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Game 22 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Calgary Flames

Keep up the good work from Monday, Devils, and you'll get the chance to hug more often.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Keep up the good work from Monday, Devils, and you'll get the chance to hug more often. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Time: 7:30 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2 (really); Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (6-13-2) vs. the Calgary Flames (8-11-1)

The Last Devils Game: A fantastic 5-0 win over the Washington CapitalsIt was fun writing praise-worthy things for the New Jersey side for a change in the recap. I'm still smiling about it, really.

The Last Flames Game: The Flames went into the World's Most Overrated Arena for the second of their five-game road trip.  The second period had all the scoring, but not so much for the Flames and so they came out losers 2-1.  Hayley at Matchsticks and Gasoline focused on how the team's effort just wasn't good enough despite the shot totals.

The Goal: As I said in my recap of the Devils' 5-0 win on Monday night:


So the Devils must continue to do what worked on Monday night and improve on what didn't.  It's rather obvious, but quite frankly, that's really it in terms of the goal.  Given where the Devils are, it's "by any means necessary" mode.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.  For a Flames based look, please visit Matchsticks and Gasoline.

Out of Tuesday's practice, only one Devil wasn't on the ice: Anton VolchenkovTom Gulitti noted this on Fire & Ice while also pointing out that he didn't get a shift in the final 5 minutes of the game.  The official word on his absence was "rest."  I don't think he should be added to the injury list, though.  Volchenkov is a physical player and some blocks are going to linger for a bit.  A day off isn't a bad idea, or a reason to get concerned.  Besides, John MacLean did tell Gulitti later in the day that he expected Volchenkov to play against Calgary.    So I'm going to take him at his word for it.

Per the same post by Gulitti, MacLean also named Hedberg the starter, which should surprise no one.  Personally, I think we may see the exact same lineup from Monday night - including a second game for rookie Mark Fayne on defense.

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

Henrik Tallinder - Colin White
  Mark Fayne - Andy Greene
Anton Volchenkov - Matthew Corrente

Johan Hedberg
Mike McKenna

As far as what I want the Devils to continue from Monday, I want to see a similarly strong effort in the defensive zone most of all.  The Devils did a great job defending the slot, cleaning up rebounds, forcing turnovers (granted Washington's passes made it easy at times), and turning said turnovers into offensive rushes.  Calgary may not have the same level of offensive talent as Washington, but that doesn't mean they won't take advantage of silly errors.

In terms of what to improve, I'd like to see a better possession game - even from the strong line of Elias-Arnott-Tedenby.  The Devils did put up 5 goals on Washington overall and took a commanding lead by the end of the first period.  I can understand the other team out-shooting the Devils in that case.  We've seen the Devils be on the other end of that scenario far too many times this season. However, the offense can ease pressure off the defense and really drive the stake real deep if they can set up more on offense and put up a couple of shots on net should they get a lead.  They didn't do a lot of that against Washington, but they'll need to because it's not going to be often that they'll put up 3 in the first period and make it a 5-spot by the end of the second.   Something like the St. Louis game if you need a template.

Moving on to Calgary.  I struggle to understand this team.  Their record isn't good.  The playoffs are looking bleak for them along with New Jersey. They lost two close games on their current road trip.  This quarter-of-the-season review at Matchsticks and Gasoline by user PrairieStew seems to sum it up: a solid team offense (2.90 goals per game, tied for 11th), a  solid team prevention of shots against per game (29.3 per game, tied for 11th) but they leak goals (3.05 against per game, now tied with NJ at 22nd) and not a lot to be happy about.

Regardless, there are a few important people to note on Calgary.  Their top three scorers are definitely dangerous.

2010 - Jarome Iginla 20 9 8 17 -2 17 3 0 2 68 13.2
2010 - Alex Tanguay 20 6 11 17 1 12 0 0 0 26 23.1
2010 - Rene Bourque 18 9 6 15 -5 8 2 1 3 47 19.1

Iginla is especially dangerous not just because he's big, strong, and oozing with talent.  I would dare suggest he's hot.  He's got 7 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.  He was the lone Flame to score on the Rangers on Monday night, and I'm sure the Calgary attack will try to get him the puck.  He's been firing away often when he got the puck so far this season as evidenced by his 68 shots on goal. 

One forward who might not be involved tonight for Calgary will be Matt Stajan. The center got lit up by Marc Staal on Monday night and he's day to day with the "upper body injury" according to Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald.   Per Hall's article, he usually centers Iginla and Tanguay; so this may force head coach Brent Sutter to find a new center - and the pickings are a bit slim.  Hall figures it may be Mikael Backlund since Olli Jokinen is still serving a suspension and Craig Conroy apparently has a shoulder injury and missed Monday's game.  (Injuries are piling up as Robyn Regher is also day-to-day with a "lower body injury" from the same Hall article.)

Sutter will also make a change in net. The workhorse, Miikka Kiprusoff, is not expected to play tonight.  Vicki Hall reported in the Calgary Herald that Henrik Karlsson is the expected starting goaltender for the Flames.

2010 - Henrik Karlsson 3 125 1 1 9 4.32 59 50 .847 0

Karlsson hasn't played since October 28 (and not much before then), so hopefully he'll be a bit rusty.

Now, a few words for Brent Sutter.  I'll be frank: I would love to see New Jersey smack Calgary around.  He quit on his contract, cited family as the reason to leave, and a few days later, he's hired by the Flames.  Nothing says commitment to family and being close to home like coaching a NHL team in the Western Conference for the better part of 7-8 months.  That said, time heals all wounds, and I honestly don't have the same burning desire for revenge, to see Sutter leave Newark with a facial expression like someone peed in his coffee.  He'll take his booing as-is, per Tom Gulitti; and I understand (it makes more sense than booing Paul Martin).  I only have the burning desire to see Calgary lose because the Devils need points badly.  Not that it will be easy since Calgary is in the same boat.

In any case, I'll be in my usual seat for this one: Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, hoping to see some continuation of the goodness the Devils had on Monday.  The Gamethread will be up later, closer to game time - which is 30 minutes later than usual (I think for TSN?).  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.  Last and not at all least, Thank you for reading.  Let's go Devils.