Finally, it's the last game of the preseason. After this, rosters will have to be set by Monday, September 30. Then, we wait for the first game in Pittsburgh.
The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: WFAN.com will stream a radio feed of tonight's game. Not sure if there will be any video feed.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey)
The Last Devils & Flyers Game: The Devils completed a back-to-back set in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The Flyers put out a mostly full-strength lineup whereas the Devils still had quite a few fringe players in the lineup. Philly didn't play a preseason game in a while and it showed in the first period. The Devils drew two calls, swarmed all over the opposition, and finished the first 1-0 thanks to a sweet move with even better puck control by Marek Zidlicky. Philadelphia found their legs and just pinned the Devils back for the better part of the next two periods. Fortunately, their accuracy was off and Cory Schneider was great. Mike Sislo scored a beautiful goal on one of New Jersey's few attacks in the third period to make it 2-0. A late penalty gave the Flyers a power play and with an extra man, they finally cracked Schneider's preseason shutout streak. Kimmo Timonen rifled in a high, hard shot past a screen by Scott Hartnell to make it 2-1. But they didn't build on it and Devils held on to win the game. My recap of the evening's action is here.
The Expectations: Well, this is the last chance for any fringe players on the Devils to make their case to Peter DeBoer, Lou Lamoriello, and anyone else in charge of making roster decisions. The Devils did not practice on Wednesday but Tom Gulitti did learn from DeBoer that Jaromir Jagr is questionable for tonight according to this post at Fire & Ice. I understand he's been skating and he's been fighting an injury, but I would like to see him get some of the rust off in a meaningless game as opposed to a game that will count. Alas, that may not happen. If so, it does mean there will be another forward spot tonight that could be used for someone perhaps fighting for room on the 23-man roster. I really hope it will not be for a useless goon.
I would think that the Devils will put out their strongest possible lineup to get a feel for potential lines going into the beginning of the season. This would mean all six defensemen would likely be veterans and the forwards could go three deep in terms of lines with use. I would like to see that come together as an actual preview for the real thing. I want to see a defense that is not half-experienced and half-inexperienced. I want to see Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique both play with NHL players. I want to see DeBoer utilize lines as he would in a game that counts as opposed to rolling lines just to give guys minutes in spite of their play (looking at you, fourth lines of the past five games). We shall see whether I will get what I want. Gulitti's post on Jagr's uncertain status did confirm that Martin Brodeur will start and play through the game. That makes sense as Schneider did play on Tuesday.
Regardless of the lineup, I hope the Devils aim to play a more complete game than they did on Tuesday. They were great in the first period but were second-rate in the second and third periods, pulling out a win on a great play as opposed to great play in general. Based on Tuesday's game I'd like to see a more consistent attack, fewer stretches of simply defending, and better passes into and through the neutral zone from the Devils. I think they can do this with a higher quality lineup. They can also do this with tactical adjustments and slowing the tempo as needed. Philly's speed at forward gave the Devils problems in the second period and at times in the third. It's something to work on while these games still allow for experimentation.
As for the Flyers, Sam Carchidi reported at Philly.com on Wednesday that Wayne Simmonds is feeling better and he will play tonight. That good news is erased by some bad news. Jakub Voracek suffered an injury in Tuesday's game, likely when he crashed into Schneider and the net when Bryce Salvador took him out on a breakaway, so he will not play. Hopefully, he'll be back in action soon enough. The Flyers will play a preseason game on Friday so there could be a few differences in the lineup. Per Carchidi's post, Adam Hall was filling in Voracek's spot in the lineup, Steve Mason is expected to start this game as Ray Emery played on Tuesday, and head coach Peter Laviolette may cycle some veterans as to not risk their status in their back-to-back set. That may give some of the Flyers players on the fringe - such as Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, and Chris VandeVelde - some their last chances to make their case to stay in Philly.
It should be a fun outing nonetheless at the Rock. If you're going to the game, then just try to enjoy it. I do hope the Devils put out a better performance but I'm not concerned about the result. After all, this game will not matter the moment it's over. This is the last time I can say that for a while. Hopefully well into 2014. I'll be there in my usual seat in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, just to take it all in. Will you be there? What do you expect from the Devils tonight? Who do you want to see play on both sides of the game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.