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Game 25 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs Montreal Canadiens

Ilya Kovalchuk had a strong game against the team that bumped him and the Devils out of the playoffs last year. I'm hoping he can bring that same game tonight against a team that he (or the Devils organization) has little history with.
Ilya Kovalchuk had a strong game against the team that bumped him and the Devils out of the playoffs last year. I'm hoping he can bring that same game tonight against a team that he (or the Devils organization) has little history with.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV: RDS(HD), MSG PLUS(HD), Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (8-14-2) vs. the Montreal Canadiens (15-8-2)

The Last Devils Game: The New Jersey Devils played a strong first period against the hated Philadelphia Flyers, but started to slow down and let the Flyers take over. Despite a poor showing, the Devils came out victorious in the shootout against a Flyers team who went to a shootout the previous night (and lost).

The Last Canadiens Game: The Canadiens had an unfortunate OT loss to a young Oilers team. Kevin van Steendelaar recapped the loss here.

The Goal: Play a convincing 60 minute game. The Devils can't use fatigue as an excuse, the last time they played was Saturday afternoon. And while the Devils might not be exhausted, they're getting a Canadiens team that's went to overtime, while the Devils are fresh. The Devils problem last game was that they weren't able to match the intensity of the Flyers for most of the game, and were only in it mainly because of Johan Hedberg's amazing 40 save performance. The Devils might not hate the Canadiens as much as they hate a team like the Rangers or the Flyers, but i'd like to see them show some intensity against the Northeast division Leaders. Right now, the Devils should treat any team they face like they're a hated rival- they need the points if they want to salvage the season, and uninspired play is something that isn't going to help them.

There's going to be some more analysis and thoughts after the breakdown. Check out Habs Eyes on The Prize for a Canadiens based preview of tonight's game.

Goaltending Battle- The Passion of the Price: While many (including myself) have mocked Pierre Gauthier for trading away playoff hero Jaroslav Halak instead of Carey Price, in retrospect he might not have made that bad a deal. Thanks largely to the 2nd Star of NoMovember, the Canadiens are on top of the Northeast division and have a league best 1.96 Goals against/Game. Price has been dominant, recording 8 wins (4 via shutout), as well as a goals against average of 1.52 and an impressive save % of .952.

2010 - Carey Price 22 1320 14 7 43 1.95 664 621 .935 4

The Devils have had a hard time scoring goals over the last few games, and with the man who's been called "Jesus Price" in net, it's not going to get any easier.

As for the Devils, Martin Brodeur is still unlikely to play tonight. Which for the Canadiens is a good thing, seeing as he's utterly dominant against them. Instead, Johan Hedberg will be in net. Like Price, Hedberg's been excellent lately, he's recorded a .956 save % over the last week, despite poor performances from the Devils. While the Devils have been successful against Les Habitants with a Future Hall of Famer in net, they're going to have to be successful tonight with the Moose in net.

Forwards- Hoping for some good Kovalluck: Despite Kovalchuk getting mocked by the Flyers faithful Saturday for his "bad performance", he was an offensive force that afternoon- registering a whopping 8 shots on net. I'd like to see Kovalchuk bring the same intensity against the Habs tonight. Again, he might not have a problem with the Habs or anything, but I'd rather see him flying around trying to score rather than loafting around like Alex Kovalev. I personally think he's due for a goal, and if he can score one against one of the league's top goalies, he might shut some critics up and get some confidence back.

The Devils were without forward Patrik Elias on Saturday, who's wife gave birth to his newest daughter. Elias' return might help spark Jason Arnott and Mattias Tedenby out, as they didn't exactly have the best game without him.Speaking of Arnott, he missed a few practises due to food poisoning, but Tom Gulitti reports that he's feeling better.

From the same Article, Gulitti also reports that Jamie Langenbrunner is "likely returning" tonight. Langenbrunner has been out since November 10th, and could potentially provide a spark for the Devils, who have scored a combined 2 goals since their 5 goal outburst against the Capitals.

Favoured Enemies- Who the Devils should pay close attention to:

While the Habs have a lot of threats offensively like Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammaleri, i'm going to talk about one of the defensemen: P.K. Subban. He's been considered one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year by some pundits, and he's proving them right: he's been one of their best defensemen on both ends of the ice.

2010 - P.K. Subban 24 1 8 9 6 27 1 0 0 67

I'm also mentioning Subban for another reason: he can and will get under the Devils skin. He's annoyed the likes of Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards, causing the latter to cry about "a lack of respect". Keep in mind Subban's also been out against guys like Crosby and Richards, so there's a good chance that he's going to be out there against Kovalchuk and he's definitely going to be a pain in the rear end for Kovy.

Do they really Kneed Markov?- A potential weakness: Kevin van Steendelaar and some of the writers from Eyes on the Prize discussed the State of the Habs over the first two months. They had a lot of good things to say about the team, but they did mention some negatives, one being the team's play since Andrei Markov injured his knee against the Carolina Hurricanes. Since his injury on November 13th, the Habs have alternated wins and losses. Andrew Berkshire mentions that Markov's offensive abilities will be missed (especially on the powerplay), meaning that unless someone steps up for the Habs tonight, the Devils might be able to keep most of the other Habs in check.

Final Thoughts: The Devils can't sit back and rely on their goaltending tonight. Everyone's going to have to attack Price, I don't care if it's Kovalchuk or if it's Colin White- I want the Devils to make an impression tonight and end the game on a high before Saturday's afternoon rematch against the Flyers.

The Gamethread should be up around gametime. If there's any news or lineup changes, you can post them in the comments. You can use this post to discuss the game and post your thoughts on the game. Thanks for reading, and most importantly, LETS GO DEVILS!