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Game 58 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers

The Time: 7 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV: VERSUS (HD); Radio: 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (36-19-2) at the Philadelphia Flyers (28-25-3)

The Last Devils Game: 42 shots, 5 power plays, all kinds of shots, rebounds, looks, and pressure, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped all but one. A second period surge got the Rangers 3 fairly quickly goals, but it was Lundqvist who bailed the Rangers out over and over and over before, during, and after that surge. The Devils lost to Our Hated Rivals, 3-1, and here is my recap from the game.

The Last Flyers Game: The Devils weren't the only ones who ran into a hot goalie. Only the Flyers were facing the Minnesota Wild and were denied nearly all night long by Anton Khudobin. Yes, the Anton Khudobin. Philly put 39 shots on net, but only beat him once. The Wild were able to get two past Philadelphia's Michael Leighton and that's the game. Travis Hughes' recap highlights the frustration of watching his team unable to beat a goalie (sounds familiar) over at Broad Street Hockey.

The Last Devils-Flyers Game: It was a game that changed from period to period. The New Jersey Devils had a fantastic first period over the Flyers, wherein the Devils scored two power play goals and Patrik Elias potted in his 300th career goal. The second period saw the Flyers in control, pulling one back, the Devils sitting back, but yet Patrik Elias was sprung by Brian Rolston to make it 4-1 right at the end and keep the Devils lead intact. The third period was even and nondescript save for a few good saves. While not a great performance all around, the win was decisive for New Jersey. Here was my recap of the win; and here was Ben Rothenberg's short recap of what he felt was a brutal game for Philly at Broad Street Hockey. The season series stands at 1-2-0 for the Devils.

The Goal: I'm repeating myself but it's a 60 minute game. Yes, I argued that the second period breakdowns by the Devils are more of a recent problem then anything else, but it is something the Devils need to be worried about. And no, the solution isn't to start slowly or end slowly at expense of playing well in the second period. The Flyers need points to keep up near the top of the Eastern Conference playoff group. They'd love to get some over a rival both tonight and on Wednesday. They're not going to let up, they're going to be pumped up, and so the Devils should expect one lively team.

One more thing, if the Devils are able to get that as many chances as they did against New York, then expect some goals unless Ray Emery or Michael Leighton play out of their minds. (Emery's had some "hip tightness" so I don't know if he'll be good for tonight, he didn't play on Saturday because of it.)

Check out Broad Street Hockey if you'd like a Flyers-based perspective on tonight's game. Read on my further thoughts on tonight's game.

Now, what can we see from the Devils tonight? Well, per Tom Gulitti, they had an optional practice on Sunday and the only regulars involved were Mark Fraser and, curiously, Mike Mottau. Mottau has been highlighted by some fans (you know who you are) for criticism for making bad decisions that lead to goals against. He decided to do some extra work, with this comment that Gulitti reported:

"I was little frustrated with the outcome last night," Mottau said. "There were some things I wanted to work on and it was a nice release just to get on there and work on some things and shoot some pucks. (Mark) Fraser and I were working on some one-timers down the end. You don’t really have the opportunity to do that sometimes during practice and at then at the end of pratice the ice isn’t really good."

It's nice that he and the rookie Fraser are putting in additional work. However, the only way he's going to get less criticism if he plays smarter in his own end. I mean, he had a pretty good game on Saturday, yet he still made a bad clearance up the middle that Ryan Callahan picked off for a goal - a lethal error.

As far as the lineup is concerned, I liked the group that Lemaire had out there for Saturday. The only line mixing he really did was when he basically benched Andrew Peters for the third and double shifted a winger. Other than that, these lines stayed together. Since Henrik Lundqvist giving 210% was the only reason they didn't burn out the goal light in Madison Square Garden, I have no problem with seeing the same combinations again in Philly. Here's my guess at the lineup:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk - Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias
Jay Pandolfo - Rob Niedermayer - Brian Rolston
Andrew Peters - Dean McAmmond - Vladimir Zharkov

Andy Greene - Bryce Salvador
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Anssi Salmela - Mark Fraser

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis

Personally, I'm especially looking forward to another game of Kovalchuk and Elias playing together. Elias looked fine in his first game and got an assist on Saturday; Kovalchuk played a ton of minutes (too much?) and got 8 shots on net. I hope the Flyers defense is up for tonight.

With respect to the Flyers, they haven't exactly had the best run of form as of late either. They have won two of their last six games and here's a list of numbers, guess what they are: 1, 3, 2, 3, 0, 1. That's how many goals the Flyers have scored in those 6 games. While sees a lineup featuring players like these at forward...

2009 - Jeff Carter 56 22 25 47 4 32 8 1 5 0 245 9.0
2009 - Mike Richards 56 22 22 44 3 61 11 1 2 0 171 12.9
2009 - Danny Briere 49 18 17 35 0 47 5 0 1 0 119 15.1
2009 - Simon Gagne 32 6 17 23 -4 22 2 0 0 0 96 6.3
2009 - Claude Giroux 56 12 20 32 2 19 5 0 1 0 90 13.3

...they aren't banging them away as of late. They have the talent, they could break it out, but recently - it's not happening. Given where the Flyers are in the East, fans are concerned about all aspects of the team. Hughes' recap of their 2-1 loss to the Wild showed evidence of the frustration. Geoff Detweiler was breaking down the defensive pairings to see what does and doesn't work, because if they can't score properly, then the defense needs to be completely on-point. Doesn't that sound a little familiar, Devils fans?

So, tonight, there are two teams with great top two-line talent who have had trouble scoring as of late and winning games in the last two weeks. Will either be especially inspired to make the most happen out of frustration, out of a sheer desire to win? Will either be demoralized after losing largely due to the opposition goaltender playing like a superstar? Ultimately, I feel this is where the game will go down to; whichever offense is confident, skating down ice and moving the puck with swagger will have the big advantage. It is a rivalry game and both teams have offenses that would want to make a statement - this will certainly be a game filled with energy. Presuming, of course, Martin Brodeur and Emery/Leighton doesn't have monster nights of their own.

Steve will have the GameThread up later today. As it is an away game, I'll be around for commenting as well. Until then, please leave all your thoughts, feelings, concerns, complaints, and above all any news updates (remember to provide a link, and no, don't just copy & paste the URL, actually embed the link with the link button) on tonight's game. Go Devils!