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Game 76 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins

The Time: 7 PM EDT/4 PM PDT

The Broadcast: TV: MSG+2; Radio: 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (44-26-5) vs. the Boston Bruins (34-29-12)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went into Philadelphia after breaking a long road losing streak in Montreal, and, well, it wasn't pretty.  The Flyers scored quickly, never really let up, and the only solace the Devils can take out of the game was that at least they weren't shut out.  Just a bad game in so many ways for the visiting New Jersey Devils.  I recapped the game here.

The Last Bruins Game: The Bruins played last night in Boston, hosting the Buffalo Sabres.  Boston came out firing pucks on net, a total of 42 against Ryan Miller. However, the Sabres - who were no slouches with 33 shots on net - were able to beat Tim Thomas three times leading to an early exit for him.  The Bruins' Dennis Seidenberg pulled within one just before 5 minutes left in the third, but the Sabres wouldn't let them complete the comeback. The Bruins lost 3-2, leaving Rangers and Thrashers another glimmer of hope in their playoff hopes. 

The Last Devils-Bruins Game: The Devils were coming off of a disappointing road loss at Long Island to host the Bruins on March 15.  They responded with an excellent first period and were able to keep Boston at bay for the next two.  A late deflection goal by Patrice Bergeron only served to make the score look closer than the game.  The Devils were able to rebound with a win over Boston, 3-2.  Incidentally, Tim Thomas was pulled in that game as well for Boston, where upon Tuukka Rask had a good outing.  Here's my recap of the game; for the Boston perspective, Stanley Cup of Chowder has this recap, where it's stated that Rask has won the #1 job.  Hmm.  The Devils are 3-0 against Boston so far this season.

The Goal: Come out with fire.  The Devils didn't start strong in Montreal but thanks to Martin Brodeur playing very well - as usual in Montreal - it didn't burn the team.  The Devils didn't start strong in Philadelphia and got rolled within the first 10 minutes of the game, which put them in a big hole that they never really crawled out of that night.  Given that the opposition is coming off a loss wherein they threw everything and the kitchen sink at Ryan Miller and they need points to secure their spot, it would be stupid to think they'll not find something mentally to get up for this game.  The Devils can prevent that from happening by starting off the game well.  I'm not saying the Devils have to light up the Bruins early; just get some good shots on net, actually work hard to get shots on net early, maintain decent possession, and be mindful of their sticks.  If all is going according to plan, then build on it.

If you're interested in the Boston perspective, check out Stanley Cup of Chowder during the day.  I have additional thoughts about tonight's game after the jump.

The Devils didn't practice on Monday, so it's a bit harder to guess as what they'll do for tonight.  I highly recommend checking out Tom Gulitti and Rich Chere during the day to get more up-to-date information.   So here's a wild guess at the 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 - Rod Pelley

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

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis

Boston's a pretty big team and in the last game they came here, the game was quite physical.  Lots of hitting and grinding along the boards.  It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Jacques Lemaire puts in Rod Pelley and a little extra "beef" (Leblond, please, not Peters) in response to Shawn Thornton's presence.   I think Lemaire will keep the other lines intact as now's the time to groom them for the playoffs.  It's not like they've been poor, Sunday's loss to Philadelphia excepted.

And there's one other big exception, the NHL's Third Star of last week: Ilya Kovalchuk.  Ilya Kovalchuk put up 3 goals and 5 assists in his last four games, surely a big statement as to how he's fitting in with New Jersey.  You know it's going well when Lou is praising you to the press. Rich Chere reported this from Lou on Monday, explaining why he made the deal (bold is my emphasis):

"That was for the reason that you have a chance (to win the Stanley Cup). He brings a different dimension and complements the people we have so we can score with more than one, two or three lines. And he has fit into the Devils atmosphere as well as could possibly be expected. Very unselfish. It's like he's been here a long time."

Not to pat myself on the back here, but I did note that he would improve after he's settled in with the team.  He more than doubled his production in March since this monster of a post about Ilya Kovalchuk.   To think, he could be just getting warmed up.

Going to Boston here, I would have to think Tuukka Rask would be starting tonight.  According to this Boston-Buffalo game post by Fluto Shinzawa at the Boston Globe, Rask did well, David Krejci did well (a goal, 3 shots on net), Tim Thomas got some bad breaks, and it seemed that Dennis Wideman and Dennis Seidenberg has poor games.  While he picked up the shutout in a 5-0 (!) win over Calgary, Thomas was pulled again for Rask on Tuesday. Surely, this would mean Rask would start, right, Claude Julien?  Right?

2009 - Tuukka Rask 38 2162 18 11 76 2.11 1036 960 .927 4

In any case, there's a bit of deja vu with tonight's game against Boston. The opponent is coming off a loss, a game they'd rather not lose given their position in the standings, and they play the Devils on a second consecutive night. Thankfully, the Devils have had a day of rest to recollect after the Philly game and the game will be at the Rock.  Perhaps that'll be enough to yield a different result.  If there's one player on the Bruins I'd especially pay attention to, it's David Krejci.  He had a good game against Buffalo and he has 7 points in his last 4 games (3 goals, 4 assists).  In other words, he's hot and he'll be looking to lead the Bruins' offense en route to a highly desirable victory (for them).  

2009 - David Krejci 71 16 30 46 3 24 6 0 3 0 133 12.0

The Devils defense should be prepared for plenty of shots, like the last Boston game.  The Bruins have put up at least 31 shots in each game since their loss to New Jersey, except for one game where they only put 17 on Pittsburgh.  Lots of rubber with some success, as they've scored 2 goals in each of those games except for one shutout - the game against Pittsburgh where they only put 17 shots on net, not coincidentally.   That being said, the Bruins have went 4-3 in that time frame, so it's not like they've been lighting the league on fire.  Hopefully, like the last Devils-Bruins game, the defense can force them to take more easy shots than anything else and force them to only one or two at best.

Steve will be at the game, I'll be in my usual seat in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, but don't worry, there will be a GameThread open for your game-time comments.  I may even jump in via mobile phone at times.  Nevertheless, in the meantime, please leave all of your thoughts, feelings, complaints, concerns, compliments, and news updates (with links) in the comments here.   Go Devils!