Preseason will end tonight as it began for the home team. And it'll even be televised.
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
The Game Will Be on TV: Yes! It'll even be a mostly Devils broadcast: Steve Cangelosi, Ken Daneyko, and Joe Micheletti. At least Sam "Routine Plays are Great Plays" Rosen isn't involved.
Last Chances?: The New Jersey Devils still have 32 players on their roster. They need to meet the 23-man roster limit by 5 PM on Tuesday. This is the last preseason game. So for some on the bubble, it very well is. It's pretty clear that Damon Severson and Seth Helgeson will be demoted to drop the defensemen to seven. The backup goaltender position has to be decided but that's still only one move. There twenty forwards and, I think, 14 spots. The battles are in the depth of the lineup. Guys like Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, and Ryane Clowe are set. It's the CBGBs, Jacob Josefson, Scott Gomez, Jordin Tootoo, Reid Boucher, and Stefan Matteau (yes, I'm leaving out #25) that aren't secure at the moment. Pay close attention to A) who actually plays and B) how those players do. While the last preseason game
This also applies to Our Hated Rivals to an extent. Andrew Gross noted on Thursday at Ranger Rants that Matthew Lombardi is in a particularly tough spot. He's been battling a groin injury. If he made it through Friday's skate, then he could play tonight. And even then, he's got to impress because his spot is not at all guaranteed. Again: pay attention to who's dressed and how those bubble-players do.
Final Warmups: On Friday, Tom Gulitti wrote at Fire & Ice that we can expect Bryce Salvador to suit up. Gulitti also wrote that Andy Greene and Scott Gomez say they are available after dealing with some minor injuries as well. I would think Greene will also get in. For those two and others, this is really a dress rehearsal. After this, the games count and it's imperative that the Devils don't fall flat on their face for seven straight games like last season. The goal is to get back into something resembling a groove. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ryane Clowe dress for this one to remove more of his rink rust, as well as seeing the Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias lines in the same game. Gomez, well, he's one of the many in competition for a spot.
Goalies: As the Rangers played Henrik Lundqvist tonight, Cam Talbot will get this game. This was confirmed on Thursday by Gross. Cory Schneider will tend the nets for New Jersey to start, but Gulitti noted in this Friday Fire & Ice post that he may not play the full game. That's curious. Gulitti also said in that very post to expect Scott Clemmensen to back Schneider up. That's also curious. Is this to give Clemmensen another shot given that Sunday's game against Philly was dreadful from an evaluation-standpoint? Is this a solid to Clemmensen to say, "Hey, it's not you, but here's one last guaranteed appearance at the Rock?" Is this a clear sign that Clemmensen will be the #2 goalie in New Jersey this season? In case you wanted more reason that this game carries some importance, there you are.
Give Us Some Reg-ular Goals: In five preseason games, the Devils have scored exactly four goals at even strength. All four of those came in the last Devils-Rangers game, which was the first preseason game for both. The Devils have scored five non-empty net goals since then and all were on the power play. They've even scored more goals in the shootout than they have scored even strength goals in the last four games. (Yes, I smiled while writing that.) While preseason results don't matter, it's remarkable that none have happened. So I'd like to see one or two of those tonight. If only to remind those watching that, yes, the Devils can do that thing.
Give Us Some Discipline: The other general point I want to make for this game is that I'd also like to see the Devils take fewer penalties. Thursday's game was feistier than the others and the Devils took seven penalties for their trouble for six shorthanded situations. Most were just avoidable fouls and a few of them wiped out Devils power plays. The Devils have been shorthanded 23 times and conceded five goals. They've been successful recently as those five goals were on the road. But I'd like to see the Devils play with the ref's whistle more in mind and at least not hand them more than three advantages tonight. I think it'll be important for anyone on the bubble. What irritated me more than six penalty kills against the Isles were the penalties were all from players who aren't all locks to make the team. Those are the players who should really avoid putting their team down a man. Alas, such is hockey.
Elsewhere in New Jersey: The crowd should be interesting with two big sports events tonight. The Red Bulls trying to make a playoff push happen against Houston at Red Bull Arena, which is right next to Newark. The bigger game is Rutgers hosting a circus called Michigan in Piscataway, where they have a realistic chance of winning. You can go to Once A Metro and On the Banks, respectively . At least this game is on TV so those who can go, can; those who can't go, can see it live, and those who can't go and will miss the game, can DVR (or tape) it.
Your Take: Either way, preseason is over as soon as this game ends - and the difficult decisions will have to be made. So what do you want to see tonight? How do you expect the game to go? Do you expect this roster to be close to what we'll see in Philadelphia next week? Will those on the bubble get one last shot, and if so, who do you think will get it? Do you think Scott Clemmensen is the #2 or is this just a gesture, assuming he does suit up behind Schneider? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.