The night after #5 is honored in Detroit, another important game happens at the Joe Louis Arena
The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 660AM / 101.9FM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (27-24-13) at the Carolina Hurricanes (27-27-9; SBN Blog: Canes Country)
The Last Devils Game: The Devils had the second half of a crucial home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings last night and it didn't go well. The Devils fell behind 2-0 early in the second, but came roaring back with 3 goals in 2:21 in the middle of the second period and appeared poised for a big sweep of the home-and-home. After that, though, it all quickly came unglued. The defense allowed the Red Wings look after look right in the slot and Cory Schneider had no answer on this night so it got out of hand in a hurry. It was a bad game for a lot of Devils and they would end up getting rolled 7-4. John had the recap of the disaster, here.
The Last Hurricanes Game: The Hurricanes took on Our Hated Rivals in Raleigh last night and it wasn't a fun ending for them, either. The Canes held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period and though the Rangers equalized shorthanded, Jeff Skinner gave them a 2-1 lead on an unassisted tally with under 8 minutes to go. Carolina couldn't hang on, though as the Rangers would tie it up shortly after on a Rick Nash goal and take the lead with under 3 minutes to go on a 5-on-3 power play. The Rags would add an empty netter to seal it and that was that. Bob Wage recapped it at Canes Country and was particularly unhappy with the power play in the Hurricanes' 4-2 loss.
The Last Devils-Hurricanes Game: Way back in November, the Devils and Canes had a home-and-home set straddling Thanksgiving day. After dropping the first, the Devils took the second half in a wild one that ended 5-2 after three very different periods. The Devils carried a 1-0 lead into the second period but struggled and fell behind 2-1 going into the final frame. The offense would have a big third period, though as the Devils won going away with 4 straight goals. John had the recap of the win, which snapped a 3-game losing streak for the Devils at the time, here.
The Goal: Bounce back from last night's debacle in Detroit. The Devils were flat-out dreadful on defense and Cory Schneider had no answers and wasn't good enough to bail them out, so they got run out of the Joe. The Devils now reside 4 points outside of the playoff picture and they are running out of time to make up ground. They really needed a sweep of that home-and-home with Detroit, but a split keeps them hanging on the periphery of the playoff race. Tonight they absolutely need a victory to stay in it, though.The Hurricanes are pretty much cooked, as they are sitting 8 points out of the last playoff spot, but the Devils could be joining them in that boat if they don't get a win tonight.
The offense has been good coming out of the break, so they must keep that going into tonight's game. Anton Khudobin has been very good for Carolina, but with him seeing the first half of the back-to-back, the Devils should see one of the Canes other two goaltenders, Cam Ward or Justin Peters. Ward has been having a tough season, and Peters just returned from a conditioning stint in Charlotte, so we'll see which gets the nod. Either way, the Devils should have some opportunities against a Carolina team which is struggling right now and has given up 3 or more goals in 6 of their past 7 games.
The defense had been playing pretty well coming out of the break in my view, save some breakdowns against a high-powered San Jose team, but they were a disaster last night. They gave up 33 shots while trailing most of the game and the slot might as well have had a red carpet rolled out in it, the Devils were so welcoming. I didn't really understand why Pete DeBoer decided to shake up the pairings but it did not work out well, as almost everyone looked bad. The Jon Merrill - Bryce Salvador combo was a mess and Eric Gelinas had a night to forget as well. We'll see if DeBoer chooses to insert Peter Harrold and/or Anton Volchenkov into the lineup after last night.
Quick Trade Turnaround: One of the bigger storylines of this game is the return for two players that were just traded. Just a few days after swapping teams at the trade deadline, Tuomo Ruutu and Andrei Loktionov will both be taking on their former clubs tonight. Both had quiet nights on Friday for their respective new teams. Loktionov played a shade over 11 minutes as the Hurricanes' fourth line center and ended up with no shots on goal. Ruutu had a similarly uneventful night in his debut, playing 13+ minutes and recording 1 shot. He did have a glorious chance early on that he couldn't convert on, so he seems to be fitting right in thus far.
Marty Party: The Martin Brodeur possibly-maybe farewell tour continues as he will get the start in the second half of this weekend's back-to-back. He has gotten into 3 of the 6 games coming out of the Olympic break now and in his first two, he has been decent and the Devils have come away with two victories. In his first start, he didn't see much action, but was solid in holding a depleted Islanders team to one goal in a 6-1 drubbing the Devils laid on them. He was so-so in the game against Detroit, but the Devils' offense was very good and broke a late 3-3 tie to get the victory. With Schneider getting worked over in Detroit last night and this being a back-to-back, it's hard to argue with a Marty start here.
Hurricanes Circling the Drain: Having lost 6 of their past 7 games, the Canes appear to be just about out of it in the East. They are now 8 points back of Detroit for the last spot and there just isn't time to make up that kind of ground (nor do they really appear to be good enough). The Devils absolutely have to be able to get 2 points here. If they can't find a way to pull out a game against a dead team walking like the Canes, they certainly don't deserve to be playing beyond early April.
Adam the Mup: Like the thousands of mups that have fallen victim to Fall Out Boy over the past year or so, Adam Henrique is absolutely ON FIYAAAAHHH, so to speak. He now has an insane 7 goals and 9 points in the 5 games since the break. He is doing everything he can to keep the Devils in the playoff race for sure. Hopefully some of his slumping teammates are inspired by his dominance and get going themselves.
Time to Put His Face On a Milk Carton: If anyone has seen goal-scorer Michael Ryder, please contact the proper authorities. He had an assist on Henrique's garbage time tally last night, but he hasn't recorded a goal since January 11th. He needs to score in the worst way and this team needs him to get going for the stretch run.
Your Thoughts: How do you feel about tonight's game? Can the Devils bounce back from their brutal loss to Detroit? To they still have a shot to make the postseason? Do you expect to see any lineup changes beyond the goaltending swap? Sound off with your thoughts on tonight's game below and Let's Go Devils.