Olympic Picks: Where Will Team USA Finish in Sochi?

With the first games of the Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament set to begin on Wednesday, it’s time to break down the competitive field.

The Devils sent four players to Sochi, with Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky representing the Czech Republic and Damien Brunner representing the Swiss.

While the host country, Russia, s one of the favorites, the Canadian team is loaded. Of the 12 teams in the field, there are at least six teams that can make a pretty good case as to why they’ll take home the gold medal.

800px-RafalskiUSA2010WinterOlympicscelebration

Jeff’s Picks:

(Bold teams receive byes)

Group A -
USA 2-1-0-0  7 pts
Russia 1-1-1-0  6 pts
Slovakia 1-0-1-1  4 pts
Slovenia 0-0-0-3  0 pts

Group B – 
Finland 3-0-0-0  9 pts
Canada 2-0-0-1  6 pts
Norway 1-0-0-2   3 pts
Austria 0-0-0-3  0 pts

Group C – 
Czech Republic  2-1-0- 7 pts
Sweden  2-0-1-0  7 pts
Switzerland 1-0-1-1  4 pts
Latvia 0-0-0-3   0 pts

Bronze Medal Game
USA over Russia

Gold Medal Game
Czech Republic over Finland

Dave’s Picks:

Group A -
Russia 2-1-0-0  8 pts
USA 2-0-1-0  7 pts
Slovakia 1-0-0-2  3 pts
Slovenia 0-0-0-3  0 pts

Group B – 
Canada 3-0-0-0  9 pts
Finland 2-0-0-1  6 pts
Norway 1-0-0-2   3 pts
Austria 0-0-0-3  0 pts

Group C – 
Sweden  3-0-0-0  9 pts
Czech Republic  1-1-0-1 6 pts
Switzerland 1-0-1-1  4 pts
Latvia 0-0-0-3   0 pts

Bronze Medal Game
Russia over Finland

Gold Medal Game
Sweden over Canada

The Outlook for Team USA – 

Jeff OConnor


It seems to most everyone that Team USA is not as good as the 2010 version.  We’ll see.  The forward pool is mostly the same although I do fear about the defense.  There’s a lot of new faces on that backline and a lot of young guys too.  Reading between the lines of what head coach Dan Bylsma has been saying, it sounds like this is going to be a one-goalie team.  I think that one guy is going to be Ryan Miller, although I’d like to see Jonathan Quick in there.  We know Quick is great and he’s had a great team in front of him for a few years now.  Can Miller jump back to that same level he did four years ago, now that he’s surrounded by Olympians and not the slug players on the Buffalo Sabres?  To a degree yes, but I’m not sure how much is left.  Yes, USA does not have as much talent as others, but I think they are a well-built TEAM.  There’s scorers, playmakers as well as your glue and grit guys who can also put the puck in the net.  It seems like they are being written off already, but nothing would surprise me with this team.

Dave Turner

This is a different Team USA in 2014, but a team that certainly has enough talent to get it done. Offensively, they can score with the best. Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, the list goes on. Defensively, that’s what should have you worried. Are guys like Cam Fowler and John Carlson ready to step up? Can Dan Bylsma products Brooks Oprik and Paul Martin contribute? Perhaps an even bigger question is in goal. I believe that Ryan Miller deserves the first start and should be allowed to take the job and run with it. Should he falter, then it’s Quick’s turn. Miller’s performance in Vancouver should at least give him the benefit of a fair chance to play. This squad is different than some of the other Olympic teams because they went for a team-first mentality. Canada has an all-star team and even Sweden and Russia leaned that way. Team USA is built like a team that’s ready to scratch and claw it’s way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Whether or not that translates into success remains to be seen, but they had a clear top-six, bottom-six in mind when they created this roster. I had them off the podium mostly because of the question mark in net, but if they get strong goaltending, this team will have every chance to compete for a gold.

Another boring day in Devils-land…

Dave Turner

On Tuesday night the Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 at Bell Centre. Boring!

Martin Brodeur stopped all but one Canadiens’ shot. It was like watching paint dry while listening to a presentation about a timeshare.

Mark Fayne, a defenseman, who didn’t record a point, was the third star of the game. Taking the SATs is more exciting than that.

Protecting a lead going into the third period, well, that’s like waiting on line at the DMV.

Devils hockey isn’t really all that dull, if you appreciate things like defense and three-zone hockey. Defense?!? Really?!

Wednesday night’s national contest between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins featured a team blowing a one-goal third period lead and countless players sitting wide open in the slot. No defense? Seems kind of boring. If I wanted to watch players go up and down the ends of a playing surface at will, I’d watch the NBA.

We all know about the comments that Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk made about the Devils, but it didn’t end there. After the Devils victory over Montreal, a blogger at Habseyesontheprize.com wrote an entire column lamenting over the the New Jersey style of play.

“Getting this out of the way now: The Devils are worse than watching paint dry, grass grow and turtles of the non-teenage mutant variety walk,” Mike O’Brand said in the piece.

To read more of this story, click here

By the numbers: Advanced stats show the impact of Eric Gelinas

Dave Turner

After last night’s win against the Kings, it’s time to take another peek at some advanced stats.

The stat I like to use is CorsiOn, which is basically a formula that combines all shots directed towards the net in the offensive zone versus shots towards the net in the defensive zone while each player is on the ice.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 12.44.23 PM

- via Behindthenet.ca 

- The numbers show the impact of Eric Gelinas. He leads the team in CorsiOn and is two points higher than Travis Zajac in the second spot. What it means is that not only is Gelinas is creating offense, but he is also limiting chances in the defensive end. Eric Gelinas

- These numbers are for 5 on 5 only, so any power play time does not come into play.

Based on his play via the eye test, his stats (2g 5a in 13 games) and his Corsi rating, there is going to be a tough decision on the horizon for the Devils. When Bryce Salvador and Anton Volechenkov return, it will give the Devils eight defensemen. Though it’s possible that the team could keep all eight, with Ryane Clowe’s eventual return, it will put the Devils in a tough spot.

The fact is, Gelinas deserves to be up. His presence on the power play is is immeasurable, as his shot forces teams to defend him. The result, when he’s out there with Marek Zidlicky, it allows No.2 to find the open player. As long as Gelinas is out there, teams have to respect his shot and as a result, the power play is more versatile.

At this point, how could the Devils possibly send Gelinas down? It wouldn’t make any sense to do so.

As for the rest of the numbers, it’s no surprise that Zajac and Jaromir Jagr are two and three, respectively. The top line, along with Dainius Zubrus has been creating a plethora of opportunities over the last few games.

Cory Schneider

Final Score: Devils 2, Kings 1 (OT)

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in overtime to bring their record to 9-8-5 on the season.

- The Devils were outshot 14-2 in the first period, as the Kings dominated the first twenty minutes.

- Despite the large disparity in shots, NJ got on the board first with a Ryan Carter goal 5:52 into the third period.

- The Kings equalized the game quickly, as Justin Williams beat Cory Schneider less than two minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.

- After a frantic 3-on-3 situation after reciprocating minors to Jaromir Jagr and Dustin Brown, the Devils grabbed the second point when Marek Zidlicky found Jaromir Jagr in the slot shortly after he came out of the box to seal the deal.

Dave Turner

Ugly is a fitting word to describe the Devils 2-1 win in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

As ugly as it may have been for most of the contest, New Jersey will gladly take the two points they earned against Ben Scrivens and the Kings.

After being outshot 14-2 in the first period, it looked like it might be a long night for the Devils, but Cory Schneider turned in a sensational performance, yielding just one goal on 35 shots by Los Angeles. Schneider lowered his goals against average to 1.87 and his save percentage moves to .925%. Cory Schneider

He needed to be that good, as Scrivens, along with the Kings’ defense, stymied the Devils until Ryan Carter was able to solve the former Cornell goaltender at the 5:52 mark of the third period. Prior to Carter’s goal, the former Toronto Maple Leaf had shut out the Devils for five straight periods.

The rest, as they say, is history. In what might be a precursor of things to come, Jaromir Jagr and Dustin Brown took reciprocating minors in the overtime period, which allowed the teams to skate 3-on-3 for a full two minutes. It has been reported that the NHL is considering changing the overtime format to allow for a 3-on-3 period before the shootout. If that’s the case, then it should lead to some fantastic, open-ice hockey, which was certainly on display on Thursday night.

After the teams got back to 4-on-4, it was Marek Zidlicky making yet another big play for this team, as he found Jaromir Jagr, who lit the lamp and etched himself into NHL history once again. With the 690th goal of his career, he ties former teammate Mario Lemieux for 9th all time in NHL history and the game winning tally also tied him for 1st in game winning goals all time at 121. He’ll need just one more game-winner to move past the great Gordie Howe for that honor.

Jaromir JagrThere are a lot of positive things to be said about the future hall of fame winger, but Jagr’s presence has been felt both on and off the ice. Whether it’s getting line mates Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus to join his post-practice skating regimen, to scoring big goals at crucial times, the 41-year-old is turning back the clock and has he goes, the Devils seem to follow suit.

As much as it was a struggle against a very physical Kings team, the Devils battled and the result is two more huge road points, giving them four in a span of just over 24 hours.

They’ll have a day off on Friday before they head to San Jose for yet another tough matchup against the Sharks.

With two monumental wins under their belt, this will be a confident bunch heading into SAP Center on Saturday.

Cory Schneider

Pregame Primer: Game Sixteen – Devils at Leafs

Cory Schneider

New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30pm

Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

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

linelong

Dainius Zubrus – Andrei Loktionov – Jaromir Jagr
Steve Bernier – Travis Zajac – Damien Brunner
Mattias Tedenby – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Cam Janssen

Andy Greene – Peter Harrold
Anton Volchenkov – Marek Zidlicky 
Mark Fayne – Adam Larsson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1) Need a clean road game.  Toronto is an extremely well-rounded team.  They’re top-1o in the league in goals per game, goals against per game as well as penalty kill and power play.  If the Devils don’t play a crisp game, they’ll get eaten alive.  They’re 5-2 at home this year.  Their two home losses?  Colorado and Carolina.  The best team in the Central and a squad that’s two points out of a playoff spot.  Many mistakes will equal few-to-no points for NJ.

2) Rust for Toronto?  Sure, the Devils played last night but the Leafs haven’t played since last Saturday.  The win over Philly last night was the first win for the Devils in a back-to-back game this season.  They were 0-3-3 in their previous six tries.  Coming off a strong defensive game last night, the Devils dominated the Flyers but most likely know they can, and will need to, play much better to keep up with the Toronto forwards.  If they came out hard, it might put the well-rested Leafs on their heels.

3) How will the defense hold up if there’s no Gelinas?  It’s possible Eric Gelinas may not play tonight.  He was hit with a puck in the leg last night and walked to the team bus on crutches.  He traveled with the team to Toronto, which is a good sign, but said to reporters today he “thinks it’s a bruise”.  We’ll have to see.  If he’s out, a big weapon on the Devils blue line is out.  He was crucial in getting the Devils their first goal last night.  Not only will Mark Fayne have to step in, he or Marek Zidlicky or Adam Larsson will have to switch o the left side of the ice.  That could be an issue.  Keep an eye on that early in the game if Gelinas can’t go.

Prediction:  Leafs 3 Devils 2 SO

I got so much grief for picking the Devils for most every game this season, so you know what, solely out of spite I’m picking the Leafs to win tonight.  Seriously though, I think this will be a good point for the Devils.  I expect them to play just as strong as last night and that should be good enough for at least a point.

Enjoy the game everyone.

Final Score: Devils 4, Bruins 3

Andy Greene was the hero against Boston

Andy Greene was the hero against Boston

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 from TD Garden in Boston. The win brings their record to 2-5-4 on the season.

The Least You Should Know:

- The Devils scored two power play goals in the last 1:08 of the third period to beat the Bruins.

- New Jersey was excellent with the extra skater, tallying four PP goals on the night.

- The Bruins got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first behind a power play goal by Torey Krug and a fortuitous bounce in front that gave Jarome Iginla his second tally of the season. After that, the Devils added a power play goal by Adam Henrique, but Milan Lucic scored with less than a minute to go in the first to stretch the lead to 3-1.

-  The team battled back behind a strong performance by Martin Brodeur, who was excellent the rest of the way after the three-goal first period. He made timely saves in the third to give the Devils a chance.

Dave Turner

For all of the frustrating finishes, odd bounces and perhaps just bad luck, on Saturday night, it was the Devils who came away with a monumental win up in Boston.

After a first period that saw some fortunate bounces result in a 3-1 lead after the first twenty minutes, New Jersey battled the rest of the way and finally got their chance. Torey Krug went off on a double minor and Patrice Bergeron followed suit with a delay of game penalty that allowed the Devils a rare 6-on-3 advantage that resulted in a goal by Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky, who has eight points (1g, 7a) on the season, knotted the game with only 68 seconds remaining.

Then it was Andy Greene’s turn to play hero. Sure, it was a busted play after Damien Brunner partially fanned on a shot. The result was an almost perfect “pass” to Greene, who beat Tuukka Rask to give the Devils the lead.

The man-advantage was flat out sensational. Four goals on the power play against a staunch defensive club like Boston is about as good as it gets in terms of execution on the power play in this league.

Not to be lost in the talk of the goals was the play of Martin Brodeur. The first two goals were the result of bounces that went the way of the Bruins. A three-goal period isn’t easy for a goaltender to overcome, but that’s exactly why Brodeur has the hardware and accolades to his name. The  man with the most wins in NHL history blanked the Bruins over the last two periods to give the Devils a chance. He came up with a great save on David Krejci in the third, with Krejci parked in the slot. Brodeur’s strong play over the rest of the game allowed for the comeback attempt.

Jaromir Jagr turned in another strong effort, notching two assists on the night, giving him nine points (2g, 7a) on the season. Damien Brunner had a two-point night as well, with his power play goal and assist on the game-winner.

While the win over the Rangers was big, this one could be the turning point. You have to expect that this team feels rewarded after a game where they refused to give up and eventually cracked a goaltender that has been virtually unbeatable this season.

After the struggles that this team has had over their first eleven games, this one has to feel good. No more talk of squandering a point, or what could have been. This team now has a gutsy, hard-fought win over one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

What’s next? They’ll get a chance to keep their home point streak intact when they skate against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

For now, the Devils can sit back and enjoy what is their best win of this young season.


Three Stars: 

1. Andy Greene - have to give Greene the nod after his huge goal gave the Devils the win.

2. Martin Brodeur - how many goalies can shake off a three-goal period to play as well as Brodeur did over the final 40 minutes. An excellent performance by Brodeur

3. Marek Zidlicky - His huge goal with 1:08 left gave the Devils the tie. He has been a tremendous spark on the power play so far.

Another Loss, But Another Great Performance From The Defense

Devils-Isles

By Jeff O’Connor

It’s another disappointment.  Another frustrating night and another loss.  But the season-long weakness was actually a strength last night.

The New Jersey Devils defense was tremendous.  Everyone played their role and played it well.  Last night, none of the goals were their fault.  They smothered the Vancouver Canucks.

The first goal was on Cory Schneider, plain and simple.  If there is a forechecker even somewhere in the neighborhood, a goaltender needs to steer the puck below the circle, and even more preferably,  below the goal line.  He pushed it into the middle of the circle and moments later it was buried.

The defense wasn’t to blame for the second goal either.  Daniel Sedin blasted one from the left circle and beat Schneider down low.  He wasn’t screened, the shot wasn’t deflected or anything.

The D was just as solid as they were in the Rangers game.  Consider the Canucks are a much better team than the Rangers.  Consider the Canucks had no more than a few isolated scoring chances and it makes last night’s hellacious defensive effort that much more impressive.

The Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas unit played a strong game.  Larsson looked like the early 2013 version.  He was steady and made no big mistakes.  Gelinas was a bit hesitant on D but showed great skating ability, shaking defenders behind the net and bursting on the breakout through his own end and the neutral zone with the puck. Of course, the goal on the power play was great.

Andy Greene was his usual self and Mark Fayne, underwhelming in the first two periods, showed some rare physicality and aggressiveness by delivering some body checks in the third.  Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.

Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov were reliable too.  Zids was effective on the power play and kept many pucks in the offensive zone.  A-Train never got beaten in the neutral zone on a rush and threw some heavy checks in the middle of the game.

With Bryce Salvador on the way back from home and Peter Harrold waiting in the wings, who knows if these six will play together again on Saturday.  But for one night, the defense was not the culprit in another Devils loss.

10/22 Mailbag: Answering some questions as we head deeper into October

Dave Turner

It’s always great to answer some reader questions, especially now that we have quite a few games worth of information to go on. If you have a question, always feel free to tweet @SNYDevils.

Jonathan Harpula – @Starpula - Larsson for Yakupov? Who says no at this point?

On paper, this would be intriguing, but I think that’s as far as it goes. I can’t speak for what the Edmonton Oilers plan on doing with Nail Yakupov, but for the Devils and Adam Larsson, it’s far too soon to give up on him.

Yes, Larsson has been victimized for a few goals already this year and he’s currently out of the lineup in favor of Mark Fayne, but he’ll certainly get his chance again. The former #4 overall pick is only 20, so there is still a lot of time for development. To me, it makes no sense to give up on him so early.

If he continues to struggle and perhaps finds himself out of the lineup for an extended period of time this season, then maybe, just maybe, it’s a possibility that the team could look to move him. The only issue at that point would be that his value wouldn’t be so high.

In terms of Yakupov, it’s almost the same issue. He’s only 20, as well. The Russian-born winger has only one point through seven games this season and has struggled.

In the days of Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and now, Seth Jones, everyone seems to want these young players to come out and be stars right away. That doesn’t always happen. When these young players come over from either Juniors or overseas, they’re not used to playing NHL style hockey, playing against men and the best in the world. There’s nothing wrong with waiting a couple of years for a guy to reach his potential.

If there is one reason why I would say that this deal won’t happen, it’s because Yakupov is Russian. Though he played junior hockey (and was a teammate of Reid Boucher) with the Sarnia Sting, there’s no doubt that the KHL could come calling with a sizable contract to lure one of their young potential stars back to Russia. Considering that the Devils already lost a player to the KHL, I think that is something that would keep them away from ever jettisoning Larsson in hopes of turning Yakupov around.

Look at it this way. You have two young players with a ton of potential who are struggling. One knows your system and the other doesn’t. To me, that’s a no-brainer and Adam Larsson will be a Devil for the foreseeable future as he continues to mature.

PetitPilot – @PetitPilot777 - from what you’ve seen this season, and what you think will happen, who gets more starts? Schneider or Brodeur?

This is a question that has been asked many times already and will continue to be asked throughout the course of the season.

As I alluded to the other day, the numbers speak for themselves at this very moment.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 4.20.29 PMBoth goaltenders have played four games so far, with drastically different results. Martin Brodeur has struggled at times, especially against the Senators. Schneider seems to be getting more and more comfortable in net every time he plays, with just two goals surrendered in his last two games and one of which was a garbage-time goal after an empty-netter against Winnipeg.

Schneider is getting the start tonight against Columbus and if he plays well, there’s probably a good chance he’ll play Thursday against his former team when the Canucks travel to Prudential Center.

It’s still very early and there is a lot of hockey to be played, so it’s hard to just come out and decide that Schneider should be the true number one just yet. Brodeur hasn’t been sharp, but they’re going to need him with all of the back-to-back’s that they play this season. Brodeur is going to get his starts with the hope that with more action, he’ll round into form.alg-brodeur-save-jpg

If I had to make a prediction, I believe that Schneider will end up with more starts, but the number is not going to be staggering, because this team will do everything possible to get Brodeur into a groove where he’s playing good hockey. Having two goaltenders that can be counted on makes the Devils a much better team.

Also, you don’t want to rely on one goaltender so much that if one were to go down with an extended injury, that the other is forced into a string of games where he isn’t quite ready to shoulder that load.

Avid Devils Fan – @NJDMCP - Why does DeBoer play Harrold over Fayne and/or Larsson? I’m sincerely puzzled.

Peter Harrold hasn’t exactly been stellar so far in 2013-2014, so this does raise a question. He is currently third to last on the team with a minus-four rating. Part of the reason why, is that Adam Larsson is a minus-five.

The team as a whole struggled over the first seven games of the season, so it’s easy to quickly overreact and judge players on a small sample size. The Devils like what they’ve seen from Harrold in the past, or they wouldn’t have signed him to a new contract this offseason.

Harrold doesn’t exactly bring anything breathtaking to the table in terms of offensive skill or shutdown ability, but when he’s playing well, he fits the bottom-pairing role quite well. He usually doesn’t make mistakes and he has the ability to make a breakout pass.

That being said, I think the defensive starting six is somewhat of a fluid situation and will likely change many times this season. Mark Fayne came in and has played well in two games.

It’s as simple as this: If the defense is playing well, Pete DeBoer is going to keep the same six that he had in during the prior game. The defense was excellent against the Rangers, so if they turn in another strong performance against Columbus, why change it?

There is definitely a situation where Peter Harrold could be the odd man out in favor of Adam Larsson, but his play moving forward will dictate that.

Squiggs – @IamtheSquiggs – Why is Marek Zidlicky so bad?

Normally I wouldn’t include such a question as this one that is so scathing towards a player, but in this case, a little education is needed.

As of the afternoon of 10/22 how many NHL defensemen have more assists than Marek Zidlicky?

The answer is one and it’s P.K. Subban, who has exactly one more assist (eight) than Zidlicky (seven).

marek-zidlicky-mulhollandjpg-7cc91b25ddd83cd3Yes, there are times when Zidlicky will pinch and get caught out of position, I get that. As a whole, the Czech-born defenseman is far and away the most offensively skilled blueliner on this team.

“Zid’s good, when Zids keeps it simple and plays within himself, he’s very effective for us. It’s just walking that line where he’s offensive without being reckless. He’s a smart guy, he’s a veteran guy, he comes back to the bench and he recognizes when he pushes it a little too far, it’s nice to have a guy like that,” said DeBoer of Zidlicky after Saturday’s game against the Rangers.

Is he going to make some bad choices and get caught out of position? It’ll most likely happen a time or two, but what Zidlicky brings to the table is a passing ability that no other defenseman on this roster has. Considering the start he’s had, calling him bad is a huge falsity at this point.

Tim – @Hockey459 – Is PDB here to stay?

My answer to this one is simple. Lou Lamoriello has expressed confidence in this group. Also, let’s let the season play out. Who knows, in two weeks, if this team has won five of six, this question might be silly to even ask. We’re only eight games in, no need to speculate at this point.

Andrew Sciametta - At what point do we give Gelinas a shot instead of Harrold and Fayne?

This might be a money issue more than anything else. Eric Gelinas certainly looked good enough to warrant a roster spot out of camp, but was sent down to Albany instead. Through five games with the A-Devils, the young blueliner has a goal, two assists and a team-leading 20 shots on goal. He has a cannon of a shot and that in itself could help this club.

The real issue would be making room for him to be called up. With the glut of forwards on this team, there’s no room for eight defenseman (unless, of course, someone gets hurt). Also, if the team wanted to bring Gelinas up, they’d have to likely send someone like Harrold of Fayne through waivers. Sending either of them down would mean that they could lose them completely, or have to pay an NHL salary for either of them to play in the AHL, because both are on one-way contracts. Lamoriello has stated that paying an NHL contract in Albany was not in the Devils plans.

I happen to like Gelinas a lot. He’s still a bit raw defensively in some respects, but his offensive game has a ton of upside. I do think he’ll find his way back to New Jersey, but it’ll most likely be due to an injury to one of the defensemen who are currently on the roster.

And so it begins… Pregame Primer – Game One: Devils at Penguins

Patrik Elias2

Today we finally lay to rest an offseason of trials and tribulations. No longer can we lament about the losses of old number 17 and 23. It’s about the future, and it’s about Devils hockey.

The wait is over. In just a few short hours, it begins anew.

Lines for tonight’s game:

Clowe-Elias-Brunner

Henrique-Zajac-Jagr

Zubrus-Loktionov-Ryder

Carter-Gionta-Bernier

Defense: Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Peter Harrold, Marek Zidlicky

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

(Note: Patrik Elias has been activated off of IR and will play tonight.)

Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game

1. The first look at Cory Schneider- The newly acquired goaltender was sensation in the preseason, but, it was the preseason. He gets an extremely tough task tonight for his first real game in net for the Devils, having to face the high powered Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Pens make even the best goaltenders look bad, so it’ll be up to Schneider to be at the top of his game tonight. His rebound control is usually sensation, and that’s perhaps the most important part of negating the Penguins. They’re a team that thrives on getting quality second chance opportunities. For the Devils to win, those have to be few and far between.

2. NJ has been successful against the Penguins when they slow them down- The Devils and Penguins play almost polar-opposite styles. While the Devils are content to work the puck in, grind in the corners and possess the puck, The Penguins are all about speed and capitalizing on turnovers. The Devils aggressive forecheck has negated the type of speed that the Pens like to have through neutral ice. That is a major reason why New Jersey has had a lot of success against Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. Pittsburgh is not built for a grind-it-out type of hockey game, just look at what the Boston Bruins did to them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. 800px-Crosby,_Sidney

3. What will the power play do? It’s be a very different look for the man-advantage this season, and it may take some time to see some results. Marek Zidlicky is finally in his wheelhouse, as a power play quarterback who can distribute the puck. With Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr all added to the mix, there are quite a few different skill sets that the Devils can unleash on the power play. There’s a good chance that we’ll see quite a few different units, as Pete Deboer begins to figure out what works.

4. Limiting turnovers will be key- The Penguins are a team that thrives off of turnovers. There is no better team in the league at turning an opponent’s mistake into a goal the other way. How many times have we seen Sidney Crosby making a big play off a miscue by the other team? The Devils know that the Pens are dangerous in that regard. What New Jersey cannot do tonight is turn the puck over by trying to do too much. They have to make the safe pass at all times and not try to force the play, that’s not the Devils M.O anyways. If they let the game play out at their tempo, instead of trying to play at the Penguins speed, they will have every chance to emerge with two points.

Prediction- Penguins 3 Devils 2 (OT)

This is going to be a close game the whole way. The Penguins will come out strong, but Cory Schneider will keep it close early on. Look for the Devils to tie the game up in the third before ultimately falling in overtime.

Expect a strong effort all around, as the new faces look to make a positive first impression.

We’ll have our Instant Insight piece up after the conclusion of the game.

Buzz: Lamoriello Has Been ‘Talking To’ Agents

Lou Lamoriello is making the rounds today. Earlier Wednesday, he spoke to Rich Chere about some of the Devils’ lower-level free agents. Now, Tom Gulitti has some updates on some of the more high-priority free agents.

Corey Griffin

That second tweet is far more important than the first one. It’s no surprise Lou is talking to their agents. Hell, he BETTER be talking to their agents with free agent less than six weeks away. The question is how many, if any, of them are willing to sign before free agency opens. For someone like Elias, who has spent his whole career with N.J., it makes sense for that to get done in advance. A guy like Zubrus that likes Pete DeBoer and knows where he fits on the team and in the system also might be willing to sign before the market opens.

However, for Clarkson and Zidlicky, this could mean they’ve played their last game in a Devils uniform. Clarkson is HIGHLY unlikely to strike any sort of deal before allowing a bidding war to start on the open market. Also, Zidlicky is likely to fetch more in free agency in terms of dollars than the Devils would likely be willing to pay him. That said, this is a wise move for Lou in my opinion. There’s no reason to get sucked into any sort of bidding war for any of these players, regardless of how much Clarkson means to the team and the franchise. I thought that Clarkson would eventually re-sign with the only team he’s ever known, but it sounds like I was wrong.