The Time: 1:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG(HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-28-2) vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (25-10-5)
The Last Devils & Flyers Game: These two teams faced off on Thursday night in Newark and it was a tight, defensive affair. Both teams only put up 20 shots on net. However, the Flyers took full advantage of the Devils' errors whether it was misplaying a puck on a dump-in, missing a pass to the slot and letting the guy crashing to the net get inside position, focusing on the wrong player in a rush, or getting caught in an odd-man rush off a turnover. By the way, that's the summary of the Devils on each of the Flyers' four goals. Throw in a second period devoid of offense along with being unable to break down the Philadelphia defense all night long, and so the Devils lost 4-2 to the Second Rate Rivals. Here's my recap of the loss; and for the Flyers' side, Travis Hughes has this recap at Broad Street Hockey. At least the supporters from ESC in section 117 brought the noise all night long.
The Goal: Speaking of the supporters of ESC, let me cite one of the chants from the South Ward: "ATTACK!, ATTACK!, ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK!" Thursday's game showed that the Flyers can definitely slow the game down, control possession on their terms, and still come away with 4 even strength goals and a deserved win. Trying to do the same isn't likely to yield a different result. So I want the Devils to get a little more aggressive going forward and to break out much faster than they have been in recent games. A big reason why the ice seemed tilted in one direction in spite of both teams being even in shots was how the Devils' offense disappeared for stretches at a time and for nearly the whole second period. While an up tempo game on the road against a team loaded with talented forwards is generally a bad idea, it's something worth trying. The slower, defensive-minded approach didn't work; at least with an offensive approach, it'll keep the opposition honest.
I have a few more thoughts about today's game in the comments. For Flyers coverage, please visit Broad Street Hockey.
Since these two teams played each other two days ago, there's not a whole lot new to say about either side. Sure, Jamie Langenbrunner was traded away from the Devils for a pick, but he didn't play on Thursday. It's not like there's a spot to fill. If you're interested in an overview at the opposition, then please check out the preview from Thursday morning here.
If there's any line on Philadelphia to be especially wary of, then it's the unit of Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Ville Leino. They worked over the Devils repeatedly, they put up big Corsi numbers at 5-on-5, and that line scored all 4 goals on Thursday for the Flyers. All at even strength. Not that the Devils should ignore other forwards like Jeff Carter or Mike Richards or only try to cover the slot when those three are on the ice, but Jacques Lemaire and the players need to come up with a better way of handling Hartnell-Briere-Leino this afternoon. If that means putting Colin White and Henrik Tallinder on them all game long, then so be it if that is what it takes to stop them. Otherwise, those three will make them pay the price for a second straight game.
With respect to the Devils', I do have some hope of seeing the goal listed before the jump partially achieved. Lemaire spoke publicly after Thursday's game about the breakout, reported here by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice:
"In the second, the way we’re playing, we changed it," Lemaire said. "When the forwards are on the move, they have to get the puck. You can’t go D to D. back to D and back to the other D and back to the D. The forwards are waiting. When things like that happen, the forwards stop because who is going to get it to them? So, we want the puck up. We practice it that and guys are used to it and they send it up. But in the second we stopped doing this. So, the players are stopped. Then, we send the puck up and nobody is skating. It makes it tough to forecheck."
I can't imagine Lemaire would call out the breakout and then be satisfied with more of the same. It's not unreasonable to think that Lemaire has informed the players that they must be more urgent when they do set up for a breakout, as well as in the neutral zone. I hope the players respond on the ice with a better effort at this aspect of the game today. Who knows, it may lead to more pressure on who Philadelphia will start in net; it could be either Sergei Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher since the Flyers won't play until Tuesday after today's game.
I also hope Johan Hedberg does not leave his crease going after a dumped-in puck without full confidence that he'll get to it first. Yes, despite losing his last two starts and getting three straight losing decisions overall, Hedberg will start against Philadelphia today as reported by Gulitti on Friday afternoon. You know, I'm failing to see how I'm supposed to accept Martin Brodeur being scratched because the team wasn't winning games with him in net while the team isn't winning games with Hedberg in net. Not that either goalie is solely responsible for the team losing games or even for most of the goals against this season. I'm just pointing out the double standard that's forming here.
As far as the rest of the Devils' lineup goes, here's Gulitti's report from practice. It looks like the same lineup from Thursday. Colin White wasn't practicing, so Matthew Corrente was in for him; though he should be fine for today's game. Gulitti's report does include some information from Lou himself about Mattias Tedenby:
Mattias Tedenby, who said general manager Lou Lamoriello had "some soreness" is practicing. Tedenby is one of four forwards on a line with Jason Arnott, Vladimir Zharkov and Adam Mair.
This may explain why he's been scratched as of late. Then again, he was healthy enough to practice on Friday. I'd prefer him over Adam Mair, since Tedenby is an offensive player and Mair isn't. Ideally, I'd play him over Brian Rolston for the same reason, but that's just me. Of course, I expect him and Corrente to sit for Mair and Salmela. Perhaps I'll be surprised with a gameday change.
Perhaps the Devils will come out with a better game plan, do a better job covering the slot, and give the Flyers a competitive game for all three periods on their turf. That would be both surprising and lovely. As always, we shall see.
The Gamethread will be up later, closer to game time. In the meantime, please feel free to discuss today's game in the comments. If you want to post any news updates (or corrections or what-have-you), then please do so in the comments with a link to the source. Lastly, thank you for reading. Let's go, Devils.