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Game Preview #20: New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks

The New Jersey Devils will end a poor road trip by visiting the Vancouver Canucks. This game preview highlights what the Devils must do differently and reminds you who the dangerous Canucks (still) are.

Will the Devils put the Vancouver goalie on his back again? We'll see!
Will the Devils put the Vancouver goalie on his back again? We'll see!
Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Don't worry sleepyheads, this is the last late start until January.

The Time: 10:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-8-1) at the Vancouver Canucks (8-7-6; SBN Blog: Nucks Misconduct)

The Last Devils Game: In the second game of a three-game road trip through Western Canada, the Devils visited Edmonton. The start wasn't very good. The Oilers attacked more, carried the puck more, and drew the first two calls of the game.  Leon Draisaitl kept his stick hot when he finished a lovely pass by Taylor Hall to make it 0-1 in the first. New Jersey would respond on their first power play in the second period:a fantastic shot to the top corner by Kyle Palmieri. Alas, the Devils got caught too deep on defense shortly thereafter allowing the space for Teddy Purcell to feed a wide open Oscar Klefbom on Kinkaid's flank to make it 1-2.  The Devils got the benefit some some power plays, including a 53-second 5-on-3 situation. They did not convert and gave the Oilers power play time to work with. It wasn't until the fifth minor for New Jersey when Edmonton finally converted. Early in the third period, Jordan Eberle got denied at the side of the net by Kinkaid. Eberle kept jamming at it, the puck did come loose, and he put it home to make it 1-3.  The Devils responded by playing absolutely non-threatening hockey. A terrible giveaway by Mike Cammalleri yielded a goal for Mark Letestu to really hammer home the point. An ENG by Hall sealed a very bad 1-5 loss. Here's my recap of the defeat.

The Last Canucks Game: Last night, the Canucks finally returned home and hosted Chicago. It got off to a rocky start as Jonathan Toews converted an early power play goal in the first period. Fortunately for the home team, Toews took a penalty and the Canucks made him pay. Henrik Sedin converted that one to make it 1-1.  Jannik Hansen added to the lead for a little bit past the fifteen-minute mark. But Chicago's Ryan Garbutt scored his first of the season to equalize it about a minute later. Garbutt took a penalty in the second period and it was Daniel Sedin's turn to punish him for the foul.  Chicago put up more offensive pressure, but Ryan Miller maintained the 3-2 score in the second period. It wasn't until 12:20 into the third that Chicago tied it up, thanks to Artem Anisimov.  Vancouver did not relent. Daniel Sedin scored about two minutes later and then earned a natural hat-trick (with all three primary assists coming from Henrik) off a tip-in about two minutes after that.  Alexandre Burrows put home a power play ENG to seal a 6-3 win and snap a four-game winless streak. Check out Nucks Misconduct for a recap of that one.

The Last Devils-Canucks Game: On November 8, the Devils hosted Vancouver.  I never thought these two teams would end up getting beyond chippy, but they certainly didn't like each other this evening.  I couldn't tell you why, but by night's end, the game finished with 22 penalties called lasting nearly 23 minutes of power play time for either side.  The game also finished with plenty of action outside of fouls, boxes, and a dubious major penalty. Chris Higgins got the scoring early when he took a puck bouncing off Damon Severson's skates and beat Keith Kinkaid. Minutes later, Travis Zajac fed Adam Henrique for a shorthanded (the first of six times the Devils would be shorthanded) score to tie it up. Much later in the first, Lee Stempniak played in Mike Cammalleri, who just made Ryan Miller look silly to make it 2-1.  Vancouver appeared to tie it up shortly thereafter, but the goal was taken away upon a challenge by John Hynes.  The second period was chock full of shots (27 in total!) and penalties.  There were also some goals. Sergey Kalinin scored - not off a power move - his first NHL goal to make it 3-1.  Alexander Edler and Sven Baertschi responded to tie up the game with fights and scrums in between.  Vancouver had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock in the third period when Adam Larsson was sent off with a major and a misconduct for interference.  All he really did was use his shoulder, which was legal.  The call stood then, though there was never any fear of additional discipline.  Either way, the Devils killed it and survived until overtime. After an epic long shift by John Moore, Dan Hamhuis picked him high in New Jersey's zone. That was called and the Devils would do what Vancouver couldn't and make the PP count.  Cammalleri sent a pass to the left circle, where Kyle Palmieri beat Miller with a one-timer. The Devils won in OT, 4-3.  Shane did the recap on this site. Over at Nucks Misconduct, westy99 had this recap.

The Goal: Other than just "do better," the Devils really do need to stay out of the penalty box tonight.  The last Devils-Canucks game ended up being a winner, but the Devils playing fifteen minutes down a man did not help them whatsoever. They didn't concede a power play goal, yet it made the game closer than it had to be.  While the Devils' penalty kill was mostly good in Edmonton in that they didn't get wrecked, taking six minor penalties definitely undercut what they could have (should have?) done.  Time spent down a man is time they aren't able to attack normally.  Alex is right that the Devils have been benefiting from special teams play, but that's really happening in one direction.  It's not going to come from shorties and in time, the team does suffer from playing so much in their own end.  I don't see the Devils being able to come away with a result if they have to spend a similar amount of time in shorthanded situations like the last Canucks game or their previous one.

Likewise: The Devils need to make a more concerted effort to control the puck.  They put up a mere twenty shots against teams with weak defenses and/or goaltenders in their last two games. That's not going to get the job done on most nights and it didn't on those nights. The root of their lack of shots lies in how they move the puck out of their end, how they move it through the neutral zone, and how they gain the zone.  Throwing pucks out of the Devils' zone and throwing them into their has not helped them.  Trying to push through the middle instead of identifying the spaces in the middle has not helped them.  Just missing on passes or losing pucks while skating forward obviously has not helped them.  A lot of it needs to change.  Short of scoring a bunch of goals on a handful of shots and making Vancouver feel really off from it, it won't lead to success as much as taking six minor penalties in a game.

Potential Changes: Tom Gulitti confirmed via Twitter yesterday that Cory Schneider will start this game.  Kinkaid didn't get a lot of help in Calgary and Schneider's the starter anyway. This news shouldn't surprise anyone.  The end of this post at Fire & Ice by Tom Gulitti might, though.  Gulitti's under the impression that Stefan Matteau and/or Eric Gelinas will be active tonight.  For who? We'll see. I'm not sure either will make a massive difference, though it would be good to get them some minutes soon.

In the distance there are two others that could factor in the near future. Patrik Elias won't play, but he's coming close to playing soon per this post by Gulitti. Also, Tyler Kennedy is here on a professional tryout. I don't think the Devils brought him back unless they was some serious interest.

You Thought NJ Had a Bad Trip? Well...: When the Devils last played Vancouver, it was the second of seven road games in a row for the Canucks.  That road trip was a massive fail for Canucks. They won one of those seven games, they lost two beyond regulation like the Devils game, and straight up lost the others.  1-4-2 isn't a good run at all.  As a result, the team has fallen in the Pacific Division.  They finally returned home last night, only to play Chicago before this one. As much as the Devils claim this is a must-win for them per Gulitti, it certainly is for the Canucks to salvage this month.

The Dangerous Canucks: I think most of what I wrote about two weeks ago in that game preview still applies to the Canucks from a larger perspective. The most dangerous skaters are again the Sedin twins.  Daniel Sedin remains as Vancouver's top scorer and leading shooter. He just put up a hat trick last night.  Henrik Sedin is right behind Daniel in points per Known more for setting players like his brother up, he put up the primary assists for that hat trick last night. The Sedins were stars against Chicago as the brothers scored four of the five non-empty net goals.  Needless to say, they are the top line to be concerned with this evening. Defenseman Alexander Edler will play a lot of minutes and will contribute something on offense from the blueline, like he did against the Devils.  Ryan Miller, who played last night, has been heavily leaned on. While his numbers per haven't been eye-popping, I don't think he's been the reason for their struggles.  As silly as he kind of looked two weeks ago, he won't be a cakewalk in the crease. Of course, that presumes the Devils will actually, you know, challenge a goaltender tonight.

What doesn't help them are the absences of Radim Vrbata and Brandon Sutter.  Vrbata only trails D. Sedin in shots on net with 74.  He may have had only three goals and five assists, but it's not for a lack of trying.  He was a mainstay with the Sedins until his recent groin injury. He didn't play last night per the Canucks' website, whether he plays tonight is questionable at best.  Jannik Hansen has been filling that role in his place. With a goal, an assist, and three shots last night, it looks like he's been doing well.  Sutter will be out for a bit with an abdominal injury; while his numbers weren't big either, it does thin the team's depth at center. It's something the Devils should try to exploit.

One Last Thought: Beware the beef from Brandon Prust. He wasn't happy that Bobby Farnham fought and beat a willing Jake Virtanen.  He's now in the lineup.  Maybe this could lead Hynes to take Farnham out for Matteau. If only to lessen the risk of this game being a whistle-fest like the last Devils-Canucks game.  If Prust doesn't like it, then too bad; he can go back onto Twitter account to complaint about it.

Your Take: The Devils will end this road trip in Vancouver and hope it goes a lot better than the other two games. Will it? We'll see. Do you think this be a better game? What do you think the Devils will have to do? Who needs to have a good game for that to happen? (Hint: Cammalleri) Will you stay up for this one? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this one in the comments.  Thank you for reading.