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Game 7 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Los Angeles Kings

One of these two men will be not on the ice tonight.  Hint: it's not Zach Parise. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
One of these two men will be not on the ice tonight. Hint: it's not Zach Parise. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Time: 10:30 PM EST

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

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-2-1) at the Los Angeles Kings (5-1-1)

The Last Devils Game:  The Devils went into Pittsburgh and played a poor game of hockey.  The puck movement was spotty at best, the Penguins got the jump on the Devils to start the game, the Devils took some poor calls, they played softer defense, and since Johan Hedberg couldn't be heroic for a second straight night, the Devils suffered a 4-1 loss.  My recap of the game is here.

The Last Kings Game: I think it's safe to say that the Kings are hot.  They took on Dallas on Saturday night and shut them out 1-0. Jonathan Quick stopped all 28 shots to record his third straight shutout, and Jack Johnson scored the game's lone goal late-ish into the third period.  Quisp has this short recap of the game at Jewels from the Crown.

The Last Devils-Kings Game:  The Kings got the jump on the Devils early and Simon Gagne made them pay on a bad line change.  The Devils equalized later that period, and that would be it for regulation and overtime. New Jersey took the game over, but couldn't beat Quick a second time.  A shootout was necessary, where upon Quick was beaten by Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise and Johan Hedberg wasn't at all. The Devils got two points over L.A. Here's my recap of the game.  If you want scoring chances, here's C.J.'s summary. Strangely, there's nothing about it at Jewels from the Crown.  Hm.

The Goal:  Make them pay for putting in the backup; make a point of it to pound the Kings with shots on net.  Jonathan Quick has been amazing in his last five games.  He made 36 stops in the last Devils game (and bailed his team out many times in the third period of that game), 32 out of 34 against Philadelphia, and then shutout his opponents in each of the last three games. Quick's been more than hot, he's been a wall of flames in net.  And he's not playing tonight. 

As Rich Hammond reported at LA Kings Insider on Monday, head coach Terry Murray made the decision to start Jonathan Bernier tonight on Saturday - they want to rest Quick for the Western Conference games later this week.   While I can understand that kind of logic, it's not like playing Quick would have tired him out so much.  He would have had just as many days off as he had last week in playing St. Louis, Phoenix, and Dallas (the shutout games), so it's not like he's going to be fatigued.  Plus, usually when a guy's on a hot streak, you'd ride it for as long as it happens.  I guess Murray   Regardless, the Devils are going to have a shot at a guy who hasn't played since October 8. On top of that, all-world defenseman Drew Doughty might not be in the lineup tonight.  No Doughty and no Quick?  There's not going to be a better time to strike at the Kings than tonight - not because it's the last time these two will play this season.  Let's hope they take full advantage.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.  For the opposition's side, please check out Jewels from the Crown (somewhat more serious) or Battle of California (somewhat more profane).

The Kings aren't the only team in this game that will feature some kind of change.   In Monday's practice, as reported by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, ace forward Zach Parise lined up at center in between Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri. (Aside: Funny how Palmieri remains in that spot. Can he keep up with the pace of Kovalchuk and Parise?) Given that what DeBoer has done in practices tends to turn up in games, this probably means Parise will be centering that line tonight.  I'm not fully sure how I feel about this.   I guess Peter DeBoer wasn't pleased with Dainius Zubrus centering those two after Saturday's game, so he's clearly making a move.  I'm not sure moving Parise to a position he hasn't played in years is really going to do the trick.   On the other hand, I kept pointing out how Patrik Elias shouldn't be a center last season, eventually was moved to center, and did so well there that I expected him to be at center again.  Besides, if there's going to be a game to try this out in, then tonight's a good one since the back-up goalie will be in and the other team's top defenseman isn't likely to play.    Therefore, I'm a little hesitant to rush to conclusions.



That said, the match up game is going to be a little more difficult what with the Kings having the last change.  Despite their stud defender not being in the lineup, they still have a quality group of forwards.  In the last game these two played in, Kovalchuk-Josefson-Palmieri got rocked by the Mike Richards line and saw the pairing of Doughty & Willie Mitchell quite a bit.  They suffered, while the rest of the Devils roster succeeded, particularly the line of Parise-Elias-Sykora against the Anze Kopitar line and the pairing or Rob Scuderi and defensive black-hole extraordinaire Jack Johnson.   Perhaps moving Parise to center will help reduce some of the bleeding Kovalchuk and Palmieri could face?  Could Sykora-Elias-Zubrus win their potential match up?  It'll depend on what Murray shows, and how well DeBoer can adjust.   The tell will be the Richards line, as Quisp pointed out after the Dallas game that line takes on the tough competition regularly.

Moving on to the bottom six.  A good night from David Clarkson, a night at all from Mattias Tedenby, and something from Adam Henrique would be huge should they get to face off with the Jarret Stoll unit. I'm hoping someone told Tedenby that should this Parise-at-center experiment works, he could have a real opportunity to make a case to move up in the line up.  Perhaps that'll jump start the swift stickhandler.   As for the fourth line, I'm just hoping Cam Janssen doesn't do anything dumb.  He managed not to do a dumb thing against Pittsburgh, so we'll see if he can make it two in a row.

Of course, it's all for naught if the Devils move the puck as lethargically as they did against Pittsburgh.  While I think the goal is to attack, attack, attack attack attack the Kings' 'D' and Bernier; it's not going to happen if their clearances are errant and they struggle to make two in a row going through the zones.   The defensive pairings will remain the same, so the hope is that regular six (looking at you Bryce Salvador) has a decent-to-good night.  Again, with the power the Kings have up front, they'll need to be ready to work right from the get-go.

As far as goaltending is concerned, well, we already know about Bernier starting for the Kings.  As for the Devils, who else but the Moose? Johan Hedberg will be the starter.  According to this post by Tom Gulitti, Martin Brodeur is travelling with the team but it's not likely he'll play on the road trip.  That's fine with me.  Brodeur's still recovering and while the game against Pittsburgh didn't go so well, I'm confident Moose will be OK. That's the benefit of experienced backup goaltenders, they've been through it all so one night isn't going to mess them up.  I just hope the team in front of him won't be expecting a repeat of, say, the performance against San Jose. 

Anyway, those are my thoughts about tonight's game. I really do hope the Devils make Murray and the Kings pay the price again.  What about you?  How do you think will tonight's game go down?  How do you think the Devils will match up against the Kings on the road?  What do you think the keys of tonight's game will be?  Will Parise at center "work?" Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.