It is a rivalry game. Enough said.
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - WFAN 660 AM and 101.9 FM
The Last Devils Game: Last night, the Devils hosted the Montreal Canadiens, who are fighting with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the lead in the Atlantic Division. The first two plus periods were not pretty. The Devils looked slow, could not string a couple easy passes together, and as a result did not generate much action on Carey Price. Montreal, however, also did not make Keith Kinkaid work hard. This low event hockey led to a 0-0 first period, but it was 2-0 Canadiens after two. The Devils finally decided to wake up and throw some pucks on net once Montreal made it 3-0, but it was too little too late. The Devils made it 3-2 with 5:42 left thanks to Michael Cammalleri, but could not do more with the remaining time. An empty net goal late sealed the deal at 4-2. John had the recap here.
The Last Flyers Game: While the Devils were at home losing to Montreal, the Flyers were in Carolina, where they were playing the other basement dweller of the Metropolitan Division, the Hurricanes. The Canes took a 1-0 lead in the first period with a real nice wrister from Brad Malone that beat Steve Mason over his glove. Eric Staal made it 2-0 only 41 seconds into the second period. The play started with his brother Jordan Staal making a nice move around Matt Read only to find a pipe. The puck bounced across the ice and made its way back to the point, where it was thrown in front and slammed home by Staal. The Flyers looked to make a comeback, and brought it to within 1 when Chris VandeVelde scored for them halfway through the third, but it would not be enough. Despite being down most of the game, the Flyers were still outshot 26-24, and just could not get enough offense on net. They would lose 2-1. The biggest news of the game, however, came when Claude Giroux took a nasty skate cut to his leg from Justin Faulk. It looked like it could have been real bad, but afterwards it was reported that all is okay, and he is probable for the game tonight. If you want to see the play, Broad Street Hockey has it here.
The Goal: Play crisp hockey. Last night, the Devils looked out of sync. Passes up ice were not connecting at all, and New Jersey was regularly giving possession right back to Montreal. Players were looking left when the puck was being moved right. It was the opposite of clean, crisp hockey. That cannot continue to happen. The Devils need to get back to the basics. Complete passes that generate movement forward. Don't chip the puck up only to give it right back to Philadelphia. I am not sure if the lack of chemistry is because the team is getting used to a new game plan or if it simply is lack of execution, but either way it needs to improve, and it needs to improve as soon as possible. It has been really tough watching most of the last two games because NJ is simply not playing crisp hockey.
Shoot the Puck: Last night, the Devils played the epitome of low event hockey for over two periods. Even though they had real trouble connecting on any pass, they kept going for the pass in the offensive zone instead of just ripping the puck on net. Safe to say, it did not work. Only when they finally were down by 3 goals did they start to just shoot, and it was to good effect. Earlier in the game, there was a juicy 2 on 1 where Travis Zajac really needed to just shoot the puck. Instead, he was so obvious in his intent to pass that all the defender needed to do was sell out on the pass and dive. Needless to say, it was a disaster. After the third goal against, however, Michael Ryder came in with a 2 on 1 and actually shot it. And scored! Do that more. Please.
Back With Schneider: With Keith Kinkaid getting the start in net last night, it will be Cory Schneider in net tonight barring any unforeseen circumstances. Cory has been wildly consistent recently, maintaining a .918 save percentage for close to a month now. There can be few complaints with him starting. Expect him to give the Devils a chance to win, as he usually does.
What About the Devils Lineup? This could be an interesting question for sure. In terms of the forwards, last night saw the return of Patrik Elias, Michael Ryder, and Martin Havlat. Ryder had the Devils' first goal and generated shots, so that was good. Martin Havlat did not have a notable game, while Elias looked almost lost at times. Hopefully the rust has been removed for him, and he can begin to play better hockey tonight. Yesterday Joe Whitney was sent down to Albany to make room for them, but Mike Sislo was also placed on waivers. There is a chance today that when Sislo clears, Whitney will be recalled to the NHL and may play. We shall see. It most likely depends on the health of Steve Bernier, who did not play last night.
The defense also has question marks, thanks to Eric Gelinas not playing last night due to illness, and Peter Harrold getting hurt thanks to a blatant high sticking that did not draw a penalty (quick side note: the refereeing did not seem to be all that good last night from where I was sitting in the arena, but I could just be biased. Let me know if I was right or just a fanatic). Lou Lamoriello mentioned last night that they may need to call up a defenseman if neither can play tonight, so we will see if that happens or not.
How About them Flyers? To sum it up: they haven't been much better than the Devils. They have gone 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, which is a little better than New Jersey, but not much so. Considering that they only have 35 points in 38 games played, they need to be better than that to get back into playoff contention. They have also been particularly atrocious on the road this season, boasting a 6-12-4 record away from Wells Fargo Center. This bodes well for tonight if the trend of poor play on the road continues.
Let's Hope Giroux is Out: First off, I need to say that I would never wish an injury on anyone, even on a Flyer. I am glad that Giroux came out of that potentially horrifying incident without a terrible injury. However, for the sake of NJ having a better chance to win, it would be great if he were not on the ice. This is because he has been really, really good. He is their star, and rightly so. He currently has 43 points in 38 games played, with 13 goals and 30 assists. He is a possession giant, with a Fenwick For of 54.6% this season, despite the Flyers having a team Fenwick of 48%. He drives their top line, and is not someone the Devils want to see on the ice. Let's hope he gets a precautionary game off before returning to action on Tuesday against Ottawa.
The Rest of Their Offense: Sadly, Giroux is not their only offensive threat. Their points leader is actually Jakub Voracek, who has 15 goals and 32 assists for 47 points. Wayne Simmonds has been scoring a bunch of goals this season as well, as he is tied with Voracek for the team lead at 15. They are also getting solid play from the likes of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
The rest, however, have not been anything spectacular. RJ Umberger has been a huge disappointment when compared to Scott Hartnell. Umberger has 5 goals and 9 points total for Philly, while Hartnell has 8 goals and 19 points for Columbus. To further showcase the difference, Hartnell has a quality 51.2 FF%, while Umberger is all the way down at 40.5%. That was not a good trade for Philadelphia. Also, Vincent Lecavalier has been demoted to fourth line action mostly, having only generated 6 goals and 11 points so far this season. For the money he is being paid, that is not good at all. So to sum it up, while Philadelphia has some stars to watch out for, their bottom 6 can be exploited.
A Not-So Quality Defense: Philadelphia has not had great defensive play this season. As a team, they allow 2.90 goals per game, which is worse than New Jersey and is good for 23rd in the NHL. They also give up over 30 shots per game, which is not something to gloat about. Mark Streit has been a good acquisition for them, with 25 points so far this season, but other than that they get next to no production from their defensemen. The Devils really should look to exploit the Philadelphia blue line by shooting early and often.
A Good PP, But a Real Bad PK: That about sums up special teams for Philadelphia. They have the 7th best power play in the league, converting 21.4% of the time. However, they cannot keep the puck out of the net on penalty kills, converting only 74.4% of their kills. This is good for last in the league. If the Devils can draw some calls, perhaps they can set up a good power play and score some goals that way.
Their Goaltending Situation: Last night, Steve Mason started in net for Philadelphia. He has been their workhorse this season, starting 25 games and posting a .917 save percentage. There is a chance he could start both games in their back to back, but let's hope not. Ray Emery has been much worse in net, posting a save percentage of only .898. While the Devils tend to make opposing backups look good, seeing Emery in net tonight could mean good things.
Your Take: A win tonight would be a nice comeback from the last two clunkers, and it would give the home fans something to root about after having to listen to the Montreal fans pack the Rock. Although rivalry games tend to bring out the best in teams, this is certainly a winnable game for New Jersey. It would be sweet to get the W. What is your take about tonight's game? Do you think the Devils have a strong chance to win it? What should we expect to see tonight? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.