Gameday: Hurricanes at Devils (2/12/13)

Hurricanes-Devils

The Staal brothers make their first trip to New Jersey on Tuesday to visit the red-hot Devils.

Who: Carolina Hurricanes at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG+ (Channel listings); RadioWFAN (660 AM or 101.9 FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • New Jersey is looking for its sixth consecutive victory tonight, which would equal the team’s longest from all of last season (March 27-April 7, 2012). The Devils have 19 points, the best start through 12 games in team history (previously 1993-94, 9-3-0=18pts).
  • Combined with their six-game winning streak to close out the 2011-12 schedule, the Devils are 14-1-3 in their last 18 regular season contests.
  • The Devils are 5-0-1 at Prudential Center and are one of just two teams in the NHL without a regulation loss at home (Chicago 2-0).
  • New Jersey is 7-0-0 in their last seven regular-season home games vs. Carolina (last loss, March 28, 2009, 2-1).
  • David Clarkson scored two goals Sunday night, and with nine goals on the season is tied with Chicago’s Patrick Kane for third in the NHL. His five power play goals are tied (Patrick Marleau, San Jose & James Neal, Pittsburgh) for first overall, while his 15 points are tied (with 4 others) for eighth.
  • Yesterday was Captain Bryce Salvador’s 37th birthday. He is the Devils’ current ironman, having played in 94 consecutive games.
  • New Jersey is 7/22 (31.8 %) on the power play over the past five games.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                              Defense                                                      Goalie
Matteau-Zajac-Kovalchuk                                     Salvador-Fayne                                           Brodeur
Elias-Henrique-Clarkson                                    Greene-Larsson
Carter-Gionta-Bernier                                        Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Barch-Josefson-Butler

Inactives: Harrold, Tallinder
Scratched: Zubrus (upper body)

This one goes to six: The Devils are hot. Scorching hot. Ridiculously on fire hot. Following a home-and-home sweep of the rival Penguins, the Devils now possess the best record in the Eastern Conference through 12 games. This is a team that was projected to barely make the playoffs, yet a quarter of the way into season is playing like one of the best teams in the entire league. David Clarkson and Patrik Elias are one of the most dangerous duos in all of hockey right now, Ilya Kovalchuk is heating up, the goaltending has been fantastic and Marty Brodeur is — well, Marty Brodeur despite being 40 years old. Can the Devils extend their run to six straight wins Tuesday against the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes? I don’t see why not. Cam Ward is expected to get the start in net after making 24 saves Monday night. Ward has struggled for most of this season and the Devils’ aggressive forecheck combined with a warming Kovy could make life very sad for Ward. The Devils are a better team than Carolina and Marty is back in net, but there is the issue of those tricky Staal brothers.

Brotherly love: Ah, the Staals. The Hurricanes united two-thirds of the NHL’s latest version of the “first family” (non-Sutter division) when the acquired Jared Staal via trade before the lockout. The deal, along with the signing of Alexander Semin, has made the Hurricanes much stronger up front and far more dangerous offensively than in years past. Big brother Eric Staal leads the Canes in goals and points while Jordan leads the team in assists and is third in points. Sandwiched between them is Jeff Skinner while the consistently inconsistent Semin has basically spent the season alternating useful games. However, regardless of who is on or off on a nightly basis, one thing is certain with the Canes, they’re going to shoot the puck and they’re going to shoot it a lot. Carolina leads the NHL with 36 shots per game, almost a full 10 shots per game more than 26th-place New Jersey. Coincidentally, the Hurricanes also allow the third-most shots per game in the league, while the Devils allow the third-fewest. Safe to say, expect a lot of pressure from the Hurricanes tonight while the Devils try to use their forecheck to keep the Canes backed up in their own end. Special teams will likely play a huge role in this one.

Zajac’s time: We mentioned above that Ilya Kovalchuk has found his stride in the offensive end over the past three games. Unfortunately, his centerman, Travis Zajac, is still searching for his. After scoring in back-to-back games to open the season, Zajac has only a Jan. 31 assist to his name. Zajac, DeBoer, Kovy — all say it’s just a matter of time before the recently extended Zajac gets going and I tend to believe them. But the longer the drought goes on, the more people will wonder about whether Zajac’s new contract is affecting him and as we’ve seen a lot in recent years, useful, solid players can be overwhelmed by the expectations that come with a high price tag. That is a ways off and for now I’d advise Devils fans to wait out this mini slump. As long as Kovy is firing, his linemates will eventually rack up points and let’s not forget that Zajac has at least one very good chance in each of the last three games. It’s just a matter of him burying them, which I think he will soon enough.

Crunch time: Guess who led the team in ice time Sunday night against Pittsburgh? Andy Greene. You know who was second (barely)? Adam Larsson. Even though they’re the “second pairing,” the combo of Greene and Larsson was the Devils’ go-to D pairing in the third period Sunday, including the last 90 seconds when the Pens had their net empty and an extra forward on the ice. While Greene has become the Devils’ top defenseman through 12 games this season, Larsson has thus far avoided the “sophomore jinx” that seems to befell young players, especially defensemen. Maybe it was the five games that he was forced to sit and watch or the time in the AHL during the lockout, but Larsson has quickly gained DeBoer’s trust in his own zone and that is no small feat. The one thing we have seen out of Greene thus far that we haven’t seen out of Larsson has been skill in the offensive end, but that will come as Larsson grows more comfortable. He is a very skilled offensive defenseman, especially in the passing game and I think it’s only a matter of time before we start to see his outlet passes start to make a difference for this team.