The 80th game of the year, and final home game, will see the New Jersey Devils playing host to those hated rivals from the Big Apple. Can the Devils at least show up this time?
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - WFAN 660 AM and 101.9 FM
The Last Devils Game: This past Saturday evening, the Devils drove into Manhattan for a date with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. To save all of us who do not want to relive that game, I am going to avoid recapping it here...if you completely missed it and want to know what happened, check out John's recap here. Hint: it sucked. Bad.
The Last Rangers Game: In between their two games against New Jersey, the Rangers played host last night to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game was a real back and forth affair. Each team scored once per period. Martin St. Louis opened the scoring after gobbling up a loose puck on a breakaway and wristing it past Bobrovsky. Columbus would answer near the end of the period thanks to a beauty of a pass from Jeremy Morin to Matt Calvert. Girardi would give the Rangers the lead again in the second, but Marko Dano would tie it up again after getting a wide open rebound off of an Artem Anisimov shot. The third period would see it reversed, with Columbus gaining the lead first thanks to Brandon Dubinsky, while the Rangers would tie it late on a Derek Stepan goal with the Rangers' net empty. Then, finally, Stepan would give his team the win with only 50 seconds to go in overtime, putting a juicy rebound past an unhappy Bobrovsky. It was New York's fourth win in a row, and they won it 4-3. Bryan Winters had a recap here at Blueshirt Banter.
The Last Devils-Rangers Game: See above.
The Goal: Show up. Saturday, I was supposed to go to a house warming party for my buddy. He got sick at the last minute, however, so I did not go. I was so glad I did not go, as he is a fan of that team. By not being there, I was able to avoid all of his texts which was wonderful. It felt like the Devils did not show up to that game. They had forgotten to take the bus into Manhattan or something. I know that the season is over and that the losses prevented the Devils from overtaking Philadelphia, but still, play for pride. This is a rivalry game. Play like it is a rivalry game, and give us Devils fans something to smile about before we are left rooting for anyone and everyone that plays the Rangers in the postseason. Watching the Devils beat Montreal on Friday night was excellent. Seeing the Devils play hard, play with pride, and watching them shut up all of the Montreal fans who made the trek was a pretty sight. I would love to have that feeling one more time this year. And since this is against New York, it would be even sweeter.
Manage their Speed: The Rangers are dangerous in many different ways, but one of their biggest strengths is their speed. They skate circles around most teams. They keep up with the Islanders, which is a feat. The Devils, on the other hand, are not a speedy team. Therefore, if New Jersey wants to compete, they need to play a slow, methodical game. Make crisp, clean, short passes and really let plays develop. There is no need to push the envelope. Keep their speed in check, and there is a chance to compete.
Schneider gets the Home Finale: According to Matt Loughlin, Cory Schneider will get the team's final home game of the year. I think that this is more than fitting. Schneider has been the team's MVP hands down. He has kept this team in many games, and he has looked great doing it. It is only fair that he should get the last start at the Rock this season. Let the Devils fans in attendance (hopefully at least half of the people there tonight...hopefully) get to see him in person one more time.
About those Rangers: Brain did an excellent job writing about their offense and defense on Saturday before the last game. Despite the fact that it seems like I am avoiding writing anything in this preview...check his post out for more detailed information about their team. Simply put, they are good. Enough said here.
Who Will We See in Net? Last night, Henrik Lundqvist got the start against Columbus. Therefore, it seems likely that we will see dynamite backup Cam Talbot in net. Cam has been great. In 33 starts this season, he is 20-9-4 with a .926 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average. Those numbers are better than many starters in this league, forget backups. He will be starting in this league for a team sooner than later, although it will most likely not be with his current team given Lundqvist's contract and the love affair that the city has with their "king."
Changes for the Devils: Yesterday in practice, the coaches decided to change up the line combinations in a hope that it will create better success this time around. According to Tom Gulitti, Jordin Tootoo has been moved back up to the top line with Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique is back with Scott Gomez and Steve Bernier. I don't mind putting Henrique back with Gomez and Bernier. As I wrote previously, Gomez and Henrique have done well together when on the same line, and I hope to see more of that tonight.
What I do not like, however, is that both of the kids have been demoted. Stefan Matteau has been dropped to the third line along with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, and Reid Boucher has been dropped even further, to the fourth line with Jacob Josefson and Tuomo Ruutu. This does not make too much sense to me. Matteau and Boucher have done well the last two games; despite having no real bright spots in Saturday night's game, I thought the best thing to take out of it was that both of them did a decent enough job. I don't really see the positives in moving these two down to the third and fourth lines. Give them top 6 minutes and let us see what they can do.
Your Take: Anyway, how do you feel about tonight's game, the home finale? Are you excited, or are you just ready for the losing to be over? What do you feel about the line changes for New Jersey? Are you going to be in attendance tonight, or are you staying away in fear that the Rock will have more fans wearing blue than red? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.