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Game 57 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes

The Moose will be back in net to make stops like this one. Mark Fayne will also be on the ice too, defending.  There will also be a ref, but no Sharks players.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
The Moose will be back in net to make stops like this one. Mark Fayne will also be on the ice too, defending. There will also be a ref, but no Sharks players. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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The Time: 7:00 PM EST

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

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (22-30-4) vs. the Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8)

The Last Devils Game: After being outplayed for the first two periods, the Devils got some offense going against the San Jose Sharks on Friday. Their efforts were not in vain, tying up the game on a Brian Rolston power play goal and eventually winning it with a shot by Ilya Kovalchuk of the faceoff.  Johan Hedberg was crucial as he was the only Devil to excel for all 60 minutes, making the 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks even possible.  My recap of the win is right here.

The Last Hurricanes Game:  Carolina's 5-game road trip continued into Atlanta on Sunday night.  With Atlanta just behind the Canes in the standings, this was an intense game - not a great situation for the visitors as they played Tampa Bay the night before. The Thrashers' gameplan was to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, as they put 43 shots on Cam Ward. Ward was up to the task against the heavy load, stopping 41 of them.  While the Canes didn't even crack 20 shots, they did put 3 past Onrej Pavalec with Erik Cole putting the game winner in the net late to seal a 3-2 win.  The Canes remain perfect against Atlanta this season at 4-0-0.  Bob Wage at Canes Country has a recap of the game here.

The Last Devils-Hurricanes Game: Last Tuesday, the Devils hosted the Hurricanes at the Rock.  Johan Hedberg got the start in place of an injured Martin Brodeur and looked pretty good.  He had to be since the Devils really didn't get going until the third period.  Carolina's Jeff Skinner was fortunate, scoring two power play goals - both that took the lead at the time of scoring.  However, Mattias Tedenby equalized Skinner's first goal in the second period; and Nick Palmieri put in a Kovalchuk-led rebound late to tie it at 2-2.  Tedenby became the hero of the night - where rookies scored all the goals - when he scored in overtime to give the Devils a 3-2 win.   My recap of the game is here.  For the Carolina side, Bob Wage has this recap and Cory Lavelette has these 5 observations of the game - both at Canes Country.

The Goal:  Draw some calls!  One area that bothered Jacques Lemaire in last week's game against Carolina was that the Devils got no power plays while the team Anton Volchenkov gave them three.  I can see why the coach was peeved about that.  Let's focus on the power plays, though.  Even if they weren't going to score on the power play, which is sadly common, it's two whole minutes where the Devils can focus on offense.  Just applying pressure and getting some shots off to tilt the balance in the game is enough to make a difference at that point.  If Carolina has been pounding them, then it's a reprieve.  If play has been even, it's an opportunity to tilt the rink in right direction. If New Jersey has been dominant, then it can really put the screws to a defense. It's especially great if the Devils can score on a power play, but they need to get some against a Carolina team that loves to draw them in their favor.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. Please check out Canes Country for more Canes-based discussion and analysis.

Since the Canes and Devils have played each other last week, there's not a whole lot to say about how the opponents have played this season.  If you're interested in that, please check out my preview to that game.  As a quick refresher: their most dangerous forward is Eric Staal, while Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, and Erik Cole are dangerous in their own right.  Their defense is led by Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen, both who play a ton of minutes for this Carolina team.  Cam Ward has had a very good season so far and can handle large shot volumes.  Their head coach, Paul Maurice, thinks the Devils are now elite.

What is new is their recent form. Last Tuesday, the Canes kicked off a 5-game road trip in Newark with an overtime loss. Since then, their attempt at a comeback was too short in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia; a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay; and a 3-2 win over Atlanta.  (All links go to recaps at Canes Country.)  Not exactly the best set of results. With a return trip to New Jersey, I'm sure their players will be looking for some level of revenge.  Incidentally, the Canes have allowed 6, 5, and 2 power plays respectively in their last three games.  Maybe the Devils will be able to get a few tonight?

One more thing to look for is how much the Canes want to bend on defense.  Wage noted in his recap of the 3-2 win over Atlanta about the Canes' strategy working in response to claims of "trapping."  I can't really comment on whether the Canes trap or not.  I don't think they did against the Devils last week.  If they did, the Devils blew it up in the third period and I'd love to see it again.  With respect to the Atlanta game, I'm not so certain a strategy where upon the goalie sees 43 shots on goal is a good one regardless of the final score.  Interestingly, that game was the second straight one where they allowed over 40 shots on net (41 to Tampa Bay). The only team to be held under 30 shots on their road trip was Philadelphia, who put up only 25 (but had a lead the whole way).  I see this as an opportunity where the Devils should strike.   Since they have such a well-rested team,

2010-11 - Jussi Jokinen 45 12 26 38 1 16 7 0 1 91 13.2

There are some changes among the visitor's roster.  According to this morning post by Chip Alexander at Canes Now, Jussi Jokinen is now back from injury and will play tonight.   Jokinen may still have the reputation for being a shootout king (which was only true for that 05-06 season), but he's a good player in the run of play.  He's fourth on the team in points and second in power play goals.   This season, he's shooting at about his career shooting percentage (13.5), which has fluctuated in his young career so far.  On top of that, according to Behind the Net, the Canes have tended to attack more at 5-on-5 when Jokinen's on the ice. Jokinen won't be piling up a lot of shots, but the Devils' defense will need to be aware of where he is when he is shooting.   They're likely going to be good shots.  And if not from him, then his linemates.

Alexander noted that while Jokinen centered Carolina's fourth line, Paul Maurice hasn't ruled out putting him up on a higher line.  Since Jokinen's coming back from injury, I'm sure the coach wants to see how he does first before moving him up.  I suspect he'll also get power play time too, since Jokinen has been productive on man advantages for Carolina.  His 7 goals and 8 assists make him the fourth highest power play scorer on the Canes.

Alexander also reported today at Canes Now that defenseman Brett Carson has been called up from Charlotte. The reason is just precautionary for now, Alexander tweeted that Maurice will make a gameday decision about Carolina's defense. Over the road trip, the Canes have made a few call-ups; most notably sending Zach Boychuk  and Brett Sutter down to Charlotte on Sunday for Zac Dalpe and Jerome Samson as reported by Alexander here.  Samson remains on the roster and will presumably play; while Dalpe was sent back to the AHL on Monday.   With some flux down on the lower end of Carolina's roster, it could be an area that the Devils can try to exploit with matchups tonight.  Having the last change allows for this advantage, should Jacques Lemaire choose to use it.

As for the Devils, I wouldn't expect any changes to their roster.   The Moose will get another start.  Martin Brodeur was placed on injured reserve retroactively, and he took to the ice earlier on Tuesday as reported by Tom Gulitti.  Volchenkov will serve the final game of his suspension tonight, so that should mean another game for Mark Fraser on defense.  I hope Gulitti is right that Jay Leach was called up just to have a spare defender on hand, as I really don't want to see him out on the ice unless it's absolutely necessary. 

One final point, a second "goal" if you will, I really would like to see the Devils to come out strong. They didn't really do that against Carolina or San Jose last week and needed a strong third period to salvage and ultimately win the game.  Then, the Devils were near the end of a 7-games-in-11-day stretch.  We say that a close game can keep a tired team in contention for a win by way of getting a good bounce or getting a strong period. 

Now the proverbial shoe is on the proverbial other foot.  The Devils have had 4 days off, and there should be little effect from fatigue.  Lemaire has said the team should have more energy, as reported by Gulitti after Tuesday's practice.  Their opponent is not only ending their road trip this evening, they have played in close games throughout their road trip.  I don't want the Devils to suffer in the same way they made their opponents suffer last week.  That's why I want to see all four lines hustling right from the start and the team should be looking to pressure Ward as early as possible. 

Wanting to see a strong start may be such a cliche, but that doesn't make it false. The Devils should be looking to take advantage wherever possible and this is a good one as of any.

I'll be there live to see whether the Devils do just that in my usual seat in Section 1.  How do you like New Jersey's chances tonight? Are you concerned whether the time off will hinder the Devils? What about Carolina worries you the most about tonight's game?  How many power plays do you think the Devils will be able to draw?   Please feel free to give your answers and discuss tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading. Let's go, Devils.