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Game Preview #40: New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

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The New Jersey Devils will host the Detroit Red Wings and hope to go three for three against them in 2015-16. This game preview touches on what the Red Wings look like recently and what won't change for the Devils with their roster.

Let's hope Schneider doesn't have to make as many crazy saves tonight as he did in Detroit.
Let's hope Schneider doesn't have to make as many crazy saves tonight as he did in Detroit.
Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Can they go three for three? It is a possibility.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

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

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (20-14-5) vs. the Detroit Red Wings (19-13-7; SBN Blog: Winging it in Motown)

The Last Devils Game: On Saturday, the Devils hosted the best team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars. The same Dallas Stars that lead the league in average goals per game (3.49 at the time) and featured two of the top three scorers in the NHL.  The Devils played a very good game against them. It was an evenly played game with the Devils not letting the Stars get too many offensive shifts and even fewer odd man situations against.  After a good first period with no scoring, the Devils got two in the second period. Just over a minute into the second, Kyle Palmieri went for a wraparound, which may have been re-directed past goaltender Antti Niemi by defenseman Johnny Oduya.  About five minutes later, the fourth line won a puck and Jordin Tootoo found Bobby Farnham all alone at the left dot.  Farnham unleashed a fantastic top shelf shot to make it 2-0.  What's more is that the Devils didn't let Dallas just do as they wanted in response like the last time the Devils went up 2-0. No, the Devils even attacked to keep the Stars more than honest and came close to a third goal. Alas, Dallas would tie the game up in the third period.  John Klingberg made an excellent move from the sideboards to cut inside and feed Patrick Sharp for an easy score on Cory Schneider's flank.  Minutes later, Colton Sceviour fired a wrister from distance and it got through traffic. But the Devils did not panic; they continued to play their game as it went into overtime. Jamie Benn hooked Travis Zajac early into overtime, giving the Devils a crucial 4-on-3 power play. While the play wasn't pretty, a denied clearance led to a loose puck that John Moore pounced on.  He let loose with a slapshot without hesitation and it beat Niemi clean to win the game, 3-2. The Devils won a big game and did so with a very good performance. My recap covered both in this post.

The Last Red Wings Game: On that same night, Detroit visited Buffalo.  It would be the first of six straight road games for the Red Wings.  While the Red Wings would be outshot by the Sabres in every period, attempted ended up even for the night.  The goals, not so much, and there were plenty of them.  In the first period, a newly formed line of Brad Richards, Dylan Larkin, and Riley Sheahan struck first. Richards put home his fourth of the season to put the visitors up 1-0.  In the second period, Sheahan converted a power play to double Detroit's lead. However, Jack Eichel had something to say about both goals. He converted a power play and scored a second goal prior to the end of the middle period to make it 2-2.  In the third period, Henrik Zetterberg put up an early goal to retake the lead for Detroit. However, Buffalo's persistence paid off when Sam Reinhart swept in a rebound in the crease to convert the power play and make it 3-3. Late in the third, Tomas Tatar emerged. His last goal came in Detroit's first game against the Devils this season on December 11.  He would score from just outside the high slot with less than three minutes in regulation to put the Red Wings up 4-3. The Sabres tried to find one more but Petr Mrazek held on.  The Red Wings won; SlapshotGoal had this recap at Winging it in Motown.

The Last Devils-Red Wings Game: Right before the Christmas break, on December 22, the Devils went up to Detroit.  While Detroit carried the play for the first few minutes, the Devils absolutely stunned the Joe Louis Arena in the first period.  Just after a 4-on-4 session ended and a Devils power play would begin, Kyle Palmieri dumped the puck in against the end boards. The puck caromed across the crease and Palmieri slammed it in past Jimmy Howard to make it 1-0.  Less than a minute later, Andy Greene fired a shot or a really good pass, I don't know which, towards the net. Jordin Tootoo was right in front to re-direct it perfectly past Howard to make it 2-0.  Shortly after that, Palmieri laid out a puck that David Schlemko took towards the circles and fired a great wrister to beat Howard.  Three goals on six shots and Mrazek came in to replace Howard. The Red Wings responded by controlling much of the game, hoping to get back into it.  They would come close.  In the first period, Dylan Larkin converted a power play. In the second period, which Detroit mostly controlled, Mike Green got free and scored a PPG of his own. Early in the third, the Red Wings would make a mistake. Defenseman Jakub Kindl coughed up the puck due to a forecheck by Tyler Kennedy. Jacob Josefson was denied by Mrazek on the shot, but Sergey Kalinin piled in the rebound as Kindl piled into his goalie. The Devils went up 4-2 and breathed easier until five and a half minutes were remaining. Riley Sheahan got around Schlemko and beat Schneider with a shot to the far post to make it a one-shot game. The Devils scrambled, held in, and hoped they would survive - and they did. The Devils prevailed 4-3 to enter the Christmas break happy. I called it a gift of a win in my recap. Over at Winging it in Motown, piyer97 had this recap.

The Goal: Follow most of the Dallas gameplan: don't give up on a forecheck, don't forget to fight for pucks in the neutral zone, and don't stop attacking with a lead. What made the performance against Dallas so good was how the Devils battled with the Stars in the areas that mattered. There were no post-whistle scrums or any beefs like that. There was no emphasis on just making clearances up the boards. There was no abandonment of pressure regardless of the score. The only aspect of the gameplan from Saturday night I'd like to see less of would be fewer dump and chases.  While the Devils benefited from some less than ideal execution from their opponents at times, the important thing is that they benefited at all instead of responding with some poor execution or effort of their own.  If they can play like they did on Saturday night tonight, then I think they have a good chance of extending their winning streak.

W-W-Winning Streak?: Yes, the Devils are on a winning streak.  I don't think a streak really counts unless it's at least three in a row. It's their first winning streak since October, where they won four in a row to pull themselves up from their start of three losses in a row.  While Detroit is definitely not an easy team, the good news is that the Devils have plenty of tape and experience from their previous two meetings.  As well as two wins in those meetings.  The Devils can and should use all that to put together a solid plan to make it four in a row. We'll see if they'll do it.

One Big Roster Question for Each Team: Here's MLive's Brendan Savage and his report on the Red Wings from Sunday's practice. Per his article, head coach Jeff Blashill is not changing his roster from the win in Buffalo. This will mean the Devils will have to deal with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Dylan Larkin on separate lines.  That will be tough for match-ups.  Plus, the unit of the rookie sensation, Larkin, Sheahan, and Richards did very well in Buffalo. I would be cautious of that one despite the relatively low production of Sheahan and Richards this season.

Their only question in terms of the roster is who will start in net. Mrazek has emerged as the starter in Detroit and he did well in Buffalo with the amount of shots he faced.  With a few days off before hitting up California on their road trip, I would think Mrazek would start this one.  That it's a question makes me think Howard appearing isn't an impossibility.

As for the Devils, Tom Gulitti's article at Fire & Ice about the Devils' Sunday practice also shows no changes from Saturday's game. What you saw on Saturday - including that non-threatening-on-paper second power play unit - is what was used and likely what you'll get tonight.  In this other Gulitti post, Gulitti confirmed that Cory Schneider will start this game. Their question has to do with Mike Cammalleri, the focus of the post confirming Schneider will start. Will he play?  He was held out of Friday's practice, skated on Saturday, was a late scratch against Dallas, and he was out of practice on Sunday.  Despite his "day to day designation," the statement of "not going to push it" makes me think he's going to be out of this game.  The Devils will begin a run of seven games with no more (and no less) than one day break in between games starting tonight. It may not be long before Cammalleri returns but it will impact the team for a little bit. How can it not? He's the team's leading scorer, shot taker, and dangerous passer. Kyle Palmieri has picked up the shooting and goalscoring slack but it can't just be Palmieri alone. The team practiced with the understanding he won't, so at least they'll be prepared. Unfortunately, this may make it easier for Detroit to match-up seeing that if they can keep Palmieri, Travis Zajac, and Jiri Tlusty quiet, then that's a good bit of the offense right there.

We'll know the answers for certain later today.

So What's New With Detroit: The Red Wings have played five times since losing to the Devils.  It hasn't gone so well. They beat Nashville 3-2 and then lost three straight games: 1-3 to Minnesota, 1-4 to Winnipeg, and 2-5 to Pittsburgh. The win in Buffalo snapped their losing streak and they're hoping they can rebound further before hitting up the Pacific Division on their road trip.

Since they've struggled, no one has really stood out too much from a scoring or performance standpoint. Defenseman Brendan Smith had a big game against the Predators two weeks ago and he's got a point in four of his last five games and in six of his last eight.  He's been paired with Mike Green, he could add something to the Detroit attack tonight.  Still, they have plenty of notable players.  Sheahan, Larkin, and Richards impressed in the Buffalo game, as previously mentioned.  Tatar snapped a goalless streak so he'll be one to watch tonight, especially since he'll start on Pavel Datsyuk's wing.  Justin Abdelkader has toned down the penalties to only six minutes in his last four games compared to the eight he took against the Devils on December 22.  You'll see him with Zetterberg to start.

One Last Thought: I really hope I don't have to see too much of the power play unit that features Mike Sislo, Jordin Tootoo, Sergey Kalinin, Lee Stempniak, and Damon Severson.  No offense to Severson, but that's a wince-worthy power play unit. Hopefully, they prove me wrong tonight.

Your Take: The New Jersey Devils will look to sweep the season series with the Detroit Red Wings tonight. Will they do it?  Other than the obvious "they'll score more goals than them," how do you think they'll do it?  Will Detroit's new lines give the Devils problems?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.