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Game 74 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Ottawa Senators

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The Devils will be in a lot of trouble if this guy gets some space to work his magic.
The Devils will be in a lot of trouble if this guy gets some space to work his magic.

The Time: 7:30 PM EDT

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

The Game: The New Jersey Devils (41-27-5) at the Ottawa Senators (37-26-10)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils were up against their hated rivals in New York. They lost 4-2 thanks to some bad bounces and extreme stupidity- namely Eric Boulton's inability to play hockey.

The Last Senators Game: Like the Devils, the Senators had a big game against a hated rival- the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, thanks to bad bounces and missed opportunities, the Sens lost 3-1 to their hated rivals- a good result for the Devils, but a bad one for the Sens. Mark Parisi has a recap of the action over at Silver Seven.

The Last Devils-Senators Game: The last time these two teams faced off was over two months ago. The Devils managed to get lucky and score two goals early, but unfortunately they were completely outplayed by the Sens, allowing them to tie it up in the third and watched as Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson iced the game in OT in a 3-2 loss. John felt the Devils lack of effort wasn't great due to all the Senators chances, while Adnan over at Silver Seven thought the Sens didn't capitalize on a lot of chances, namely the 23 missed shots.

The Goal: The Senators have two superstar calibre players- Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson. While the Senators do have some decent scoring depth, the goal is to prevent those two guys from making a positive impact on the game. But why those two?

2011 - Erik Karlsson 72 19 53 72 16 42 3 0 5 232

2011 - Jason Spezza 73 29 46 75 9 30 10 0 2 209

First off, they're two of the top scorers in the NHL- Spezza (75 points) is 5th in the league in scoring, while Karlsson (72 points) is tied for 6th in league scoring with Ilya Kovalchuk. They're more than capable of making their teammates around them better- both of them have over 45 assists. Another reason to keep an eye out for those two- when they're on the ice, they're driving play forward. The last time these two teams played, guess who was +22 in Corsi for the Senators? You guessed it, Erik Karlsson (Spezza was a +9). As long as the guys wearing 19 and 65 aren't doing much for the Senators in terms of offense, the Devils should have a much easier time stopping the Sens. Assuming the offense shows up.

As always, if you want a Senators perspective of tonight's game, the good folk over at Silver Seven have you covered. More analysis after the jump.

Like I mentioned before, the Senators aren't a two-man team. While Spezza and Karlsson are leading the way, they're also getting contributions elsewhere- 30 goal man Milan Michalek is very dangerous with the puck, while Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno and Colin Greening can prove to be solid secondary scoring threats. The Senators are getting some additional offensive contributions from their blueline as well- Sergei Gonchar (33 points) and Filip Kuba (29 points) are also contributing offensively. As a team, they average 31 shots/game, and 31.2 shots/60 at even strength. Essentially, the Senators are a pretty strong offensive team.

What exactly is the Senators weakness then? While they do take a lot of shots per game, they also give up a lot of them as well. Their tied with Minnesota for the second worst shots/game with 31.7, and give up 30.3 shots/60 at even strength. Essentially they're the opposite of the Devils- a high event team, which has lots of events (shots, blocks, misses, goals) going for and against them. This should be good news for the Devils- they've struggled to put pucks on net recently, and facing a team like Ottawa who gives up a lot of shots should be a good thing. I'd like to note- while they did only give up 18 shots on goal in their last game, they were trailing for most of that game.

Of course, exploiting the Senators weaknesses is easier said than done. Like the Devils, the Senators are a good puck possession team. In fact, they're slightly better than the Devils when it comes to fenwick in close scores. Like I mentioned before, the Sens top players are all good possession players. The puck possession game will be key in this game- keep the puck away from Karlsson, Spezza and the rest of the Sens, and they're less effective than they would be if they have the puck on their sticks. Likewise, if the Devils don't have the puck on their sticks, the Senators will get lots of pucks on net (or into the defenseman's shin pads, and the end boards. Not as bad, but not good either).

Per CBC's Dan Seguin, Ben Bishop will be starting in net for the Senators. The good news about all of this- Craig Anderson, who always seems to have great games against the Devils, won't be starting. From what Ken Warren of Senators Extra has to say about Anderson's injury, it seems the earliest the Sens will let Anderson play is Thursday. Rich Chere confirmed that Johan Hedberg will be in net for the Devils yesterday afternoon, which makes sense seeing as Brodeur started last night.

If there's anyone who deserves to be benched after last night's performance, it has to be Eric Boulton. He continues to prove that he will never contribute anything positive to the Devils in a Devils uniform. Ever. Unfortunately, the Sens have a few pugilists themselves in Zenon Konopka, frequent healthy scratch Matt Carkner and to a lesser extent, Chris Neil. Boulton's services won't be necessary tonight- Janssen should be enough beef against the Senators.

Another thing I'd like to bring up is that both teams suffered losses to their arch enemies in their last game, and clearly want to bounce back from a tough loss. The Devils more or less shot themselves in the foot trying to play Rangers goon-hockey and trying to beat them physically, instead of using their superior skill to beat them. The Senators basically squandered every chance they had against a vastly inferior opponent (seriously, the same team they lost to let Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot run all over them) and lost. Both teams are neck and neck in the standings. This will be a close game. While I don't like using cliched phrases, one team is going to want those points more. The Senators have extra incentive as they're still 3 points back of the Bruins for top spot in the Northeast (and the second seed). The Devils would like to try and catch the Flyers or Penguins, but are 5 points back and don't have games in hand.

Assuming the Devils keep the hi-jinx to a minimum, they should be able to match up favourably with the Senators. Both teams are skill teams and hopefully, the Devils show that they're the more skilled team tonight. With all that being said, what do you think about the Devils chances against the Sens? Do you think that they can rebound tonight and beat the Sens? Thanks for reading.