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Game 29 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes - 12/9/2009

The Time: 7 PM EST

The Broadcasting Info: TV: MSG+ Radio: 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (20-7-1) vs. the Carolina Hurricanes (7-17-5)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went up to Buffalo and played an excellent game overall. The offensive pressure didn't cease when the Devils had the lead, it got stronger. The defense had many blocks, and Martin Brodeur stopped everything else as he earned his 103rd career shutout. That ties him with Terry Sawchuk, and the win moved the Devils up to first in the Atlantic Division. I recapped the 3-0 win yesterday as a quality result.

The Last Hurricanes Game: The Carolina Hurricanes finally, finally, finally got a road win. Believe it or not, it happened at the Igloo. Carolina went up 3-0, conceded two goals in the second, but the team rallied and managed to hold back the Penguins to win 3-2. The win breaks a 13 game winless streak on the road. Bob Harwood at Canes Country noted in his recap that the team played the hardest he's seen in their own zone all season.

The Last Devils-Hurricanes Game: You may know this as Shutout #102 for Martin Brodeur. The game truly was a goaltender's duel and a fluke bounce off of Jamie Langenbrunner's body (or his stick) was the only thing that beat either netminder. The win was important, though as it was the first win at the Rock of this season. So much has changed since then. Here's my recap of that game, and for the opposition's side, here's Bob from Canes Country with a recap of his own.

The Goal: While it's the beginning of a 5 game home-stand and the Hurricanes have been a very poor game; don't look past this team or this game. Read on for an explanation as to why.

The Devils played a fantastic game against the Buffalo Sabres and by all means, I'd love to see the Devils play that way more often. In fact, I want to see them to do that against Carolina. You may think that may be unnecessary. On paper, there's plenty of reasons to discount Carolina. Like the fact that they have the worst record in the NHL at 7-17-5. Like the fact that their longtime captain is now getting scratched due to his poor performances, something that will lead to a difficult decision per this post at Canes Country. Like the fact that they have the worst goals scored per game average of 2.31 and are tied with Toronto for the highest goals against per game average of 3.52. Those are all very true.

In fact, I only had two questions for Bob Harwood of Canes Country instead of the usual five asking about the team's performance this season:

Question #1. With the possible return of Cam Ward and the team finally getting that first road win, how you think they will start at the Rock tonight?

BH: The team is in a bit of a flux right now because of the recent healthy scratch of captain, Rod Brind'Amour. Does the team rally behind him or is there a mutiny? They used it as motivation as they defeated the Pens on Monday night with their best road performance to date.

But they will be hard pressed to repeat. Cam Ward has not played in a month and he is bound to show some rust. [JF Note: Cam Ward has been activated from the IR, according to the team's official site. I would think he would play tonight.]

Question #2. Do you think the Canes will come away with any points tonight?

BH: I would be surprised if they earned any points this time at The Rock.

Thank you, Bob, for the answers (and on such short notice). However, these answers along with the team's current situation leads me to be a bit concerned. Maybe I am a worry-wort, but this all sounds like a team that has absolutely nothing to lose. Not only that, but a team that has absolutely nothing to lose that has finally strung together two wins, as well as their first on the road against an excellent Pittsburgh Penguins team.

The worries Carolina has are real. Ward needs to get back into his own groove and that will only take time, and who knows how the team will do without Rod Brind'Amour. Will he even play?

Still, I see this Carolina team and I see a team with momentum. A team that will definitely be reminded by head coach Paul Maurice that the Canes held the Devils down the last time they were at the Rock. I do not expect an easy game at all for the New Jersey Devils and I would hope Jacques Lemaire and the coaching staff prepares for this game with that knowledge.

That's why I want to see the same effort they gave in Buffalo on Monday night. If the Devils can do that, then they'd force Cam Ward to be the main difference maker like Ryan Miller was on Monday - and I like the Devils' chances with Ward coming off of injury. Unless the Devils want to make tonight a more difficult game than necessary, then they can't look past Carolina nor unnecessarily let up on them until the game is truly out of doubt.

With respect to the Devils' lineup, Mike Mottau is feeling better. Apparently he thinks he got food poisoning, but it's inconsequential now as he's good to go. According to the second note on this post by Tom Gulitti, Lemaire said Mottau will play so I think Matthew Corrente will sit in his place. There's no news as of this writing about who could be starting. I'd be fine with either Martin Brodeur (I'm normally always fine with Brodeur starting) or Yann Danis starting (I'd be fine with him starting the next two games as Florida and Carolina have relatively weak offenses, really, but that won't happen). I'm going to guess Brodeur starts tonight and Danis starts on Friday, but do check Gulitti and Chere tomorrow for proper confirmation:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Nicklas Bergfors
Brian Rolston - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Jay Pandolfo - Rob Niedermayer - Vladimir Zharkov
Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley - Ilkka Pikkarainen

Andy Greene - Bryce Salvador
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Mark Fraser - Johnny Oduya

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis

I'm guessing the rest of the lines stay the same from the Buffalo game because, well, there's no need to change things as they are. And if there is, Lemaire will undoubtedly make the adjustment in-game.

All the same, I cannot stress enough that the Devils can't look past this Carolina team. It's easy for the fans or neutral observers to think this way, but I feel very strongly if the Devils do so, they will struggle.

Please leave all your thoughts, questions, news updates, and other feelings about tonight's game in the comments. Check out Canes Country for the opposition's side. Go Devils!