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New Jersey Devils vs. Winnipeg Jets: Game 26 Preview

The New Jersey Devils are taking on the Winnipeg Jets for the third and final time this season. The Devils are hoping to right the ship after weeks of tough losses and avoid being swept by the Jets.

David Clarkson lines up with Jets captain Andrew Ladd on February 28, 2013
David Clarkson lines up with Jets captain Andrew Ladd on February 28, 2013
Bruce Fedyck - USA TODAY Sports

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (11-9-5) vs. the Winnipeg Jets (12-11-1)

The TiqIQ Ticket Link: Hoping to see the Devils get their revenge after losing their last two against Winnipeg? Check out this link and get tickets today: New Jersey Devils tickets.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils lost a tough one to the Carolina Hurricanes last night with a score of 6-3. Although the Devils out shot the Canes, they found themselves in too deep a hole to climb out of after two periods. When the first period came to a close, the Devils were down 2-1. The Canes scored two fast goals followed by a short-handed tally from Kovalchuk. It seemed like a winnable game, until the second period. The Hurricanes scored three goals in the second and made it too difficult for the Devils to make a come back. In the third, Kovalchuk and Elias scored two quick goals to bring back some hope, but it wasn't enough after letting up so much earlier in the match. The game came to a close after an empty net goal from the Hurricanes. Hedberg made the start and was pulled going into the third, giving Jeff Frazee his first taste of the NHL. He only saw three shots, but turned each one away. It was a poor defensive effort with a few bad goals from Moose - a lot of the same during the slump so far. John puts the game in the perfect light with his recap here.

The Last Jets Game: The Jets last took the ice against the Florida Panthers on Friday. They started out strong getting through the first period with a 2-1 lead, getting goals by Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. After a strong first, the Jets took their foot off the gas and let the Panthers battle back forcing the game into overtime. Winnipeg was finally successful when Dustin Byfuglien buried it in extra time. Check out the write up from Derek Gagnon at Arctic Ice Hockey for a full recap of the game.

The Last Devils-Jets Game: It may seem like ages ago, but the Devils and Jets last met on February 28, just ten days ago. It was New Jersey's third loss of their painful skid and the Devils went down 3-1. It was a story of the Devils out-chancing the Jets, but nothing going in the net. The game started with the fastest goal ever scored against the Devils and ended with an empty netter. The only goal from New Jersey was from Andrei Loktionov - and it was on his only shot. It was a tough one to swallow, but after losing both against the Jets in their home-and-home, hopefully the Devils will come out today with a thirst for revenge. For a full recap of this game, check out John's post from that day.

The Goal: It was already announced last night that Hedberg would be back in net for the Devils today - so whether we like it or not, Moose will get another shot at turning his game around. Last night was a classic example of Hedberg letting in a few soft goals and when he was making the saves, he was not getting any help from his teammates. I'm sure he would have liked to have at least two of the goals he let in back, but there were holes everywhere. Everyone in front of Moose will have to step up and help him out, and then maybe he will start making the important saves in return. One can hope.

Outside of letting in too many goals, the offense needs to start putting the puck in the net, as well. Things started to come together during the third period last night when Elias and Kovalchuk scored, so hopefully some of that will carry over. Kovalchuk was hungry yesterday and found the back of the net twice. It would be great if he stays on point today. It would also be nice if a few bounces went in the Devils' favor. There have been countless open nets missed due to a bad bounce or a ridiculous save. The breaks have to start going our way eventually, right?

Special teams were okay last night. Aside from the first penalty kill, where Semin was left alone in front, the Devils short-handed attempts were successful - we even saw a league leading seventh short-handed goal from Kovalchuk (his third of the season). The powerplay had two opportunities, but was shut down. It did look pretty good, though - especially the first chance in the opening period when they had five shots on goal. The Jets penalty kill has been great lately - they have not allowed a power play goal in their last 21 times shorthanded. With that, they are still 29th in the league shorthanded, so there is room for some success from the Devils.

The defense was active on the score sheet by getting every assist awarded. That's nice, but they constantly left Hedberg dealing with odd man rushes and shots from difficult areas of the ice. They cannot afford to do the same today with scoring threats such as Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane (who have both burned the Devils this season). As John pointed out in his recap, Hedberg has been frustrating in net, but the defense in front of him isn't providing him with the support he needs to make saves.

The Devils currently sit in 7th place in the East with only one point over the 8th place Rangers and two points over the 9th place Jets. What do you expect to see from the Devils and Jets today? How much of a must win do you consider this game? Who do you think needs to step up to start the trek out of this painful slump? Do you think the two goals early in the third period last night will carry over into tonight's effort? Please discuss what you hope to see at the Rock tonight below. Thanks for reading!