The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - NBC Sports Network; CBC; Radio - 1130 AM WBBR
The Series: The New Jersey Devils at the New York Rangers
The Series Preview: Here's the series preview I put together on Sunday prior to this series. For an in-depth look at both teams, please go check it out. This preview will be lighter and focus on the news heading into this game.
The TiqIQ Link: The Devils sold out their home games, but the secondary market does have tickets available. However, it's not going to be cheap. Still, go check out this link from TiqIQ if you want to check it out all the same.
The Game Specific Goal: Stay calm, stay calm, and above all else, stay calm. Based on this post by Tom Gulitti, it seems the Devils aren't exactly averse to any fights happening in this series. I really hope they don't get into that. For one, it's a hockey game - fights and post-whistle scrums aren't going to win it. For another, the Devils got an edge over the Flyers by playing from whistle to whistle. The Devils have enough to deal with between a defensively minded Rangers team and an excellent goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. The series is already a hated rivalry. Most of all, if the Devils want to have a chance in this series, then they need to either win tonight or Wednesday's game. There's no need for beef. Therefore, the Devils should make a point of it to avoid it and try to play their game tonight.
For an opposition's perspective, please visit Blueshirt Banter. For a few more thoughts on today's game, please continue on after the jump.In terms of lines, Tom Gulitti reported on Sunday at Fire & Ice that the Devils will use the same forward line combinations and defensemen pairings from Game 5 against Philadelphia. This means Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov are OK, Adam Larsson is still active, and the team potentially has three scoring lines. Given how much the Devils crushed their opposition at evens in possession with those lines, I can't say I blame Peter DeBoer for not changing up the roster. I do hope he's willing to be flexible if a player or a unit isn't performing well. He won't have the last change in this game, so he'll have to be careful as far who's out there against the various Rangers. Likewise, the third pairing and the bottom six need to be particularly aware if they're out there against the likes of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. John Tortorella will try to get those more favorable match-ups.
I also hope DeBoer is willing to be flexible if the two-man forecheck doesn't succeed at all that much. The Rangers are a quick team and they'll be happy to take numbers going forward if their defensemen are able to beat the forecheck. That's going to be something to look for early on. If the Devils can disrupt their breakout and pressure the Rangers in their own end, then the Devils can keep on keeping on. If they can't, then it'll likely be a wasted effort and it's a sign the Devils need to adjust to something simpler to get guys back. I'm not saying the option is either a 2-1-2 or a 1-4 (four men on the blueline), but there's no point to doing something ineffective just because it worked against a completely different opponent one round ago.
As for the Rangers, it's a bit unclear what they're lineup will be like. According to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants, the Rangers held an optional practice on Sunday. This shouldn't be a surprise, the team did just win a 2-1 game to eliminate Washington on Saturday. It wouldn't surprise me if the lines are the same as the ones Gross noted prior to Game 7 against Washington. Also from Gross' post, Mats Zuccarello and Brandon Dubinsky are both out. Given that the Rangers got this far without them, I think they'll manage. Expect to see a lot of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, expect to see plenty of shots from Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Ryan Callahan, and expect to see a lot of attempts at blocking shots by the Rangers skaters. Oh, and expect plenty of big stops by Lundqvist because that's what he does and I don't think he's suddenly going to stop now. Let's hope the Devils pile on the shots without needlessly firing them into the bodies of the Rangers skaters.
One last reminder: losing this game will not spell doom for the Devils or Rangers. It's Game 1. Do I want the Devils to win? Of course. The main goal for these first two games is the same from the last two series: at least get one win. One win by New Jersey takes away home ice and gives the Devils some real hope when the series comes to Newark. I hope it's tonight, but if it doesn't happen, then it'll have to happen on Wednesday.
I don't know about you, but I'm itching for this series to begin. It could be one for the ages for both franchises. While we wait for the puck to drop, let's talk about it. Who do you think will have a big game tonight? What do you think the Devils need to do (other than the obvious) to win the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals? Will they win this game? Please share them in the comments as well as your other thoughts about this game. Thank you for reading. Go Devils.