll be up to the Devils do more than just bounce back from the loss at Dallas - they will have to excel. This means a game played similar to the Rangers last Saturday: smart hockey, proper finishing, strong special teams play, and forcing the opposition to take poor shots.
NHL.com has a preview up for additional reading, and it seems Jaroslav Halak may be in net for Montreal. Hopefully, the Devils will play Halak like he's a starter. Then again, this is a team that had no problem lighting up the Henrik Lundqvists and Alex Aulds of the league; so in theory, Halak should be beatable. But he is the backup and backups tend to be magical against NJ (not statistically confirmed yet, but it's a strong sentiment among the Devils faithful).
Feel free to comment before, during, and after the game. Just keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it Jersey.