This Week In Devils Hockey

(This Week In Devils Hockey is a new column that will run Monday mornings and will take a look at the Devils’ opponents for the upcoming week)

Three games on tap this week following Saturday night’s comeback win in Boston. The Devils finally get two home games in a row, so they’ll be looking to extend their home point streak and begin to climb back towards .500 on the season

Tuesday, October 29th – vs. Tampa Bay Lighting

The Bolts come in as the first place team Atlantic Division. Yes, it’s a fact. Tampa Bay has gotten off to an excellent start behind an offense that has simply dominated at times.

Steven Stamkos has 15 points, (7g, 8a) which points to the fact that he’s willing to dish the puck just as much as he’s willing to rip it. Martin St. Louis has been on a torrid pace as well, with 13 points (6g, 7a). The fact is, Tampa Bay has gotten off to such a great start because they’re getting production throughout their lineup.

The Lightning have 10 players on their roster with at least five points, an impressive feat.

So how you defend the Bolts, or at the very least, slow them down? It’s certainly not easy. The fact is, the Devils have to limit any sort of odd-man rushes, something that had plagued this team early on. The Devils D-corps has been much better of late, but they’ll face a very tough task on Tuesday night.

In goal, Ben Bishop is proving that he was worth the trade that sent Cory Conacher to the Ottawa Senators. He’s sporting a 2.47 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. His height makes him tough to beat and with the kind of offense he’s had in front of him, as long as he’s able to keep a team to 2-3 goals, chances are he’s going to come out ahead. Bishop is 7-1 on the season.

For the Devils, they’ll certainly need to score a few goals if they expect to come out with a win. Holding the Bolts under two goals seems to be an unachievable task these days, so it’ll be up to the offense to pull their weight. The Devils have been a good power play team so far, so another good night with the man-advantage could go a long way.

This Tampa Bay team is playing excellent hockey right now and it will take an excellent effort by New Jersey if they expect to win.

Saturday, November 2nd – vs. Philadelphia Flyers

An old rival comes to town as the two teams meet for the first time as Metropolitan Division rivals.

The Flyers come in struggling, but they won their last two games and seem to be turning things around. Even still, their 18 goals for is second to last in the league.

Philadelphia is still finding it’s way under new coach Craig Berube, after Peter Laviolette was fired just three games into the season, but with two strong wins over the Rangers and Islanders, the orange and black might be close to the light at the end of the tunnel after a dismal 1-7 start to the season.

Vincent Lecavalier has been a nice addition so far, as his six points (4g, 2a) have been crucial. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek have combined for just two goals so far.

The bright spot for Philly has been the play of Steve Mason. His 2.15 goals against and .930 save percentage are excellent, but the scoring just hasn’t been there. If the Flyers are able to give him some scoring, he’s looking like he could be a very solid addition. Considering the struggles of Ray Emery so far, Mason is going to be the guy.

For the Devils, it’s simple. They need to beat this team now, or they’ll have to contend with them later. It’s still early enough for the Flyers to get right back into contention, so this game might have some early season implications, especially if both teams come in with winning streaks.

The good thing for New Jersey is that the Flyers take on the Washington Capitals the night before.

The gameplan against Philly should always be to win the battles in the corners. Though the Flyers don’t have a lot of flashy offense to speak of, they are a team that will grind in the corners and turn you over and create goals. With the Flyers penchant for taking penalties, the power play will be counted on. The orange and black have done well against the Devils with the man-advantage in the past, as Wayne Simmonds has been a thorn in the Devils side since he was traded to Philly.

Make no mistake, this is a big game for both of these teams as they look to climb out of the Metropolitan Division cellar.

Sunday, November 3rd – at Minnesota Wild 

Hello again, old friend.

The Devils will skate against Zach Parise since the former Devil took his services to Minnesota in 2012-2013.

The boys from the “State of Hockey” have gotten off to a good start so far, out west.

Leading the way with nine points (6g, 3a) is none other than Mr. Parise. Jason Pominville also has six goals for Minnesota.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of this NHL season so far is the incredible play of Wild goalie Josh Harding. His numbers? Try a 1.00 goals against and a .953 save percentage. He’s been that good.

If there’s a weak spot to the Wild, it’s that right now, they’re somewhat of a one line team. Granted, the Parise, Pominville and Mikko Koivu has been sensational.

You have to expect that Zach would love to beat his old team, so expect a good effort from Minnesota. The Devils would definitely like to beat Parise at his new home as well.

Slowing down Minnesota will involve shutting down their power play, which comes into the week as the fifth ranked unit in the league. Matt Cooke has been a surprising addition to this team so far, as he’s tallied eight points (3g, 5a). Throw in an always productive Ryan Suter and you begin to see where their strengths lie.

For the Wild, 2013-2014 is a big year. After just barely qualifying for the playoffs last season, head coach Mike Yeo has been feeling the pressure. This is a team that expects to not only make the playoffs, but win there a well.

For the Devils, it’s simple. They can’t dig themselves into the kind of hole that they did against Boston, because multiple-goal road comebacks are usually few and far between.

Pregame Preview: Preseason Game 1 – Devils vs. Rangers

Dave Turner

It might not count in the standings, but tonight we’re finally treated to some Devils hockey for the first time since their April 27th loss at Madison Square Garden.

For some players, this is their first major chance to prove that they belong on the roster. For others, it’s a chance to get some live game action and work towards being ready for the season.

The lineup for today features a range of players, from some who are locks to make the club, to some who will most certainly be in Albany to start the year.

Here are some points for today’s game:

The first look at Cory Schneider

Tonight, number 35 will be between the pipes for his first-ever game in New Jersey. Schneider will most likely play the first two periods before giving way to backup Keith Kinkaid. Normally, a backup goalie starting a preseason game wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the battle for the number-one spot in net begins tonight.Cory Schneider

There’s no doubt that the team will be evaluating Schneider and Martin Brodeur with every chance that they get. It would most likely take an injury to Brodeur to keep him from starting opening night, but after that, those minutes are up for the taking. If the former Canuck can get off to a great start, he will put a lot of pressure on Brodeur to match him.

That being said, it’ll be a great chance to get a look at Schneider for the first time as a Devil. Preseason games always have the chance of being sloppy, and he could be tested early and often. He’s known for his excellent rebound control, and he might need it tonight.

I’m sure there will be some nerves for Schneider early on. Though the game means nothing in the standings, he’ll be looking to prove to the coaches that he is as good as advertised.

Three players with a lot to prove tonight

1. Mattias Tedenby- Another year, and another chance for the Swedish winger. He’s not a lock to make the roster and now is the chance for him to prove that he deserves some ice time during the regular season. Tedenby is basically at the end of the line in terms of his Devils career. He’ll be looked at with a microscope in the preseason. A point or two, or even some solid offensive play will go a long way for Tedenby in the eyes of the coaches.

2. Reid Boucher- Yes, that Reid Boucher. As i’ve said before, the young winger is not expected to make the opening night roster. Nothing is written in stone though, and there’s no way that the team wouldn’t take notice if Boucher finishes with a few points and plays well. If he wants to at least get himself into the conversation for a roster spot, now’s the chance. Reid Boucher

3. Eric Gelinas- I believe that Gelinas still has the best shot of any defensive prospect to make the team out of camp. Tonight will be a big first step towards that, if he’s able to play well. He’s paired with Alexander Urbom,  so the two young defensemen will be looking to make a splash. Sure, Gelinas needs to be strong in his own end, but he’ll most likely get some power play minutes tonight, and that is where he can start to set himself apart. Shoot Eric, Shoot!

Is this the year Adam Larsson takes the next step?

Adam Larsson was pretty good last year for the Devils, but pretty good wasn’t exactly what the Devils had in mind when they drafted Larsson fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The Swedish d-man needs to take a step towards becoming a legitimate top-pairing defenseman. With another offseason to bulk up and soak in what he’s learned, this third NHL season for Larsson should be one where he begins to mature into a big-time player, capable of logging major minutes.

He hasn’t show much offensive upside yet, and with a different power play this year, he might get some power play time. Larsson was envisioned as a two-way player capable of being a power play quarterback. We haven’t seen that yet. He’ll most likely get some power play time tonight, so there will be a chance for him to impress in the offensive zone.

What can we expect tonight?

It’s the first preseason game, so the players are getting their first taste of full-contact play. Conditioning is still a work in progress for many, but it’s the young players that will have the most to prove tonight. For anyone that is a lock to make the team, it’s just another chance to get up to game speed. For anyone on the fringe, this is a do or die opportunity to show the coaches that they belong.

No prediction for this one, other than that we will see a hard-fought game from those who have a lot to prove tonight.

 

 

Devils Expect Familiarity, Desperation From Oates, Caps

The Devils have already played division foes in the Islanders and Flyers, but Friday’s game against old friend Adam Oates and his new team, the Washington Capitals, certainly deserves a special shade of highlighter on the calendar. Besides facing their former assistant coach and a very good one at that, Oates’ Caps are 0-3-0 after Thursday night.

DeBoer-Oates-Devils

Old friends Pete DeBoer, left, and Adam Oates, right, ready for a reunion Friday night.

In the Devils’ locker room Thursday afternoon, the “D” appeared to be the phrase of the day.

“I think they’ll be definitely a hard-working team and probably playing some real desperate hockey because they wanna get that win,” captain Bryce Salvador said.

When Oates arrived in D.C., he promised to revamp the Caps from the defense-or-die flag they rallied behind with Dale Hunter on the bench. Oates promised an attack-oriented team like the Caps teams we saw in Bruce Boudreau’s early years as coach — the style of play that helped Alex Ovechkin light up the league. Unfortunately for Oates, the lockout sapped whatever learning curve Ovi and co. would’ve had and the Caps have struggled to adjust through three games.

With that in mind, Mattias Tedenby admits the Devils will have to take take it up a notch, so to speak.

“I think we gotta play a little bit like we did against the Flyers but I think we got another gear as well offensively,” Tedenby said. “I think we had a solid game offensively, but I think we can do a little bit better offensively, create more and hold onto the puck a little bit more.”

Oates knows that, too. In fact, coach Pete DeBoer joked after Wednesday’s optional practice that his former assistant’s SAT scores were probably “at least a few hundred points higher” than his. DeBoer even admitted yesterday that Oates was a big part of the decision to move Ilya Kovalchuk to the right side last season — a move that seemed to Kovalchuk out of a fog and spur him to the fifth-most points in the league.

Oates is trying the same thing with Ovechkin this season, moving the league’s most dynamic player to his proper side and trying to get him to face the play more often.

“Stealing our ideas,” DeBoer joked.

And while the Devils might know a lot of Oates’ schemes, plans and tendencies, as Salvador points out, it goes both ways.

“They have a pretty good advantage because he was a big part of our team last year as far as implementing the systems and working with a lot of the individuals here,” Salvador said.

As for who the familiarity will serve best, the Devils’ captain probably had the best answer.

“Guess we’ll see after the game.”

Upcoming Matchup: San Jose Sharks

Tonight the New Jersey Devils take on the San Jose Sharks at the Prudential Center. Now these two don’t usually see each other more than once or twice a year. In the two games last season, both teams won one game . However, both teams have made major changes since last season. The Sharks became a more defensive team with the acquisitions of Brent Burns, Jim Vandermeer and former Devil Colin White. The Devils became a younger team with the loss of Brian Rolston and Colin White.

I expect this game to be a very close game if the Devils can avoid the penalty box. The Sharks are a very good powerplay team. They thrive off of it. The Sharks can score from any where on the power play. One off the things they knew they needed to improve was the point on the powerplay hence the reason why Brent Burns is a Shark. Last season the only defensive threat on the powerplay was Dan Boyle. That is no more. Burns is going to be logging a lot of time on the powerplay.

The Devils can win this game with quick effective passing in the offensive zone. If they can control the puck in the offensive zone and play keep away from the Sharks. They can win if they can convert on some off all the time in the offensive zone.

Expect a fairly close game and fairly good number of chances for both sides. Please feel free to comment on the game as its going. Discuss and game on!