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Game 18 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins

Mattias Tedenby celebrated his first NHL goal on Friday night. How will he follow up that game tonight?   (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Mattias Tedenby celebrated his first NHL goal on Friday night. How will he follow up that game tonight? (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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The Time: 7:00 PM EST

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

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (5-10-2) at the Boston Bruins (8-4-2)

The Last Devils Game: Finally, the New Jersey Devils won a game at home! It took overtime and a second power play goal in the game, but Ilya Kovalchuk thrilled the home crowd desperate for a win.  The Devils won 4-3 and here's my recap of that game.

The Last Bruins Game: The Bruins just didn't get the breaks and didn't get the goals against Ottawa on Saturday night. In fact, they didn't get any.  Tim Thomas did his part, but Brian Elliott was superior and so the Bruins got shutout 2-0. Stanley Cup of Chowder has this recap of the game.

The Last Devils-Bruins Game: If you took out the second period, then it wasn't so bad for the Devils.  That would be silly, though; the Bruins won the game with not one, not two, not three, but four goals scored in that middle period.  My recap focuses heavily on how that went awry, should you want to relive it for some reason. Stanley Cup of Chowder was more pleased (of course) with Boston's 4-1 win in their recap.  The season series is 0-1-0 against Boston.

The Goal: With the New Jersey Devils putting up seven goals in regulation in their last two games, attention must be paid to the defense.  The numbers of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are misleading because the Devils' errors in their own zone have just left both out to dry.  The first game against Boston was a perfect example of how defensive failures - by both defensemen and backchecking forwards - can undercut a goaltender and a team.  Even the last two games would have been straight up wins if it weren't for some careless decisions in New Jersey's end.  I understand mistakes will be made, but the team's defensive effort needs to be sharper in general.  If this means simplifying everything, then so be it.  This should be the goal for tonight's game and going forward.  If they don't improve there, the team's still going to drop points regardless of how well the offense and goaltender plays.

Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for a Boston-based slant on tonight's game.  Read on further for additional thoughts in tonight's game.

According to Tom Gulitti, not only did Jamie Langenbrunner not practice on Sunday, but he did not travel with the team to Boston.   The team is hoping that Langenbrunner will be good to play for Thursday in Toronto, so I wouldn't get too concerned yet.  At a minimum, it means another night for Alexander Vasyunov to build on his good game on Friday night and another night to see how the team does without someone wearing the "C."  Yes, on Friday against Edmonton, no one wore a "C."  I don't expect John MacLean to put it on someone tonight.  I suppose that's a sign that Langenbrunner's teammates respect him that much.  And that the team doesn't think Langenbrunner being out two games warrants a replacement.

Of course, there was some bad news out of Sunday's practice.  Both Olivier Magnan-Grenier and Matt Taormina got hurt.  According to Gulitti's report, Magnan-Grenier is OK but Taormina's left ankle requires further evaluation and didn't travel with the tram to Boston. The Devils dodged a bullet that only one of them got hurt since that would mean a call-up is in order: either for Alexander Urbom (who's close to that 9 game limit before his entry level contract kicks in for 10-11) or Tyler Eckford (who saw little time in NJ for a reason).   Instead, I would expect Matt Corrente to get back into the lineup to replace Taormina.  He's been practicing since last week; provided there aren't any other complications, he can get back into the mix tonight in Boston - and hopefully not throw any punches with that formerly-fractured hand.

That all said, here's my guess for the Devils' line up in tonight's game:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexander Vasyunov
Patrik Elias - Jason Arnott - Mattias Tedenby
Brian Rolston - Dainius Zubrus - David Clarkson
Adam Mair - Rod Pelley - Stephen Gionta

Anton Volchenkov - Andy Greene
Colin White - Henrik Tallinder
Olivier Magnan-Grenier - Matthew Corrente

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

The only real changes should be on defense.  I'm still not sure what the coaching staff should do with Henrik Tallinder, and in the last game, he played the most with the now-injured Taormina.  I would like to see him with White rather than stick him with Greene (which has been MacLean's tendency - and not a good one) or Corrente (their last game where they were paired with each other was a horror).  Maybe this should be the game they try Tallinder-Volchenkov? I don't know.

One more thing: I would love to see how Tedenby and Rolston follow up their performances from Friday night. Both were zooming around the ice, and Tedenby was especially productive on Elias' and Arnott's wing.  Will the adrenaline settle down tonight?  Or is there something real here?  Just something else to keep an eye on tonight.

Moving onto the opposition: They're good.  Two seasons ago, the team was shooting the lights out.  Last season, a number of key forwards seemingly got struck with bad luck, so scoring suffered.  This season, they are on the upswing,, and so scoring hasn't been so difficult.  Of course, Boston's signing of Nathan Horton looks real good too.  A fine powerful forward mired with Florida for so many years, he's the B's leading scorer, he's hot right now (21.9 S%!!!), and should be one of many threats the Devils will have to deal with.  Of course, it can't come at the expense of ignoring Milan Lucic, Michael Ryder, and Patrice Bergeron among others.

The Bruins will be without David Krjeci. As reported by Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe on Sunday, Krejci has yet to be cleared for contact in practice after suffering an apparent concussion.

2010 - Nathan Horton 14 7 6 13 6 19 3 0 0 32 21.9
2010 - Michael Ryder 14 4 6 10 -3 4 2 0 1 27 14.8
2010 - Milan Lucic 14 6 6 12 7 18 0 0 2 28 21.4
2010 - Patrice Bergeron 14 2 7 9 3 6 1 1 1 32 6.3

Interestingly, the leading shooter on Boston isn't even a forward.  It's defenseman Zdeno Chara with 43.  While the Devils offense will see plenty of the gargantuan player, I almost want to see how the Devils defense will scheme for this guy because it's clear he's being set up for shots.  That his average shot distance at even strength is 50.2  feet this season, according Behind the Net, means that they're mostly long shots.  Hopefully the Devils forwards are able to get in his way and force him to pass instead of firing away.

Of course, even if the Devils figure out the Chara-led defense, then they'll have some tough competition in net to deal with. Shinzawa's report in practice has Tim Thomas as the starter, who was very solid in the Bruins' 4-1 win over New Jersey back in October.  Even if they go with Tuukka Rask, Rask showed the league how talented he really is, so it's not as if there are any favorable goaltender matchups tonight.

The only thing favorable about the Bruins for the Devils tonight would be Boston's recent form. They're 1-3-1 in their last 5 games, while that one win was from a big comeback win over Pittsburgh (final score: 7-4 - 5 goals in the third period); the team has scored only 5 goals in the other four games along with none in their most recent game.   There may not be a better time to catch Boston at home.  So if the Devils can achieve the goal of playing tighter defense and their offense can keep putting up goals as they have in the last two games, then they have a real shot to actually achieve consecutive wins for the first time this season to kick off this three game road trip.

The Gamethread will be up later, closer to gametime.  In the meantime, please feel free to discuss tonight's game in the comments.  If you want to post any news updates, then please do so in the comments with a link to the source.  Let's go Devils.