Pregame Primer: Game Thirty Seven – Devils at Capitals

New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals – 7:00 pm

Verizon Center – Washington, D.C.

TV: MSG  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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No rest for the weary as the New Jersey Devils make their way down to D.C. for their first meeting of the season with their new divisional foe, the Washington Capitals.  All this the day after losing at home in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks and local-boy Kyle Palmieri.  But, despite failing to claim the second point in last night’s affair, the Red and Black are going to come into Nation’s Capital with their heads held high.  New Jersey has been playing some terrific hockey.  Their goaltending and team play in the D-Zone are as reliable as anyone could have hoped for, but right now it’s their offense that has been steering the ship, outscoring opponents 12-8 in the last 4 games, with contributions from up and down the bench.

Unfortunately, all those goals haven’t always translated to wins.  The Devils are 3-4-2 in the month of December, and are still one game below NHL .500 on the season at 14-15-7.  Their opponents, on the other hand, are enjoying a good and high scoring year, particularly at home, which has brought them to second place in the Metropolitan Division.  As usual, The Caps are led by their bonafide superstars in Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, with 40 and 41 points, respectively.  But, don’t think that these are their only two threats.  The Capitals have a much more balanced offense than they had in years past.  With 5 players at 20 or more points across 3 lines, scoring can come from anywhere.

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. First goal.  It’s a little obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning.  Washington is a high-scoring, fast-paced team, with a strong 12-7-0 record at home.  If the Devils are going to be successful in tonight’s game, they’re going to have to make sure to quiet that D.C. crowd early and not let Washington get rolling.  It also would be nice for New Jersey to have a quick cushion when playing against a team that has scored 26 more goals than the Devils this season.

2. No Damien Brunner.  In a night where New Jersey will need as many goals as they can get, they’ll have to get them without their hottest goal scorer.  The knee-injury that Damien Brunner sustained in last night’s game will not require surgery, but it will cost the Swiss winger 4 weeks.  There’s never a good time for an injury, but this has to be all the more frustrating for Brunner who had finally shaken off that long 17 game slump to go on a tear, with 4 goals and an assist in his last 5 games.

3. Marty vs. Ovi.  It’s always exciting to see these fire and ice matchups; the unstoppable force and the immovable object.  That is what you have every time the greatest of all time in Martin Brodeur goes up against one of the best scorers of this, or any, age in Alexander Ovechkin.  This being their first matchup of the season, it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will go.  Historically, the Devils and Brodeur have played Ovechkin well, however it was just last year that a struggling Alex the Great came alive against the Devils; a game that served as the catalyst for one of the better seasons in his amazing career.

Prediction – Devils 4 – Capitals 3

The strength of the Capitals offense cannot be ignored, but the Devils defense might just have the answer.  The Devils have been stingy, only allowing more than 3 goals 7 times this season, and several of those games occurred during the disastrous beginning that the Devils endure this year.  It’s clear that they’re not the same team anymore.  And, while the Caps’ offense is great, their defense is still suspect.  With the Devils playing the way that they are, the Caps are going to need a great performance from Braden Holtby to keep the Devils from stealing one in their house.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Pregame Primer: Game Thirty One – Devils at Rangers

New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers – 7:30 pm

Madison Square Garden – New York, New York

TV (Devils Broadcast): MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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Coming off of three straight frustrating defeats, the boys from Brick City look to once again right the ship at the expense of their rival, the New York Rangers.  In a season so far marred by injuries and inconsistencies, their first two games against the Blue Shirts have brought smiles to the faces of both the fans and the struggling team.  The Devils, for all their offensive woes, have found the back of the net 7 times against New York and have not even stumbled in enemy territory as Danius Zubrus’ late goal in their last meeting sent the Rangers’ fans home from MSG with their heads hanging.

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. Damien Brunner.  Brunner made everyone stand up and take notice of his skills early on.  He was electric in the pre-season and continued to find his way towards big points early in the season before going colder than the ice they play on.  The Swiss winger makes his return to the starting lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games.  This is an opportunity that the pre-season acquisition has to take advantage of.  With Reid Boucher impressing in his appearances so far, it’s starting to look like there are more viable options than there are starting positions for them to play.  If Brunner is to work himself back into a more permanent position he’ll need to step-up tonight.

2. Can the Devils play all 60 minutes?  It might sound a bit hackneyed and overused, but there are three periods of 20 minute hockey and so far the New Jersey Devils have had their problems showing up throughout the entirety of the game.  The best of New Jersey’s victories came after the team battled to stay in range of their opponents and came through with heroic comeback efforts.  Traditionally, the Devils don’t have the firepower to run away with the game early on.  Even their 4-0 win over the Rangers or their recent 5-2 victory over Carolina represent the exception rather than the rule.  If the Devils are going to beat the Rangers tonight, their going to have to be relentless because, with the combination of players out with injuries and the fatigue to the rest from last night’s game, any mistakes will be that much harder to recover from.

3. Which Henrik Lundqvist will show up?  The Rangers’ franchise net-minder has been something of an enigma this season.  Early struggles left Henrik watching several key games from the bench as he and the fans witnessed the rise of a very capable young goaltender in Cam Talbot.  After sitting-out Monday’s matchup against the Jets in favor of his backup, questions began to surface about he status of Lundqvist in New York, particularly with his pending free-agency.  All of these issues were quickly stamped-out as Henrik and the Rangers came to terms on a new 7-year deal making him the highest paid goaltender in the league and as Lundqvist recovered to shutdown the Sabers in Thursday’s 3-1  Rangers’ victory.  Has the new contract taken the pressure off and allowed the real Henrik to return, or is the decline we all witnessed at the beginning what we can expect from him throughout the year?  Tonight will be a good barometer.

 

Prediction – Devils 3, Rangers 2

The Devils will come out fast and hard trying to get an early advantage, but will have to wary that their legs don’t fail them after last night’s penalty filled effort against Detroit.  The second period will be the most telling, as the long change is traditionally an issue for the Red and Black.  However, in spite of these obstacles, the Devils have shown an ability to shut down the Rangers’ top-scorers and solve even the best efforts from their goalies.  One will lead to the other as the Devils will once again edge their Hudson River rivals by a score of 3-2.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Pregame Primer: Game Twenty Three – Devils at Sharks

New Jersey Devils at San Jose Sharks – 10:30 pm

“The Shark Tank” at the SAP Center – San Jose, California

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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The New Jersey Devils have pulled themselves out of the through the dark times and have emerged as one of the more intimidating teams in the East.  This recent stretch of gritty 6-1-1 hockey has revealed a stalwart defense and tenacious offense that, while not high scoring, is capable of pulling goals out of thin air, no matter how late in the game.  Combine these two factors with an out-of-this-world rotation of Jennings Trophy winning goalies, and it becomes pretty apparent why the Devils and their fans have been holding their heads pretty high.

Tonight, Jersey’s team continues their road trip along the Pacific coast with another California game as they matchup against the San Jose Sharks.  At 76 goals for (good for 2nd in the NHL) and only 47 against (4th in the NHL), this is the toughest challenge the Devils have faced since their hot streak began over 2 weeks ago at Philadelphia.  4 Sharks forwards have registered  more than 20 points and another 2 are closing in at 18 and 16. And, the Sharks also have 2 big blue-line threats in Danny Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic who have managed 9 and 11 points respectively in spite of limitations from injuries. With San Jose’s offense putting up points left and right, and Antti Niemi and his defense keeping the opposition stumped, New Jersey is going to have to work all night long and keep their opponents’ shot totals much lower than the 32 they allowed to LA in regulation on Thursday to take this one home.

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. Keep San Jose’s forwards in check.   It’s one of the oldest adages in competition, the unstoppable force against the immovable object.  Lead by the superstars between the pipes, the New Jersey Devils have put up some defensive numbers that would make the 3 men in the Newark rafters proud.  Only twice this month have opponents managed 3 or more goals against New Jersey.  On the other hand, San Jose’s 76 goals this year is good for a 3.5 goals-per-game average.  If the Devils want this game, it’s imperative that they keep them below that number.

2. Have the better penalty kill.  The 2 teams locking horns tonight have 2 of the best PK’s in the game today, with the Devils at 6 and the Sharks at 10.  Conversely, while each team has shown that they have the ability to put up goals on the power play, their percentages are not overwhelming.  The winning team will have to maintain the winning tradition they’ve set-up on the Kill

3. Who will win the duel; Niemi or Brodeur?  Tonight the fans will see a battle between two of the best goalies in the game right now.  Both former Stanley Cup winners have GAA’s in the low 2′s (Brodeur has a strong edge, but in only 2/3 of the games), outstanding win loss records, and nearly identical save percentages with Brodeur at .915 and Niemi at .916.  The best show tonight for either team is probably going to come from the two men guarding the crease.

Prediction – Sharks 4, Devils 2

Both teams are coming off of big wins on Thursday night.  The Sharks owned Tampa Bay 5-1 and the Devils got a small slice of revenge against Ben Scrivens and the Kings for the shutout 6 days before.  Under ideal conditions, with both teams playing the way they are, this could be one of the best matchups of the year, maybe even too close to call.  But unfortunately for the Jersey faithful, the team has played more games recently, and all of them against stiff competition.  I can’t see them having the legs to make the impact that they need on the scoreboard, or to keep the Sharks off the board.  Not a bad game from the Devs, but not enough for another W out in Cali.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Cory Schneider

Pregame Primer: Game Twenty Two – Devils at Kings

New Jersey Devils at Los Angeles Kings – 10:30 pm

Staples Center – Los Angeles, California

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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With their recent hot streak, the Devils have cemented themselves as an opponent to be taken seriously.  They’ve beaten quality teams and disposed of teams they should beat.  Last night’s win was the peak of this recent stretch.  A win tonight will take that peak a bit higher.

They’ll face a team they know very well in the Los Angeles Kings.  This LA squad is essentially the same one they faced in the 2012 Finals.  Friday’s game was very reminiscent of Games 1, 2, 4 and 5 from that series.  Great goaltending, a fair amount of chances for each side as well as huge, momentum-swinging goals defined those games.  We should be in store for another great one tonight.  Here are some thoughts for tonight’s tilt:

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. First goal.  Yes, it’s the blinding flash of the obvious.  Including last weekend’s game and the Stanley Cup Finals, the team that scores first between these two teams has won the last seven games.  LA is fourth in team defense and they haven’t missed a beat since Jonathan Quick got injured.  The Devils found out first hand a few days ago when they were shut out by Ben Scrivens. 

2. Hold their own in the faceoff dot.  Part of the reason the Devils stuck with the Kings the last time they played was stealing some faceoff wins, as they each had 28 wins and 28 losses.  It may not sound impressive but going up against a Kings squad that is No. 1 in the league in faceoff percentage, that is a big deal.

3. Scoring goals for Cory?  Yes, hopefully there will be #Goals4Cory.  I fear the worst, however.  Cory Schneider gets the daunting task of facing a tough group of Kings forwards while his teammates go up against a smothering defensive unit for LA.  

Prediction – Kings 2, Devils 1 (SO)

I think we’ll see another strong effort but the Kings are a level or two above NJ.  There’s no shame in losing to LA.  The Devils have shown the last week or so that when they are on their game, they can play with anyone in the league.  We’ll watch a very similar game to Friday’s contest in Newark.  This time it’ll be good enough to get a point.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Pregame Primer: Game Nineteen – Devils vs Kings

New Jersey Devils vs Los Angeles Kings, 7 pm

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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These were the lines from today’s morning skate. According to The Record’s Tom Gulitti, both Patrik Elias and Stephen Gionta will be game-time decisions. Though it does seem like both are ready to go.

- Cory Schneider is in net tonight.

- Anton Volchenkov is out tonight with a leg injury, which leaves the Devils with six defensemen: Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Peter Harrold, Mark Fayne, Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson. Jon Merrill is on injured reserve while recovering from a face laceration.

- The lines may vary based on if Elias and Gionta play, so we’ll keep you updated as it gets closer to game time.

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Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1) No Quick, no Carter for the Kings. The Kings come in to tonight’s game without two of their best players, as Jonathan Quick and Jeff Carter are both out. In net for the Kings will most likely be Ben Scrivens, who came over from Toronto in the deal that sent Jonathan Bernier to the Maple Leafs. Though it seems like facing Scrivens may be an easy task, the former Cornell star has been very good in limited action this season. Scrivens is 2-1-1 with a  1.92 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. The loss of Carter hurts as well, because he brings a lot of dynamic offensive ability, but this is still a very good team.

2) The Devils have to keep the momentum going. After their rocky start, thing are starting to look up, as the team has taken seven of their last eight possible points. With tonight’s home tilt, followed by a home game against the Penguins, three or four points would thrust the Devils right back into the playoff picture in the Metropolitan Division. The Kings played last night and used a huge effort to come from behind and score three goals in the third period to beat the Islanders. They might not be as fresh, so the Devils need to jump on them from the opening faceoff.

3) Speaking of faceoffs, this is a tough matchup for the Devils in the dot. The Kings are the number one faceoff team in the league, winning 55.3% of their draws. The Devils, they’re toiling at a meager 45.3%, good for 27th in the league. They will struggle to win faceoffs against the Kings, so they must work the puck in deep and cycle the puck. Don’t expect much offense coming from faceoff wins in the offensive zone.

Prediction: Devils 3, Kings 2

The Devils will come out strong and they’ll get an early goal. The Kings might start a bit slow after their gutsy effort last night. The Kings will come back and score a pair of goals in the second before the Devils net a pair to come away with a hard fought win against a strong opponent.

New Jersey has points in all but one of its home games (1-0 loss to the Flyers) so another sterling effort from Prudential Center can be expected. This team has a lot of confidence after their 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden and it has to carry over tonight. If they’re able to get two points, it will set up a huge matchup with the Penguins that could put the Devils over .500 and right into the playoff mix.

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With Kings in town, mixed memories for Devils fans

Jeff OConnor

Just hours away from the New Jersey Devils playing the Los Angeles Kings in the Prudential Center, mixed rob-scuderi-steve-bernier-kings-devils-game-6feelings are abound.

The Kings and Devils squared off in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, with the Kings winning the series and the Stanley Cup 4-2.  As a fan, it’s hard to still not be disappointed with the outcome.

I was at Game One of the series and I will always remember that odd man rush late in the third period where Mark Fayne was breaking down the slot, had the puck coming his way and couldn’t push the biscuit into an open net.  We’ll never know what would have happened, but that could have completely changed the outlook of the series.

It was tough not to feel helpless after Game Two.  Ilya Kovalchuk hit the crossbar in the final seconds and it felt like the longer the game kept going, the lesser their chances were at tying the series.  The Devils worked so hard to get each goal in those first two games and when Jeff Carter scored on such a seemingly harmless play, everyone’s heart sank.  They played much better in Game Three but the Kings buried all of their chances, putting the Devils on the brink.

I’ll remember the way they fought back, though.  They finally had a lead in Game Four, but it lasted all of one minute.  It was hard not to think it was over at that point.  The Kings could do no wrong.  When Adam Henrique scored though, it gave life to the fanbase.  If NJ could defend their home ice, all they had to do was win one more game in LA and they could be Stanley Cup Champs.  The sight of Zach Parise scoring the opening goal in Game Five, letting out a primal scream and pounding the boards with his hand will always have a place in my mind.  So will the memory of Bryce Salvador pumping his fist after his fourth goal of the playoffs.

I’ll remember the run up to that point.  Game Six certainly went to the wayside, but it was a great season.  Coming off a year where they missed the playoffs, it was an unexpected ride to the Finals, which made it all the more enjoyable.  Finally getting that first round monkey off their back in sudden death fashion, dominating the rivals from Pennsylvania and the Henrique winner against New York provided moments that Devils fans won’t soon forget.

I’ll remember getting to hear Doc Emrick’s voice every night.  It was a shock to all Devils fans when he stepped away from the Prudential Center microphone after the 2010-11 season.  After hearing he would still do national games, I half-jokingly said to a friend of mine, “Well, we’ll just have to get to the Stanley Cup Finals so Doc will call all our games”.  Turns out we got it a round earlier as well with Emrick calling the Rangers series.  I’ll always appreciate that because he was and always will be the voice of the New Jersey Devils.

Yes, we are reminded of disappointment when we see the Los Angeles Kings take the ice tonight in Newark but we should also reflect on the great moments in that series and recall the wonderful memories that led up to that point.

This Date in Devils History

Even though the Devils’ playoff chances are finished for 2013, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On April 24…

2003- Martin Brodeur records a playoff shutout, and Jamie Langenbrunner registers a goal and an assist in New Jersey’s win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

New Jersey went on to beat Tampa Bay in six games en route to its third Stanley Cup.

2006- John Madden records a hat trick in game two of the Devils’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers– a game the Devils won 4-1.

That game also offered this incredible two-minute stretch that those in attendance won’t soon forget.

The Devils went on to sweep the Rangers but fall to the eventual-Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in the next round.

2012- Travis Zajac’s goal 5:39 into the first-overtime period lifts the Devils to a season-saving 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in game six of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

New Jersey went on to win game seven in double overtime and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals before falling to the Los Angeles Kings.