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Game 59 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Carolina Hurricanes

Tonight, you may see David Clarkson hit Brett Carson for the second time this week.  EXCITING.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Tonight, you may see David Clarkson hit Brett Carson for the second time this week. EXCITING. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/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 (24-30-4) at the Carolina Hurricanes (28-23-8)

The Last Devils Game: Last night, the Devils hosted Our Hated Rivals.  Thanks to Henrik Lundqvist, it was a close game on the scoreboard. However, on the ice, it wasn't even a question who was better. The Devils dominated the Rangers in a 1-0 win, the one goal coming off a breakaway by Ilya Kovalchuk. My recap of the big win on Our Hated Rivals is right here.

The Last Hurricanes Game: After a mostly fruitless road trip, the Hurricanes returned home and honored Rod Brind'Amour prior to their game against Philadelphia.  His #17 was retired in front of a packed crowd at the RBC Center.  The Canes jumped out to an early lead against the Flyers before the East's top team made a comeback to tie it up with 5 minutes left in the game. However, Erik Cole finished a Jussi Jokinen pass on a 2-on-1 with 3 minutes left to make it 3-2.  The Canes would hold on to win in regulation, a fitting result after honoring their beloved Brind'Amour. Bob Wage has this recap of the game over at Canes Country.

The Last Devils-Hurricanes Game: On Wednesday, the Devils hosted the Canes.  It was the first game after a four day break for New Jersey and the last game of a five game road trip for Carolina.  From what I saw, the Devils started off each period well but faded as time went on.  However, Kovalchuk, Brian Rolston, and Patrik Elias made the most of those surges in the first 7-to-9 minutes of each period by scoring goals. The Canes attempted a comeback in the third period, hitting Johan Hedberg with 14 shots.  However, only two got past Hedberg and the second came with less than 5 seconds left in the game.  The Devils won 3-2, a closer score than it was for much of the evening.  My recap of the game is here; while Bob Wage's recap at Canes Country disagrees by stating that both teams started off slowly. To each their own.

The Goal:  Dig deep and find some energy.  A big reason why the Devils outplayed the Rangers last night was because the Rangers played 65 minutes plus a shootout the night before.  They were lacking in what John Tortorella called "energy and juice," as per this post-game post by Andrew Gross.  While I didn't see it in their legs, I saw it in their control of the puck and their decision making.   Since the Devils hosted Our Hated Rivals and basically beat on them, I am a little concerned on how they'll come out.  Will they be coming down from a high after a rivalry game? Since they only won 1-0 and were so sublime in their own end, will they be as tight tonight?  These are the questions that I have and I fear a bit of a letdown is on it's way after six straight wins.

This goal also applies to the Carolina Hurricanes.  Last night really was an emotional night for the organization as they retired Rod Brind'Amour's number. That in of itself was big, as Canes fans love Brind'Amour. On top of that they also played a vastly superior opponent in the Philadelphia Flyers, saw their 2-0 lead tied up late in the game, and only pulled away with a few minutes left in regulation on an admittedly sweet goal by Erik Cole.  As great as that is, keeping up the level of intensity that they had is going to be very difficult.

Basically, to use a cliche, this game really can come down to "who has enough and wants it more."  Let's hope the Devils have enough "juice" to get through this evening.

I have literally a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. For a Hurricanes-based perspective, please visit Canes Country.

The Devils and Canes will be playing their third game against each other within the last 12 days. It's the final one for this season, but quite frankly this team is very familiar. I don't think there's a lot of value in reviewing what the Canes are all about.  They just played each other on Wednesday.  Please check out the February 8, 2011 preview for an overview of who they are and what they're about and the February 11, 2011 preview for a more recent take.

I do want to point out that Jussi Jokinen is definitely getting back into the swing of things. He had a good night on Wednesday returning from injury, and he set up Cole's game winning goal along with 3 shots on net.  Jokinen's a very good offensive player and he definitely bolsters their offense.  Based on what I saw on Wednesday, he'll be an important player to shutdown.  I'm confident it can be done since Eric Staal has done very little against the Devils in the last two Devils-Canes games.

The Canes have also made two trades earlier this week.  The Canes acquired defenseman Derek Joslin from San Jose for future considerations.  That was their first deal this week.  The second was more substantive: the Canes sent defenseman Ian White to San Jose for the Sharks' second round pick in 2012.   Both links goes to Canes Country so you can see how the fans reacted to both deals.

Over on the media side, Luke Decock of the News & Observer had a more sobering take of the White deal at Canes Now. White's not at all a bad defenseman and for him to be shipped out for a pick in 2012 is just a sign that he wasn't going to be re-signed and the team just wanted something in return.  Decock's not entirely thrilled with the move since he feels making the playoffs are that important and shipping out a player now doesn't help with meeting that goal.  I can sympathize, though the Canes have at least three defensemen who are more important: Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, and Tim Gleason.  Moving White shouldn't ruin the defense unless Brett Carson is terrible.

I don't think both deals won't affect tonight's game, though.  White was a healthy scratch on Wednesday and Brett Carson played in his place that night.  The Devils won't see anything new on their defense.  Though they'll probably look to pick on Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain for a second night this week.

Moving onward to tonight, there's not a lot of news as of this writing.  Chip Alexander of the News & Observer (and Canes Now) tweeted that the Canes would not have a morning skate.   Any update on Carolina, like whether Cam Ward will start both games tonight, will probably come out closer to game time.   The Devils are now on the road for the rest of this month, so they had to travel after the Rangers game.  Jacques Lemaire did not make a decision on who he will start tonight yet.  He definitely didn't make one publicly after the Rangers game, as reported by Tom Gulitti in this post-game post.   Please check out Fire & Ice and during the day for updates.

Personally, I have zero problems with giving Johan Hedberg the start tonight. He's hot with only 7 goals allowed on 144 shots against; coming off a shutout against Our Hated Rivals.  He should also be fairly fresh.  The Moose only had to deal with 16 shots on net from 29 shooting attempts last night.  At no point was he shelled against the Rangers. If he faced more shots and/or attempts, then I could see him getting a rest tonight.  After all, that would mean Martin Brodeur is in net and I have no problems for the legend starting between the pipes.  While I'm leaning towards wanting to see the Moose, I don't think Lemaire can make a wrong choice in net this evening. I'm not concerned about either goaltender's fatigue anyway.

I would expect the skaters for New Jersey to be the same as they were last night. I would only mix up that third and fourth line to put Adam Mair on the fourth line. Though I think Lemaire did just that last night at points. Regardless,  I am definitely looking forward to see if Kovalchuk can keep his blazing hot streak of 7 goals, 4 assists in last 9 games alive.  After turning Marc Staal and Dan Girardi into pylons last night, I wonder which Cane gets the assignment to block his shine this evening.

On a side note, February is guaranteed be their best month this season so far with a 8-0-1 record.  New Jersey will be on the road for the rest of the month with 4 games across the remaining 10 days.  It's a good thing the games are spread apart given how quickly the games came at the beginning of the month.

With the Devils now on the road on the second half of a back-to-back against a very familiar opponent, how do you think they will fare? Do you expect more of a let down from the Devils or the Canes?  Who do you think needs to have a big game tonight?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. If you do see any news updates, please leave them in the comments as well and remember to link to the news. Thank you for reading. Let's go, Devils.