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Game 75 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers

The Time: 7 PM EDT/4 PM PDT

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

The Official Watch Party: Over 21? Want to watch this game with Devils fans? The team's having an official watch party in Park East in Hazlet, NJ. Details here on the team's official site.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (44-25-5) at the Philadelphia Flyers (37-32-6)

The Last Devils Game: Last night, the Devils went up to Montreal and played yet another close game against the Canadiens. Only this time, the Devils won 4-2 (3-2 without the empty netter), breaking a four game road losing streak. The special teams were exactly that as the power play was 2-for-2 and the penalty killers and Martin Brodeur forced Montreal to go 0-for-4. Steve Lepore saw the game live and put together this tidy recap of the night's events. Thank you, Steve.

The Last Flyers Game: The swoon for the Winged P continues. They faced off with their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins in yet another chapter of the Battle of Pennsylvania. It was decisive - as in, the Flyers got decisively beaten. The Flyers lost 4-1 to Pittsburgh and now find themselves eighth in the East. Their starting goaltender, Johan Backlund suffered a groin pull, so Brian Boucher stepped in yet again. Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey recapped the game, focusing much attention on refereeing for some reason.

The Last Devils-Flyers Game: A blizzard was hitting New Jersey hard, but the game went on at the Rock. The Devils went up by two goals in the first period - one off a fluke deflection, one that went through Michael Leighton somehow - but they didn't build upon it. An unfortunate deflection by the Devils' defense and a well placed shot by Jeff Carter were enough for the Flyers to climb back into the game to force overtime. In a game marred with poor offense and where the Devils defense actually was playing very well for most of the game, a long shift allowed Simon Gagne to break through for the 3-2 win in overtime. I wasn't happy about the loss in my recap; neither was Jacques Lemaire from what I quoted of him then. Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey noted correctly that it was a deja vu victory as the Flyers won their last game against New Jersey 3-2 in a come-from-behind win. The Devils are 1-3-1 against the Flyers this season.

The Goal: Just like on Saturday, raise your game against a potential playoff opponent. OK, so the Flyers are 2-6-2 in their last 10, three goaltenders are now injured (Ray Emery, Michael Leighton, Jonas Backlund - though, his may be minor), and Jeff Carter is out. They're coming off a 4-1 loss to rival Pittsburgh and suddenly they find themselves in eighth place in the East. What does this mean for tonight's game?

To me, nothing. Last I checked, the Devils and Flyers share a rivalry and teams get up for them. If anything, losing 4-1 to Pittsburgh on top of their other problems (bad form, injuries) might as well inspire them to take out their frustrations on the New Jersey Devils. A team they've had much success against so far this season. If the Devils are going to face them in the first round, then you can bet that season series record will provide a lot more confidence to the Orange and Black - perhaps enough to carry them over their injury/goaltending issues. Therefore, the Devils must take this game seriously from the start. I know they played last night, but the energy level has to be higher than Philly throughout all three periods.

Check out Broad Street Hockey for any Flyers-based coverage prior to tonight. I have a few additional thoughts about tonight's game after the jump.

As of this writing, I haven't seen the Montreal game. Please check Steve's recap for the details you may desire. However, I found this particular post-game post from Tom Gulitti to be very interesting, as it notes that Jacques Lemaire is undecided on who to start in goal tonight and that Bryce Salvador was benched for the third period.

Let's cover the goaltending first. In my opinion, Brodeur should be the starter. The Flyers are a potential playoff opponent, the game is on the road where the Devils have not done well at all in 2010, and the Flyers have done well against New Jersey this season. It behooves Lemaire to play his best players in this situation - that means Brodeur in net. I'm not trying to disrespect Yann Danis, but what benefit comes from him playing? Fine, Brodeur gets some rest - but does he truly need it? Moreover, Danis isn't possibly going to see this team in mid-April - play him against the non-playoff opponents at this point. That's my take on the situation.

Now, let's consider what Lemaire said about Bryce Salvador's play last night:

"I think his game dropped a little bit there and he started to get a little tight with the guys instead of just reacting to any passes," Lemaire said. "We felt that it was not his night."

Hmm. Salvador had his own thoughts:

"Obviously, you want to be playing," Salvador said. "I’m the type of player that I don’t overanalyze things. It’s just the way it’s going right now. So, I’m not going to overanalyze anything because there’s a lot of hockey left here and we’ve got a big run here. When things aren’t going your way, sometimes you have to take a step back and, hopefully, they’ll start going your way again."

Now, a reader by the name of Eric sent me this article about Wes Walz, who Lemaire coached in Minnesota. He had this reference to Lemaire about his time coaching Steve Stamkos in an interview done by Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I think it's curiously appropriate to Salvador's situation just based on the post-game quotes:

Taking a page out of Jacques Lemaire's large book of theories ingrained into his brain, Walz told Stamkos "to keep the game in front of you, to pretend like you're watching a movie. You want to be able to watch everything that's going on in the screen. We just got him to slow down.

If Salvador wasn't reacting appropriately on defense, then perhaps it's because he's not seeing the forest from the trees. Just a guess, though. In any case, with Mark Fraser and Anssi Salmela just waiting to be named to the lineup, I hope Salvador is "inspired" to perform more to Lemaire's liking soon. Since Philadelphia is still a big, physical team, I think Salvador will play tonight. I also think we'll see some "beef" in the lineup, probably Pelley or Zharkov would sit in that case. Here's my wild guess at the Devils' lineup.

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Brian Rolston
David Clarkson - Rob Niedermayer - Dainius Zubrus
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - Dean McAmmond - Vladimir Zharkov

Paul Martin - Martin Skoula
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Andy Greene - Bryce Salvador

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis

As usual, this will likely be different from what the Devils do at game time. The offense has continued to produce with these lines, so I think they'll remain the same.

Now, briefly for Philadelphia, I would have to think Brian Boucher will be starting in net tonight. I mean, who else on the roster would be able to at this point?

2009 - Brian Boucher 25 1318 5 15 63 2.87 602 539 .895 0

I wouldn't starting counting the goals before they go in, despite what Boucher's numbers suggest. Sure, he's won exactly one game since March 16, but the team's been in a funk when it's come to scoring. Sam Cardichi of the Broad Street Bull blog at compiled all of the scoring slumps on the team after last night's loss.

Consider the following slumping players:

  • Darroll Powe: 0 goals in his last 27 games.
  • James van Riemsdyk: 0 goals in his last 14 games.
  • Arron Asham: 1 goal (scored Saturday) in his last 14 games.
  • Dan Carcillo: 2 goals in his last 14 games.
  • Danny Briere: 1 goal in his last 11 games.
  • Giroux: 2 goals in his last 21 games.
  • Mike Richards: 2 goals in his last 12 games.
  • Scott Hartnell: 3 goals in his last 29 games.

In a word: Ouch.

Again, I can't help but feel cautious despite what this information and Boucher's results in net. When has this season series ever matched what it looks like on paper? Who's to say Boucher won't have a great night or one of these guys finally snap their slump? The Devils cannot take this team lightly given the games they've played against each other this season. All this really proves is that the Flyers have been struggling. Important to know, but it's not an excuse to take the night off either.

That's at least my take. With both teams playing last night, I'm sure gameday will have much more news happening. Please leave all news updates here in the comments with links. Also, please share your thoughts, concerns, complaints, corrections, and other feelings about tonight's game in the comments. Steve will have a GameThread up later, I'll be commenting at times during the game, and we'll hopefully see some good Devils hockey played in front of the Philly faithful. Go Devils!