Tonight's the second half of the home-and-home. Best case scenario is that it's split by the end of the night.
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 880 AM WCBS
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-11-5) at the Carolina Hurricanes (10-10-5; SBN Blog: Canes Country)
The Last Devils-Hurricanes Game: The two teams played each other at the Rock on the night before Thanksgiving. While the Devils' best chances were pucks sent wide, the Canes took their opportunities to put pucks on Martin Brodeur. Twelve were on target and one of them was a long wrist shot from distance by Justin Faulk. It beat Brodeur shortside and put the Devils down early in a 0-1 hole. In the second period, the Canes would only increase their lead. Early on, Tuomo Ruutu was wide open in front for a one-timer to make it 0-2. Travis Zajac provided a response when he beat Cam Ward five-hole in a one-on-one. But the Canes pulled ahead on a very bad break for the Devils; Patrik Elias re-directed Ron Hainsey's shot from the slot and into the left side of the net. On the Devils' lone power play, the dump-in entry not only failed (surprising no one) but Andy Greene could not keep in a bouncing puck sent around by the Canes' penalty killers. Patrick Dwyer picked up on loose puck, charged the net, and beat Brodeur with a soft backhand through the legs. The Devils would decide to play to the score in the third period and at least made a game of it. Greene would score through a screen before the halfway mark. The Devils pushed for a third goal and Jaromir Jagr got it with the extra skater with a little over 100 second left. But the Devils couldn't gain the zone to push for an equalizer and the Canes held on to win. My recap of the loss is here; and Bob Wage had this recap at Canes Country.
The Goal: Don't settle for the point shot so much. If you don't read Shutdown Line for Canes coverage, then you're missing out. Corey Sznajder recapped last night's game in a more analytic way with zone entries, scoring chances, and more for both sides. The Devils and Canes were even in chances and in describing it, Sznajder had this clear observation (emphasis mine).
That's mostly because the Devils had two of their chances with the goalie pulled, including their third goal. Either way, the gist of it is that the Hurricanes started out well, outplayed the Devils through 40 minutes and let them get back into it in the third. They didn't allow too many chances despite getting vastly outshot, but that could have been a different story if the Devils didn't miss the net so often or try about 50% of their shots from the point. Carolina is playing well in the defensive zone, but they are still having trouble turning it into offense, especially after they get hemmed in, which is happening far too often.
While Sznajder is referring to the third period, this was an issue all game long. Often times, the defenseman at the point will be open on offense when the puck is in deep. It is common for the Devils - and the Canes did this too as do many other teams - to throw the puck back to the point in trying to win the puck. In Wednesday's game, the Devils' defenseman usually took those opportunities to shoot as I noted in the recap here. While Greene scored, most of the other twenty attempts by the defense didn't come close to beating Cam Ward. As much as I am a proponent of the theory that "More shots are better than few shots," it doesn't help much if they're low percentage shots with traffic usually denying the shot getting through more often than not. The Devils should try to make a point of it to get more opportunities from the circles and below to improve their chances to score. They got some on Wednesday and if the Canes' defense isn't as strong tonight, then they could get more.
The Starter Should Be Clear: Martin Brodeur had his first clearly not good game in a while on Wednesday. It's safe to say that Cory Schneider should start this game. Who knows, maybe it'll be the start of more appearances for Schneider? Then again the Devils will probably split the back-to-back as they have been this season. I'll highlight why I think the decision on Wednesday was made in a post tomorrow.
Carry Over: Even though they lost, there are a few things I would not want to see changed going into this game. I want to see Travis Zajac still center Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus. I would not mind seeing Andrei Loktionov center Michael Ryder and Ryan Carter. They actually had a decent night, their possession was heavily going one way, and I wasn't frustrated with Ryder as I have been in recent games. I'd like to see a second game of that.
From a match-up perspective, I hope the Devils make Jordan Staal's line play a lot of defense as they did on Wednesday. While the Canes understandably didn't attack as much with a 4-1 lead, that line wasn't doing much even the game was tied or closed. Had they put up some more shots on frame, then it could have been
Changes I'd Like to See: I think tonight would be a good chance for Damien Brunner to show that he can do more than Mattias Tedenby in a game. Ideally, I'd like to see Brunner in for Cam Janssen but I'm not holding my breath given the past few weeks. I don't know whether I'd throw Brunner right up with Patrik Elias. While on paper it may look better to have Steve Bernier down with Jacob Josefson and Tedenby; Brunner's done nothing to justify such a role in recent play.
Speaking of the fourth line, I'd like to see the Devils do a better job against Carolina's. I can understand Eric Staal and his unit doing work because, hey, it's Eric Staal. He's their best skater by far. Seeing Drayson Bowman, Manny Malhotra, and Radek Dvorak do well is concerning. Yes, the goals that unit generated were a bad one from distance that Brodeur should've stopped and a very unfortunate deflection by Elias, but they pushed the play forward on Wednesday. I'd like a better effort on that front.
I would also like to see a better performance out of the defensemen not paired with Andy Greene. I understand there's two rookies right now among that foursome. I don't expect them to be solid, stoic defenders right away. I do expect better from Marek Zidlicky and especially Peter Harrold in their own end. While Zidlicky is often an adventure to watch and Harrold is who he is, they're the veterans who should guide their pairings. I think it would help if Mark Fayne replaces one of them, who then steps up with Greene. We'll see if that's what happens.
Overall, I'd like to see more shots, preferably from the forwards rather than most of the defense. Preferably at closer range than what they got on Wednesday. It bears repeating, I think.
Coat Reminder: It's Black Friday so there should be some ridiculous deals for coats. Why coats? Because the Devils are hosting their annual Coat Drive at the Rock this Saturday.
Your Take: What will happen in Carolina tonight? Can the Devils put out a better performance and split the home-and-home? Can they not go down 0-2 early in the game and be forced to comeback from a deep hole? Can we some lineup changes or would they not even matter? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. While Thanksgiving was celebrated yesterday, as always, thank you for reading.