The Devils head back on the road after a winless homestand. Now would be a good time to end this skid.
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2, Sportsnet 1 (Canada); Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-2-2) at the Ottawa Senators (4-1-0; SBN Blog: Silver Seven)
The Last Devils Game: Just last night, the Devils took on the Dallas Stars on Chico Resch Night at the Rock. The team started well enough, playing very well out of the gate and taking a 1-0 lead on an Eric Gelinas blast that followed a nice play on the forecheck by Jacob Josefson. About halfway through the first period, though, the Stars completely turned around the game and started to dominate on the puck. They pinned the Devils back often from midway in the first period until the second intermission and turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. The first goal was a result of a bad decision by Andy Greene to hold the puck on the PK and the second was a bad one on Schneider from a sharp angle try from Patrick Eaves. The Devils would mount a push in a more-evenly played third and tie it up on the dirtiest of dirty goals by Damien Brunner (3 points in 3 games now) off a definite hand pass by Patrik Elias. The game would remain tied through the rest of regulation and overtime and head to a shootout. The Devils looked very Devil-like in the shootout, with the shooters registering 0 shots on goal and Schneider registering 0 saves, and went quietly, 2-0, to give the Stars the win. Ultimately, the Devils were probably lucky to get a point. John had the recap here.
The Last Senators Game: The Senators haven't played in an entire week now, due their Wednesday game versus the Maple Leafs being postponed after the shooting at the War Memorial on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The last game they did play was against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Saturday. The Sens and Jackets both went into that game at 3-1-0 and had an exciting game which featured a comeback from 2-0 by Columbus that included an Ottawa own goal and a long shot through a screen to tie it up. Ottawa would break the deadlock in the third on a nifty play by Mike Hoffman and then hang on for dear life down the stretch for the 3-2 victory. Here's the recap from Silver Seven if you are interested.
The Goal: Do what you can to contain Erik Karlsson. The Sens top blueliner and newly-anointed captain is almost certainly the best offensive defenseman in the league and, despite his position, is probably the top offensive threat their team has. He is a magician with the puck at times and to say he isn't afraid to jump up into the play would be a massive understatement. The Devils defense has been so-so out of the gate overall, so they will have to try to clean up their act and account for the extra dimension in the Sens offense that Karlsson brings. The Sens offense hasn't been as prolific a shot-producer as in past years thus far, but that hasn't stopped them from pulling out wins early on. Karlsson has 4 points in 5 games and a whopping 24 shots from the blueline, far outpacing any of his teammates. He is what makes the Sens offense go, so keep him in check and you are on your way.
Headstands Aplenty: Perhaps the biggest reason the Sens are 4-1-0 right now is their goaltending. Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have both been great in the early going with .939 and .950 save percentages, respectively. The team is sporting a .957 sv% at even strength, per Puckalytics.com, so despite them being bombarded with shots so far, they haven't been paying for it, at least not yet. Perhaps the long layoff between games for the Sens will have whoever starts this game showing some rust, but the Devils may have their work cut out for them tonight if whoever starts for the Sens stays hot (Note: per Stephen Whyno, it will be Lehner).
Take the Space You are Given: The Senators have not been a great defensive team for a few years running now, and things appear to be no different thus far in 2014-15. Via Puckalytics, the Sens are allowing the second-highest close-score 5v5 Corsi against in the league at 63.57 shot attempts per game. Only the Buffalo Sabres have been worse on that front, so the Devils should have some room to create offense going forward in this one. The Devils have done pretty well in terms of finishing their chances this season, so hopefully they can continue to capitalize on offensive opportunities.
Any Lineup Changes?: As of this writing, there doesn't seem to be any word on Martin Havlat's availability for tonight's game. Whether he plays will probably impact the fate of one of last night's fourth liners, even though that unit did pretty well for itself. Perhaps Josefson earned himself another start with some nice work on the forecheck and an assist in his short time allotted last night. Brunner has been very good and should be remaining in the lineup for the foreseeable future. With Gelinas getting a goal last night, I would not expect Adam Larsson to be making a return tonight, even if Gelinas was lackluster otherwise. The lines got jumbled a bit again last night, but the Devils didn't have a morning skate today, so the lines won't be known until closer to game time.
Clemmer's First Start?: As with the skaters, the lack of a morning skate means we won't know until closer to game time, but there's probably a decent chance Scott Clemmensen gets his first start of the season tonight. We're on the second half of a back-to-back and Schneider had a pretty hefty workload last night. We will see on this, but if Clemmensen does start, that means the defense will have to be that much tighter in this one. Hopefully the Devils backup can shake off the cobwebs and play well in his first start if he gets it.
Emotional Scene in Ottawa: With Wednesday's shootings on Parliament Hill fresh on the minds of everyone in Ottawa, I'm sure it will be an emotional crowd up at the Canadian Tire Center. I expect a very charged up national anthem as the city bands together over this week's tragedy. The beauty of sports is the way they can be a diversion and a way to make people feel better, even in the face of senseless acts of violence in the real world. The Sens will likely be revved up out of the gate to support their city, so I'd expect a good performance from them tonight.
Final Thoughts: Tonight is an important one for the Devils, coming off an unsuccessful 0-1-2 homestand. They have to find a way to bury the chances they are given and also keep this Sens offense in check. I would like to see the top unit of Jagr, Zajac, and Cammalleri reunited tonight, as I think that line has an opportunity to do real damage to this Sens team. My heart goes out to the City of Ottawa tonight, but that means I will be rooting for a Devils victory no less (4-2-2 looks a lot better than 3-3-2). If you have any thoughts on tonight's game, leave them below in the comments. Let's go Devils.