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Game 42 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames

"OK, Tallinder, I want you to stop the line of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, and Curtis Glencross.  Don't worry, they're not as fierce as Evgeni Malkin's line." (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
"OK, Tallinder, I want you to stop the line of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, and Curtis Glencross. Don't worry, they're not as fierce as Evgeni Malkin's line." (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Time: 9:30 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2; Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Game: The New Jersey Devils (23-16-2) at the Calgary Flames (19-19-5)

The Last Devils Game: The New Jersey Devils started their road trip in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The Penguins steamrolled the Devils through the first period; but they only got one past Martin Brodeur. Fortunately, the Devils responded in the second period with 17 shots on net; a shorthanded goal from Adam Henrique; and a bomb from the center point by Ilya Kovalchuk. Pittsburgh tried mightily to tie it up with 17 shots of their own in the second, but Martin Brodeur was too good in stopping them. The Devils added to their lead early in the third period on a Dainius Zubrus power play goal and while the Penguins stormed the net, they couldn't beat Brodeur. The Devils won 3-1; here's my recap of the game.

The Last Flames Game: Not long after the Devils beat Pittsburgh, the Flames took to the ice to face Minnesota at home. Fresh off the losing end of a 9-0 rampage by Boston, Calgary put out a far better performance. They out-shot the Wild in the first period, held even in the second, and then the scoring began in the third periods. Lance Bouma scored his first NHL goal a little over two minutes into the third to open up the game's scoring. Calgary legend Jarome Iginla scored 8:33 into the period to make it 2-0. The goal was vastly important as it was Iginla's 500th career goal - all with Calgary. Curtis Glencross put the icing on the cake minutes later with a power play tally. Dany Heatley got a goal not long after, but it would only be a consolation tally. The Flames 3-1; Justin Azevedo has this short recap of the game at Matchsticks & Gasoline.

The Goal: Win the power match-up, or at least get some offense within it. Like many NHL coaches, Peter DeBoer likes to match lines power-for-power. So far this season, the Devils' power line has been Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, and Dainius Zubrus. Per Behind the Net, they take on the toughest competition at evens, they don't always get easy zone starts, and their positive on-ice Corsi rate suggests they usually do well. Against Pittsburgh, this didn't happen. They got the Malkin line and the Malkin line destroyed them. It would be one thing to lose the possession battle, but the concerning thing is that the Elias line generated exactly one shot against Pittsburgh - and that was on the power play, away from Malkin's unit. Granted, that one shot went into the net; but it really put the entire offense on the shoulders of the Henrique line and the bottom six. That's not something the Devils should look to continue. I suspect that the Elias line (and the pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne) will get Calgary's top line of Iginla, Glencross, and Olli Jokinen tonight. While they haven't been great in possession; they have been quite productive, as they lead the Flames in scoring. Tonight, I want to see the Elias line get offensive opportunities and generate more than 2 shot attempts against them. This will help spread the load on offense and (hopefully) slowdown Calgary's top unit; achieving both would go a long way towards the Devils getting a result tonight.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. Please check out Matchsticks & Gasoline for further Flames opinion & analysis.

In theory, tonight's game should go smoother than the Pittsburgh game. Unlike the Penguins, the Flames are not a good possession team. In close score situations, their Fenwick% is below half at 48.3% and it is 49.85% when the score is tied. If you can believe it, they're even worse than the Devils when they're up by two goals. What this means is they get out-attempted (without blocks) on a regular basis. It also stands to reason that the Flames get out-shot regularly in 5-on-5 play: their SF/60 rate is 28.3 and their SA/60 rate is 30.5.

Therefore, I'm not expecting the Flames to just own the puck and pin the Devils back over and over. I'm not thinking that the Flames are going to render the Elias line ineffective for about 20 minutes. I don't believe the Devils defense has to bend a whole lot without breaking. I'm hopeful the Flames aren't going to put 40 or more shots on Martin Brodeur/Johan Hedberg in regulation. This all presumes a good effort from the Devils, as usual.

Still, I wouldn't look past the Flames as they have several players of note. Over at M&G, Arik James has a solid breakdown of which Flames have been performing in various underlying stats. Their depth may not have the points, but they've been moving the puck forward in their limited minutes. Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak have been quite good all things considered behind Calgary's top line. The defensive pairing of T.J. Brodie and Cory Sarich has been better than what one may normally expect from a defensive pairing that includes Cory Sarich. It also shows that their fourth line is pretty good, too (and Derek Zona would agree). Curiously, this includes Calgary's top line doesn't come out so well. Maybe Brent Sutter needs to stop matching them against tough competition?

Sutter may not have a choice since the Flames are dealing with a myriad of injuries. As reported by John Down of the Calgary Herald, Scott Hannan and Brendan Morrison have suffered recent injuries. I wouldn't expect them to play tonight unless they're minor and it doesn't seem that way per Down's post. The other six injured Flames: Mark Giordano (who's feeling better but is unlikely to play according to this recent Calgary Herald article by John Down), Matt Stajan, David Moss, Alex Tanguay, Derek Smith, and Henrik Karlsson. While none of these eight are particularly key to the team's success, it really does stretch Calgary's depth.

2011-12 - Jarome Iginla 43 16 17 33 -5 21 3 0 4 135 11.9
2011-12 - Olli Jokinen 43 12 21 33 -3 32 5 0 1 121 9.9
2011-12 - Curtis Glencross 41 17 12 29 -5 20 6 0 2 73 23.3

The top line is healthy and the production they provide has carried the team on offense this season. Iginla is a Flames legend, their franchise player in this current generation. Just read James' and Mitch Smith's posts about Iginla to get an understanding of how important he's been to the Flames. Yet again, Iginla leads the team in scoring. Jokinen and Glencross have provided him more than adequate support in scoring. Jokinen has been solid at center and fires almost as many pucks on net as Iginla, and Glencross has been lighting the lamp enough to be their top goalscorer. The Devils' PK should pay special attention to Glencross as he's got 6 PPGs this season. The Flames haven't had the better of luck as their shooting percentage is only 7.8%. That's not too bad, especially to those who remember last season's Devils team, but it's below average. Calgary's top line is trying their best to move it up, but the forward depth hasn't been as successful.

In terms of defense, their top pairing remains intact and busy. Per Behind the Net, Chris Butler and Jay Bouwmeester take on the toughest competition on Calgary's defense and they haven't been too bad against them. They eat up a lot minutes, especially Bouwmeester who has averaged over 26 per game this season. No one will confuse them for, say, Lidstrom or Chara; but the Devils forwards will see a lot of those two and it won't be easy against them. The Devils should try to exploit the defenders behind those two when they can. Even if the underlying numbers for Sarich and Brodie look pretty good, they do get protected. Anton Babchuk definitely isn't good and should be picked on over and over. Again: this is a team that has a SA/60 rate of 30.5 in 5-on-5 play, they are not defensive dynamos.

2011-12 - Miikka Kiprusoff 36 2063 18 14 2 85 2.47 1001 916 .915 2

That's a bit unfortunate as the Flames have had some pretty good goaltending. Usually, that means Miikka Kiprusoff has been pretty good since he has received the majority of starts for the team for better or worse. Kiprusoff wasn't very good last season with a 90.6% overall save percentage, 91.6% even strength save percentage and 2.63 GAA. Those aren't terrible numbers, but the Flames needed better that season. He's enjoying a good rebound year statistically. Expect him to play tonight if only because he gets the majority of starts on Calgary.

I would like the Devils to keep the game at 5-on-5 as much as possible. Yes, both special teams showed up in Pittsburgh and were important to their victory on Saturday. The Flames' power play isn't so bad with a conversion rate of 16.9%. They are like the Devils with a low 5-on-4 SF/60 of 45.2; the Devils are at 43.1. Unlike the Devils, the Flames have a very good 5-on-4 shooting percentage at 13.6%, far better than the Devils 9.9% (one of six teams below 10%). Calgary's penalty kill is around the middle of the league with a success rate of 82.4%. In 4-on-5 situations, their SA/60 rate is pretty good at 48.3%, and their save percentage is 88.5%. Should Calgary need to utilize their PK, keep in mind that the Devils' power play is still the Devils power play, so their numbers could see a bump after tonight. Besides, Calgary's not that good of a 5-on-5 team and they're beset by injuries after their best players. The Devils should be looking to win those battles. If the Elias line can quell the Jokinen line and get some offense of their own, then that would really make Calgary's night difficult.

Now, the Devils will get some help from the newly revamped bottom six. Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri were back in the lineup, Cam Janssen and Tim Sestito were scratched, and the third and fourth lines actually showed signs of actual energy and some offense. OK, they weren't perfect against Pittsburgh, but I took it as a sign of improvement. It appears the coaches did as well. According to Tom Gulitti on Monday, Tim Sestito was waived and he'll go to Albany if he's not claimed. I don't think he will be, but I wouldn't miss him if he was. At a minimum, that means we won't see him tonight; and Chere's report from practice suggests Janssen's out too. Let's hope for some further improvement from this revamped bottom six.

At the same time, it's entirely possible we could see Anton Volchenkov and/or Travis Zajac. They traveled with the team, Rich Chere reported that both players practiced on Monday, and I doubt they traveled just to sit. If they're not ready to go tonight, then they should be soon. Lastly, Rich Chere reported on Monday that we definitely will see Martin Brodeur this evening and Johan Hedberg tomorrow in Edmonton. Brodeur played incredibly well against Pittsburgh, and I felt he was the main reason why the Devils got a win against the Penguins. His non-Boston performances have been quite good. While Calgary's not a top offensive team like Pittsburgh, I do hope he can remain in the groove he appears to be in at the moment.

Speaking of grooves, the top line could be entering one. Zach Parise has four points in his last two games (1 goal, 3 assists, 3 SOG); Ilya Kovalchuk has five points in his last two games (3 goals, 2 assists, 15 SOG); and Adam Henrique has four points in his last two games (2 goals, 2 assists, 8 SOG). Some of these points have come in varying situations and not necessarily with each other. Still, these three Devils are getting pucks on net regularly and they could be starting point streaks. The latter is great and it's tied to the former. The Devils as a team do not get a lot of shots on net. They're 28th in the NHL in 5-on-5 SF/60 with 26.5. Over all situations, the Devils are 26th in the NHL (and two spots behind Calgary) in average shots on net per game with 27.3. he Devils can do themselves a lot of favors just by getting more rubber on net. The Henrique line is doing their part in recent games, and I hope the rest of the team can follow suit - starting with the Elias line.

That's my take on tonight's game; now I want to know yours. What do you expect out of the Calgary Flames tonight? What about Calgary are you the most concerned with? Do you think the Devils will continue their winning ways in Calgary tonight? Who on New Jersey do you think needs to have a big game for the Devils to succeed against the Flames? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.