The Time: 3:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - WFAN 660 AM and 101.9 FM
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (26-22-13) vs The San Jose Sharks (38-17-6) SBN Blog: Fear The Fin
The Last Devils Game: After putting up 5 goals in a 5-2 victory over Columbus, the Devils one-upped themselves by putting a 6-spot on The Isles in a Saturday afternoon rout at Nassau. Goals were coming from everywhere as 6 different Devils lit the lamp, but mostly on the power play, as 4 of the 6 involved at least one extra Devils skater. John recapped a happy afternoon on Long Island right here so give it a read if you haven't already.
The Last Sharks Game: San Jose lost to Buffalo for the second time this season on Friday night. The game was 1-1 through 2 periods. Early in the 3rd, Brian Flynn and Matt Moulson scored goals 3 minutes apart for Buffalo to open up a 3-1 advatage, and the game ended up 4-2 Buffalo. The Neutral recapped the game here for Fear the Fin, and it's a good read, so check it out to get some insight into the current state of the Sharks lineup.
The Last Devils - Sharks Game: These teams met back in November out in San Jose, and the Sharks were victorious 2 -1 in a game which they outshot and outplayed the Devils. John recapped the game here, so check it out if you'd like to re-live some November Devils.
The Goal: Try to keep the ball rolling as the Devils have been scoring goals in bunches and outshooting the opposition handily in their two post - Olympic games. The Sharks represent a much tougher foe than either Columbus or San Jose. San Jose leads the league in 5v5 shot attempts per game and are a very close 3rd in shots per game, just a hair behind Chicago and Ottawa. San Jose is a strong team and they can control play pretty well at even strength, as they are a top 10 team in both shots for (3) and shots against (7). While the Devils surpress shots better than anyone else in the league, they struggle to put up shots for. The last two games, however, the Devils have put up 35 shots each game and scored 11 goals in the process, so hopefully they can keep getting rubber on net at a much better pace then their yearly totals.
The Devils lineup will most likely be the same as Saturday afternoon, unless either Damien Brunner or Bryce Salvador is ready to return. If either guy is ready to go, I would imagine they will be back in. Salvador would slot in for Volchenkov in the back. Brunner would play on Elias' right, and Bernier would drop to the 4th line wing, Gionta slides to center and Josefson sits. If not, we will most likely see Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr; Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Steve Bernier; Ryane Clowe - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder; Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta. The entire lineup has been productive in the last two games, in which Henrique has slid over to the wing and moved up to play with Elias. Loktionov is working out very well with Ryder and Clowe the last two games. The fourth line was kind of wretched to start the game Saturday, but evened out a bit as the game got out of hand. Hopefully they can hold their own Sunday, as the other three lines have looked really good. The defense will probably be Andy Greene - Mark Fayne; Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky; Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill. Cory Schneider will be in goal for the Devils, and he has been fantastic lately.
The Opposition: A shooting percentage in the bottom third of the league has pushed San Jose down to 13th in even strength goals for, despite leading the league in shot attempts. Still, their forward lines are among the league's most dangerous. The top line they are using right now is Joe Pavelski on the left wing with Joe Thornton at center and Brent Burns on the right. This puts the 2 highest scorers in the San Jose lineup (Pavelski, Thornton) next to each other, but perhaps comprises their depth. I noticed some complaining over at Fear the Fin about Pavelski no longer centering the 3rd line. It seems that job now belongs to Adam Burish, who doesn't look, at a glance, like he's done anything fantastic, except be on the ice for 3 of the 7 goals against in the past two games. His wingers Friday night in Buffalo were Tyler Kennedy and Tommy Wingels. The second line for San Jose is a very dangerous group offensively that also usually matches up against the opponent's toughest competition. This would be Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, and Marty Havlat. These guys seem to take, on average, more defensive zone starts than the other lines, although that can be variable from game to game. The fourth line is James Sheppard, Andrew Desjardins, and Mike Brown. Brown is the worst possession forward on the team, Desjardins is a little better but still near the bottom, but surprisingly, Sheppard has better numbers than the other two. He seems to make Desjardins better when they are on the ice together. They each have two goals on the season. These are the forward lines San Jose used Friday night.
One defense, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun do the heaviest lifting. Dan Boyle and Matt Irwin are the most offensively productive, although Vlasic and Braun are no slouches either. The third pairing will most likely be Scott Hannan and Jason Demers. Demers actually leads what is a very productive blue line overall in points with 27. I would expect we will see Antti Niemi in goal.
Special Teams: The San Jose power play is #2 in the league in shot rate, #1 in shot attempts, #4 in overall power play time, yet just 19th in the league in conversion percentage at 17.1%. Their home road splits are very even in term of conversions. Are they getting unlucky? Like during 5v5 play, their shooting percentage at 5v4 of 9.7% is not very impressive and good for just 24th in the league. The usual suspects are featured on the power play for San Jose. It looks like their first unit probably features Thornton, Couture, Marleau, Boyle, and Pavelski. The second unit, then would involve some combination of Irwin, Wingels, Burns, Havlat, and Demers, most likely. The Devils, meanwhile, come in with a league leading 15.4 shooting percentage at 5v4, and the #6 ranked power play in the league, courtesy of their 6 goals scored in the last two games. This recent surge coincides with the callup of Eric Gelinas, who has a huge impact on the Devils power play success with his booming shot.
Regarding the teams' respective penalty kills, the Devils are top ranked in the league and San Jose is 8th, so both teams are very good. The Devils have a ridiculous 92.3% success rate at home, while San Jose is just 78.4% on the road. So, the gap in situational numbers is wider than the overall glance. It looks like San Jose leans on Vlasic and Braun on the back end, unsurprisingly. Demers and Hannan look like the second unit. Up front, Marleau and Pavelski, Couture, Wingels, Desjardins, and Adam Burish are the penalty killers who see the most ice time.
On paper, the Devils have the better special teams units right now. I am always wary of the San Jose power play, however, with all those weapons and the amount of shots they get towards net. Hopefully the Devils recently hot power play can remain so.
Oh yeah: While I was writing this preview, some rumors started to swirl about Broduer waiving his no trade clause. People all over twitter were reporting that Kevin Weekes said something to this effect on CBC. I didn't see what Kevin Weekes reported, and he didn't tweet out any information. But as of the writing of this article, Tom Gulitti has no updates on the subject and, if you read TG's timeline, he discusses how there is little reason Brodeur would wave his NTC unless it was in the context of a specific trade or group of teams he was comfortable with. We will await a TG update on the subject.
Your Take: What would you like to see the Devils do to slow down the Sharks and keep the winning streak going? Let's get a little Sunday morning hockey discussion going prior to this mid-afternoon game.