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Game 32 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Atlanta Thrashers

The only reason this picture is here is because of the Mandatory "Ilya Kovalchuk mention whenever there's a Devils-Thrashers game" law in place.
The only reason this picture is here is because of the Mandatory "Ilya Kovalchuk mention whenever there's a Devils-Thrashers game" law in place.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV: MSG Plus 2 RADIO: WFAN 660AM

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-20-2) vs the Atlanta Thrashers (17-11-5)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils didn't put up much of an effort last night, had a terrible second period (but by now it's a reflex to assume every 2nd period is terrible) and lost 3-1 to the Nashville Predators. John's recap of the game can be found here.

The Last Thrashers Game: The Thrashers lost 3-2 against the Hurricanes in the shootout. From Aaron B's recap of the game, Cam Ward was the big difference for the two clubs as the Canes slowly wore down the Thrashers.

The Goal: While tonight might be the 2nd time Ilya Kovalchuk will be playing in Atlanta, there will be lots of people talking about him being back in Atlanta as part of a terrible team while the Thrashers are playing well enough to be in the playoff hunt. The Devils are going to need to ignore all the talk and hype about this game and treat it as if they were playing any other game. The other goal is to not expect what they've seen last game- The Thrashers are the exact opposite of the Preds- Excellent offensively and solid defensively.  It might be abit easier to generate chances on offense, but the Thrashers aren't exactly slouches, so the Devils better be prepared tonight.

For Thrashers based analysis and perspectives, check out Birdwatchers Anonymous. More thoughts and key points after the jump.

Lineups: Unless something drastic happens, the lineup will likely remain the same as yesterday.As for who's starting tomorrow, Tom Gulitti mentioned that MacLean will decide who's going to be in net in the morning. Seeing as this is the 2nd game of a back to back, it's pretty likely Johan Hedberg gets the start tonight against his former team.

Ilya Kovalchuk (A) - Jason Arnott - Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias (A)- Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner (C)
Mattias Tedenby - Brian Rolston - David Clarkson
Rod Pelley - Tim Sestito - Adam Mair

Colin White - Henrik Tallinder
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Anssi Salmela

Johan Hedberg
Martin Brodeur


A Tale of Two Bluelines (Defense):  As Tom pointed out earlier this week, the Devils are in pretty bad shape when it comes to offensive contributions. The Thrashers on the other hand, have plenty of contributions from their bluelines. The biggest (figuratively and literally) reason would be Dustin Byfuglien. Many criticized the Thrashers for moving him to the blueline, but in the long run it's paid dividends- he's the highest scoring defenseman in the league, and he's also been putting lots of pucks on net. His defensive partner, Tobias Enstrom isn't quite bad either.

2010 - Dustin Byfuglien 33 11 22 33 6 35 4 0 5 129

2010 - Tobias Enstrom 33 3 19 22 3 12 2 0 0 37

The rest of the defense might not contribute as much offensively, but they're equally effective. Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian will likely be out against the Devils 2nd line, and they'll give them a tough time. Ex-Devil Johnny Oduya and Brent Sopel round out a solid group of defensemen.

Me doing my Allan Walsh Impression (Key Players): While I mentioned the Defense before, one difference maker for the Thrashers is [Client] Ondrej Pavelec. Despite missing some time after collapsing and suffering a concussion early in the season, he's been standing on his head for the Thrashers, and his numbers don't lie.

2010 - Ondrej Pavelec 21 1166 10 6 35 1.80 617 582 .943 2

For the Devils, [Client] Patrik Elias has been particularily hot, with 7 points over his last 5 games (3 G, 4 A). Hopefully tonight Elias and company will be the rubber to Ondrej's Pavelectricity.

New Kids on The Block (Rookies): We all know how great Mattias Tedenby has been for us this season. The Thrashers also have a pretty impressive rookie of their own: Alexander Burmistrov.

2010 - Alexander Burmistrov 33 5 8 13 2 23 0 0 2 54

The 8th overall pick from the 2010 draft is only 19, but he's shown flashes of brilliance. Example: Dangling Jeff Schultz out of his jock and sliding it past by an awe-struck Michal Neuvirth. He's quite similar to Tedenby- both aren't the biggest people, but they're skilled with the puck, they're shifty, fearless and they can take a few hits. They're both excellent at drawing penalties- Burmistrov draws penalties at a ridiculous rate of 3.0/60 minutes.They're both capable of bringing a spark and they're both great young talents. Burmistrov is definitely one of the Thrashers you should watch out.

Favoured Enemy (Player to Watch): Evander Kane

2010 - Evander Kane 31 10 9 19 -5 35 2 0 1 109

He's someone who can do a lot. He leads all thrashers forwards in hits with 55 (tied for the team lead with Byfuglien), he's 4th on the Thrashers with 24 takeaways and he's can also draw penalties as well, drawing 1.5 penalties/60 minutes. Combine that with some offensive skills and you've got a very versatile crash and bang player with the ability to score goals. 

That and he also knocked out Matt Cooke, which gives him bonus points in my book.

My two cents (Other thoughts): First and foremost, Mattias Tedenby shouldn't be playing with Brian Rolston and David Clarkson. Someone as skilled and talented as Tedenby shouldn't be playing with muckers and grinders. He's been playing well and he deserves some time with some of the Devils' skill players. He can provide a spark, and a team that's been struggling could use any kind of spark right now.

Secondly, staying out of the box will be pretty important. The Preds scored twice on the Powerplay last night, and like the Preds the Thrashers have two standout defensemen who will be on the powerplay. Seeing as I haven't gotten a chance to see the Thrashers play a lot this season, i'm curious as to where Byfuglien will be- on the point ripping shots, or down low screening the goalie. Either way, the 5th best powerplay in the league isn't something to be taken lightly, so penalties should ideally be at a minimum lest the Devils want to challenge themselves.

Third, i'm not going to expect the Devils to put up as many shots as last night, but much more. They recorded 16 shots on goal last night, but 26 of them were blocked by the Predators.The Thrashers give up the 4th most shots/game in the league, meaning there will be more chances for the Devils. The Thrashers defense does feature some defense-first defensemen, but most of their strengths lie in their offensive abilities, namely Byfuglien. While he's quite good offensively, the Devils should try and take advantage of the less mobile Byfuglien alot and go after him rather than the the more mobile Enstrom.

Final Thoughts: Please win. That is all.

The Gamethread should be up around gametime. For anyone who's going to be at the game, Matt and some of his friends are going to be at the game tonight. If there's any news or lineup changes, feel free to mention them in the comment section. Thanks for reading. And most importantly, Go Devils!