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Game 52: Devils @ Atlanta

The New Jersey Devils take a trip down south before embarking on a 5 game homestand in the coming days.   It's the Atlanta Thrashers, the team responsible for this the last time the two teams met.  Truly, it was something awful to witness. According to Gulitti, the team remembers that game. Hopefully, that alone will guarantee a better performance.

The Devils really should go into the game to make a statement.   For example, Scott Clemmensen is predicted to get the start in the game according to Gulitti.  I hope that means Kevin Weekes will get the LA game at home on Saturday.  Still, Clemmensen hasn't looked good in recent games.   The game on Friday is the perfect opportunity for him to regain his form.  If he makes some strong saves on Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little, Slava Kozlov, et. al. and/or just doesn't give the opposition daylight between his legs; it can be a huge boost for his confidence.  Not to mention the fans' confidence in Clemmensen.  

The same goes for the Devils' special teams.  Provided the team avoids taking stupid penalties, like facewashing a player for a good 10-15 seconds instead of going to the bench on a line change, the PK units have a shot at redemption. A chance to show that they can kill all 2 minutes and not, say, a minute and 30 seconds.   While the power play scored on a 5-on-3 against Washington; they didn't do a whole lot with the other chances.  I feel that if hey are aggressive enough in putting rubber on net, then they have a good chance as any to make the Thrashers pay the price for causing infractions.   Most importantly, improvements in both area will definitely help the Devils win the game.

As far as the opposition is concerned, they did a great thing by spoiling Adam Graves' night at MSG on Tuesday with a 2-1 shootout win.  It was the team's first win after four straight losses, so they're certainly brimming with some confidence.  The playoffs, at this point, are not a likely scenario.  However, despite the team's weaknesses on defense and their general poor play - something I harped on a bit too much before the last game, they can still cause havoc.  Like, well, the last time they played the Devils.  

I'd expect Kari Lehtonen to get the nod in net for this one; he's coming off a sparkling 39 save performance.  I don't see a need for anyone else needing to get the start. Though, one of the questions surrounding the Thrashers is what to do with Garnet Exelby.  He's healthy, but do the Thrashers dither with their lineup, as pointed out by Mike Knobler at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  If it were me, I'd use the same lineup that earned them points in New York.  There's no need to mess with success, especially when no defenseman truly stuck out as being poor and I'm not convinced that Exelby is a difference maker on defense.

(Actually, from Gulitti, we learn that the Devils have to do something similar soon.  Jay Pandolfo and Jay Leach may get games very soon to spell players in this coming month.) 

I'm doing something different for this game - the preview is in a separate story.  I'll put up a GameThread closer to game time.  I'll likely be active, as it's a road game.  Regardless, feel free to discuss the game here prior to the GameThread.  If you'd like a differring, more neutral preview, the AP has their preview up on NHL.com. Please keep it clean, keep it relevant, and Go Devils.