Gameday: Lightning at Devils (2/7/13)

Lightning-Devils

Steven Stamkos is in town to test Martin Brodeur and the Devils.

Who:Tampa Bay Lightning 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 (660AM or 101.9FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • David Clarkson, who scored 2g-1a-3pts vs. the Rangers on Tuesday is tied for third in the NHL with 7 goals, tied for second in the league with 4 power play goals and is fifth with 38 shots on goal.
  • Clarkson is currently on pace for 37g-27a-64 points. Stephane Richer lead the Devils with 23g-16a-39pts in the lockout shortened 1994-95 season.
  • Andy Greene has points in three straight games (1g-3a-4pts), while Adam Henrique has points in back-to-back games (1g-1a-2pts).
  • Martin Brodeur is expected to get the start in goal tonight. He is just two games shy of becoming the 93rd player to reach 1,200 in his NHL career.
  • New Jersey went 5/5 on the penalty kill Tuesday and is 15/15 over the past three games. Tampa Bay enters tonight’s game with the league’s second best power play unit (13 PPGs/40 chances, 32.5%).
  • New Jersey is 27-10-3 all-time at home vs. Tampa Bay, including 8-2 at Prudential Center.

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)

Stamkos warning: With a snow storm approaching, I chose to avoid a terrible pun, but the Devils’ No. 1 priority needs to be finding a way to slow down the red-hot Stamkos. How hot? Tuesday was the first time all season he’d been held pointless and just the third time he’s been held without multiple points. Stamkos has seven goals and 16 points in nine games and, with all due respect to Sid, Geno and John Tavares, the Devils haven’t faced a goal scorer as good as Stamkos all season. Marty had best be on his game tonight or the Devils could find themselves down a goal or two very quickly.

Disappearing Russian, part 2: Kovy doesn’t seem that worried about his recent slump because the Devils are winning. That’s all well and good, but he can’t remain silent for too long. Eventually the Devils will get into a game or multiple games when their secondary scoring doesn’t deliver and they will need their ace to step up. After Stamkos, the Devils face the Pens’ dynamic duo twice over the weekend before meeting up with the Staal brothers, Claude Giroux and then Tavares again. That’s a murder’s row of highly talented forwards and you can bet at least once, if not twice, in that stretch, the Devils will get into a shootout and need their sniper to finally deliver. I’m still not freaking out. He had a similar slump at the start of last season and he looked more aggressive Tuesday. I’m just pointing out that it’d be nice if Kovy and Zajac could start complimenting that deadly second line the Devils have.

FLLW: What to make of Stefan Matteau playing his sixth NHL game tonight? As I said in my overall piece, I think he’s AHL bound before long, but as for tonight, he gets the job of filling the role of first line left wing while Dainius Zubrus sits with an upper-body injury. What should we expect of him tonight? Probably eight to 10 minutes spent mostly on the fourth line, perhaps getting two or three shifts on that top unit during the first period before eventually ceding it to a rotating cast of characters (Henrique, Josefson, maybe even Butler). Then again, I expected him to be back with his junior club by now — so what do I know?

Sixth sense: While Henrik Tallinder sits, Marek Zidlicky’s minutes dwindle. How long can the power-play specialist continue to take bad penalties without losing his spot in the lineup? The speedy Lightning should be a very difficult test for Zidlicky because when Zidlicky gets beat, he tends to grab, pull, yank, hook and trip — all of which are punishable by two minutes in the box. The Devils have had major penalty problems as of late and if Zidlicky doesn’t cut down on them, it won’t be long before he swaps places with Tallinder.