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Game 82 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins

We will see Devils cheering for goals for the last time this season today.  Cherish it because you'll miss it when it's gone. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We will see Devils cheering for goals for the last time this season today. Cherish it because you'll miss it when it's gone. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Time: 3:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+(HD); Radio - 1130 AM WBBR

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (37-39-5) vs. the Boston Bruins (46-24-11)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils rolled into MSG with an opportunity to knock their hated rivals, the Rangers, out of the playoffs yesterday afternoon.  The Devils played a good first period, but made too many errors in the second.  The Rangers dropped 3 straight in the middle period to take a 4-2 lead, tacked another one on in the third, and so the Devils lost 5-2.  My recap of the game is right here.

The Last Bruins Game:  Not long after the puck dropped in NYC, the Bruins hosted the Senators for a Saturday afternoon game as well.   The early part of the game had a little drama, when Ottawa tied it up 1-1 late in the first period.  Yet, Boston took over as the game went on and Tim Thomas continued to showcase his superior goaltending. Boston won decisively 3-1 and Thomas can end the season with the single season record for save percentage provided he doesn't play today or he plays well if he does.  Stanley Cup of Chowder has this brief recap of the B's victory.

The Last Devils-Bruins Game: It wasn't that long ago since these two teams played each other.   On March 22, the Devils visited Boston and the first period went quite well for NJ.  The Devils controlled most of the play, out-shot the Bruins, and Ilya Kovalchuk scored a power play goal.  An unfortunate deflection tied it up.  Boston responded in a big way in the second period, taking it to the Devils - who handed them four power plays.  Going into the third, Boston was only up 2-1 but the Devils couldn't solve Tim Thomas (or attack him as much), Milan Lucic extended the lead, and Mark Recchi put in an empty-net goal to make it a 4-1 defeat for NJ.  My recap of the game is right here.  For the other side, Stanley Cup of Chowder has this short recap.

The Goal: Go out on a high note and have some fun out there.  This game is essentially meaningless. The Devils aren't making the postseason regardless of result.   The Bruins will be playing Montreal no matter what in the first round.  Not a whole lot to play for either side outside of pride.   Corny as it reads, I just want to see a good effort today by the Devils. This will be the final time I'm in my usual seat in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5 for this season; I just want to come away from the game with something to smile about.  Boston's going to be a difficult opponent, so getting any kind of result against them sure would be nice.  If not, then, well, they don't.  Such as it is for an abrupt end to the season.

I have a few more thoughts on today's game, which will be Fan Appreciation Day at the Rock, after the jump. For a Boston-based perspective, please check out Stanley Cup of Chowder.

If you're interested in what Boston's all about this season, then I would recommend looking at the preview of the previous Devils-Bruins game.  Not much has changed since then.  The Bruins are deep at forward, are lead by a monster stud on the blueline, and have received quality goaltending all season long.  As their record and Northeast Division title would indicate, they are a Very Good Team.  Are they a team that will go places in the playoffs? Maybe. This game probably won't have any effect one way or another on that.

Given that both teams played last night, there's not a lot of news available prior to Sunday morning.   So I'm going to make some wild guesses for the game.  Emphasis on guess.

First, I would expect that Tuukka Rask gets the start for Boston. There's no reason for Tim Thomas to play two straight games. He's got a record that he and the team are proud of, according to this article at NESN by Douglas Flynn.  It's the end of the season: expect Rask.  Don't expect him to be a sieve, either.  He's had a decent season behind Thomas.

2010-11 - Tuukka Rask 28 1534 11 13 68 2.66 834 766 .918 2

Second, expect to see two Rats on the New Jersey roster.  Check out this gamesheet of Albany's game against Portland on Saturday.  Notice who's missing: Adam Henrique and Alexander Urbom.  Those three have been feature players for Albany, why would they be scratched on their penultimate game of the season?  Unless they are hurt, they could have been scratched in advance of a call up for this final game in New Jersey.  At the end of this post-game post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, Lou did say that they might call up some players from Albany.  According to this tweet from Albany River Rats beat reporter Bill Cain, Henrique and Urbom could very well be in Newark on Sunday.   Why else would they be in Newark but to play hockey for New Jersey?

Assuming both are called up and in the lineup: Urbom has played for the NHL club earlier this season, so the game will be a chance to showcase how he has developed since being sent down to Albany.  A game would be his eighth, so his contract will definitely slide for this season. Henrique could make his NHL debut today, an opportunity to show what he can do.  Of course, any call up would mean someone on the roster would have to sit out and would alter the lines.  If I had to guess, I would think either Mark Fraser or Jay Leach would sit for Urbom.  Sitting for Henrique, who knows? It's likely someone on the bottom two lines, so Adam Mair? Rod Pelley? Vladimir Zharkov? I don't know.

Third, expect both teams to try some things out with their lines and defensive pairings.  Maybe you'll see some combinations you're not used to seeing.   Maybe you'll see some of the younger players get more minutes than usual.  Maybe you'll see a different scheme for the Devils' power play.  Maybe you'll see Zdeno Chara get less than 25 minutes today (he has averaged 25:26 per game).   For the final game of the season for both teams and not a whole lot to play for, I would think the coaches are free to try things out with little consequence. That said, I would expect the Devils to be more experimental, since their season ends by the end of today's game.  Boston head coach Claude Julien may not want to make too many changes right before the postseason.

Fourth, goaltending is really up in the air for the Devils.  Do they start Martin Brodeur? Do they split the back-to-back and give it all to the Moose, Johan Hedberg? Do they split the game in half so both goalies get minutes?  Who knows. No decision has been made after the Devils-Rangers game per this post-game post by Gulitti.  Again, this will be cleared up closer to gametime.

Regardless of how my guesses will turn out, I do implore you to go to the game or to watch it or to listen it as it happens.  It's the last game of the season. The last goal scored by the Devils, the last shots taken, the last line change, the last time to sit in Section 1 for several months, and so forth.   This season went all kinds of awry but it certainly was interesting. After about 5:30 PM, that's it for the New Jersey Devils until preseason in September. I don't know about you, I'm going to miss it when it's gone.  So please follow today's game by some means and appreciate it as it is.   That's all I ask.

In any case, I'd like to thank all of you who read these drawn out, written-the-evening-before previews.  Apologies for the lightness of this one, but as noted, there's not a whole lot of news out there and won't be until later on Sunday morning or in the early afternoon. What do you think will happen in today's game? Who will you be looking out for? What do you want to see happen?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts on today's game in the comments.  When news does come out regarding either team, please feel free to mention in the comments - just make sure to include a link to the source.  Thanks for reading.