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Game 13 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks

Can the Devils adjust when a certain left winger is accosted by the opposition defenders? Can the Devils adjust to what Vancouver is doing tonight? Can they adjust at all?.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Can the Devils adjust when a certain left winger is accosted by the opposition defenders? Can the Devils adjust to what Vancouver is doing tonight? Can they adjust at all?. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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The Time: 10:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+(HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-8-1) at the Vancouver Canucks (4-3-2)

The Last Devils Game: The New Jersey Devils went down early to the Los Angeles Kings, pulled one back, gave up a third goal shortly thereafter, and bombed away on the Kings in the third period in an ultimately futile effort to make it a game again.  The more I think about it, the more it reminds me of last Sunday's loss to the Rangers.  In any case, here's my poorly written recap of the 3-1 loss to Los Angeles.

The Last Canucks Game: The Canucks nearly had the game won in the third period, yet Colorado's Matt Duchene put in a late equalizer.  Vancouver's undefeated (in regulation) streak at home was in jeopardy, until Mason Raymond poke-checked the puck off Jonas Holos' stick.  Which went through Peter Budaj. In OT.  Why can't the Devils get breaks like that? Anyhow, here's the recap of the Canucks' 4-3 overtime win at as I didn't see one at Nucks Misconduct.

The Goal: Well, obviously, win.  But with the team being who they are, I need to lower the bar.  Defense, please focus on the Sedin twins.  Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks in goals and points, Henrik Sedin is just behind his brother in points with only assists.

2010 - Daniel Sedin 9 7 5 12 0 0 3 0 1 28 25.0
2010 - Henrik Sedin 9 0 11 11 -1 4 0 0 0 19 0.0

Not that Vancouver has a bunch of scrubs behind those two, but they are heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of early production.  Of course, they are also heads and shoulders above most of the league when it comes to talent; so file it under "easier said than done." Still, if they can do it, it would make the Devils' job that much easier tonight.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.  For a Vancouver perspective, Sean Zandberg has this preview of tonight's game already up at Nucks Misconduct.

If there's a secondary goal, it's this. The Devils pounded on a Kings team happy to sit back in the third period, but in the other two periods I felt the Kings were winning more battles at the blueline and neutral zone. Therefore, the Kings were able to move the puck with more confidence regardless of whether New Jersey was slighlty ahead of them in shots on goal.  I would like to see New Jersey do the same to the Canucks. If the hosts aren't on point, then they need to be able to control that part of the ice.  Should they do that, it'll limit the Canucks' attack while adding to New Jersey's own.  Granted, not having Zach Parise for this hurts; but it's the sort of territorial play that I think would greatly help New Jersey try to get a badly needed fourth win.

Such a win would be a big feat as Vancouver is currently undefeated in regulation at home with a 4-0-1 record.  In addition to the Sedins, Vancouver has plenty of other talented players.  You should be familiar with the strong Ryan Kesler, the quick Mason Raymond, and checking ace Manny Malhotra at forward.  The team whose blueline is led by Christan Erhoff and Alexander Edler, productive defensemen with 6 points each already.  And they have some goaltender named Roberto Luongo in net.

2010 - Roberto Luongo 7 409 2 3 20 2.93 214 194 .907 0

Actually, Luongo hasn't had the greatest start to his 2010-11 campaign either, but I highly doubt he randomly got worse.  He'll prove to be a big challenge for a Devils offense that has struggled against every big name goaltender (and most of the rest) so far this season.

Guessing the Devils lineup as of this writing is a real shot in the dark since they didn't practice on Sunday.  They'll skate on Monday morning and it'll be easier to figure out who is playing with who.  Regarding Parise's injury, which bothered me that he had it and played through it, it's unknown how serious Zach Parise's injury will be until he is evaluated on Monday. The Devils do not have call anyone up to replace him. They can just slot Tim Sestito in as a twelfth forward and go with these lines.

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk - Jason Arnott - Alexander Vasyunov
Dainius Zubrus - Rod Pelley - David Clarkson
Brad Mills - Tim Sestito - Adam Mair

Colin White - Matt Taormina
Henrik Tallinder - Andy Greene
Olivier Magnan-Grenier - Tyler Eckford

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

While Parise was out for the third period, the shift charts at Time on Ice indicated that Travis Zajac rolled with Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner.  John MacLean might go with that group; though I don't think it would be a bad idea to use Ilya Kovalchuk instead.  At least I hope he doesn't put him with Rod Pelley - who has been more than OK this season but isn't an offensive player - again.   Hence, I'm guessing Arnott moves up a line.  Of course, the morning skate will prove different and even so, MacLean will likely change things up in-game anyway.   That's why this is a real guess.

Speaking of Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarret Stoll let something slip when talking to Rich Hammond (LA Kings Insider) after the game:

STOLL: “Every time he had the puck, we did a good job of smothering him and making sure we had one or two, or sometimes even three, guys on him. He had nowhere to go. So it was a great team effort defensively.”

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Vancouver's defense attempts to do the same thing.  It also explains why some fans are wondering why Kovalchuk isn't bombing every puck he gets on net.  Should it happen again (and it probably will), Kovalchuk's linemates would be wise to get in positions where he can pass it out, the coaches would be wise to give him linemates that opposition defenders would have to respect, and Kovalchuk would be wise to make the right decision to pass and execute it well.   Asking Kovalchuk to try and beat a defender or multiple defenders is foolhardy because the probability for success is so low.  All a defender has to do is get in the attacker's way.  Ergo, Kovalchuk needs to go a different route and pass it out.  Recognizing this would help the offense greatly by keeping more shifts alive going forward.

As far as defense goes, you might see White with Tallinder or Greene at certain points. That was another adjustment MacLean made on Saturday; perhaps he'll make it more permanent for a game?

All the same, please discuss tonight's game in the comments to this post in advance of the Gamethread.  Perhaps there is something else (other than the obvious: score goals, win games) that you'd like to see the Devils do tonight. Perhaps there's a matchup or other point of interest I missed.  All of that goes in the comments too. If you have any news to share, please link to the source.  There will be some news updates to keep track for tonight's game during the day.  If you have any additional points, feel free to make them here.  Let's go, Devils!