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Round 1 Game 2 Preview: Devils vs. Carolina

After a splendid Game 1, it'll be a whole new game tonight. It is a chance for Carolina to send a message: "We're not slumping and we're not going away quietly." It is a chance for New Jersey to send a message: "So what? We're going to beat you and then plan on doing it again two more times."

Either way, I do believe the team that will succeed will be the team that best remains calm throughout the game.

As stated in Gulitti's report from practice yesterday as well as in Chere's report, there are no plans for the Devils' to change the lineup.  Johnny Oduya didn't practice, but he expects to play.   Even if he doesn't, all that would mean is that Andy Greene comes in on defense and Paul Martin would have a different partner. That would likely be Colin White, since Sutter has used Greene with Mike Mottau - White's regular partner - in the past.  Not a drastic change, I don't think.  But it's the playoffs and if Oduya says he's good to go, he'll be out there.

With respect to how the Devils should approach the game, well, what they did in Game 1 worked so well, it's easy to say, "do that again."   It's also not a bad idea. Devils, do what you did in Game 1 again!

For the Carolina Hurricanes, the pressure is on them to step it up.  Bubba has called out Eric Staal as a key player in his game preview at Canes Country.  Staal was Carolina's top scorer in the season and one of 8 players to have scored 40 or more goals in the league in 2008-09. 

2008 - Eric Staal 82 40 35 75 15 50 14 1 8 0 372 10.8

Yet, in Game 1, he had a mere 2 shots on net and fell down on the ice once. At least he was strong on faceoffs with a 58.3% winning percentage.   I don't think it was so much John Madden giving him problems - he was attacking the defense and was on the ice for 2 minutes and 13 seconds less than Staal.  Sutter wasn't line matching in Game 1; I think Staal just wasn't playing well - like the rest of the Carolina skaters.  As Bubba pointed out, Carolina is a lot more successful when Staal is successful. If he can get on the board (and not when they're down by 3), it'll give himself and the team a lift.

So I do agree with his central thesis and I feel that the Devils need to continue to keeping Staal, Ruutu, Cole, &c. quiet on the ice.   They did just that in Game 1 (see?) by staying calm in their own end (there's that word again!).  It'll be more difficult since the expectation should be that Carolina has every reason to come out flying.  John Dellapina has a short column at stating the historically significance winning Game 2.   Don't think Paul Maurice isn't telling his team that lovely stat about Game 2 winners going on to win the series.  Both in a positive way (game 2 winners after game 1 win the series 52.9% of the time) and in a negative way (winners of the first two games win the series 87.2% of the time).  Again, the Hurricanes need to find a successful game plan and fast.  The last thing the Devils want to do is give the Hurricanes hope of turning this around.

I doubt we'll see the Devils fall flat on their faces either way; given that Jay Pandolfo has stepped up his game for the benefit of the team (and their praises as reported by Chere and Gulitti), it's clear the team is confident. But they are playing down the Game 1 win (Chere), which tells me that they aren't letting it go to their heads.

The key man for the Devils isn't Pandolfo but it is Zach Parise. Carolina couldn't completely stop him in Game 1; If Parise is able to go where he wants on and off the puck, it will mean two things: Carolina's defense will still be chasing him and Parise will make something productive happen among the ZZ Pops line.  New Jersey would welcome this, and Carolina can't afford that happening.  Remember, the pressure is on Carolina tonight to respond; they have to adjust and change what they did in Game 1. The Devils really don't have to do that.

Whatever it will be, it will be at 7:30 PM at the Rock.  I may see you there!  And if you won't be there, please join in on the fun at the GameThread later this afternoon.