The Time: 7 PM EST. The Broadcasting Info: Versus on TV, Streaming Audio at Official Site
Last Devils Game: The Devils got routed by the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2 on Saturday. That same night, the Rangers enjoyed a comfortable 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
According to Gulitti's report at practice on Sunday, the Devils appear to be skating with the same lines they had on Saturday except Ilkka Pikkarainen has replaced Andrew Peters spot. Pikkarainen told Gulitti on Sunday that he's ready to play; but as of writing this preview, he's still on IR. Brendan Shanahan may have been let go, but he's still on the Devils 23-man roster.
So assuming that there is a desire that Pikkarainen play tonight, he'll have to be activated and that can't happen until something is done with Shanahan. And that's a pretty big assumption. Lemaire may have disciplined Peters, but that's not necessarily a sign he won't play at all tonight. He could play in order to redeem himself. Furthermore, Lemaire could just simply play Leblond in Peter's place. Leblond was scratched last game and is already on the roster. No move would have to be made with Shanahan to make that happen. This morning's skate could provide something different. Based on what I read of Gulitti's reports at practice, I wouldn't be surprised if this was Monday's lineup.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - - Matt Halischuk
Of course, this is just my guess. Read on for further thoughts about tonight's game.
As for the practice itself, based on Gulitti's reports, the focus was on the power play; especially 5-on-3 situations, two of which the Devils wasted against the Flyers on Saturday. This is understandable. I have no problem with working on the power play. But given what I saw on Saturday, the Devils will absolutely have to have a better night moving and controlling the puck. In terms of what Lemaire felt about the performance on Sunday, I'm surprised to read this response to Gulitti:
After watching the game film, Lemaire said the team's performance was, "exactly what I thought."
"We didn't give a lot of chances against," Lemaire said. "I thought our confidence dropped after the power play, the 5-on-3. I thought we played good in our end. The forecheck was good at times. But, hey, it's a good team. They (the Flyers) won't give you 20, 25 chances. We felt we got 11, which is in the ballpark of what they were having last year. They were from 10 to 14 last year."
Really? Good in our end? Nothing about how the team wasted passes and cleared the puck right back to the opposition? Last night, I thought the defending wasn't very good and the puck control was awful. And I still think it's something that I felt was more infuriating than the lack of success on the power play and drained the confidence of the team further. I'd even go as far to say that the problems in moving and protecting the puck pretty much helped kill those chances as much as the Flyers penalty killers.
I'm surprised this wasn't specifically addressed. Though, now that I think about it, perhaps it was in a way during Sunday's practice? I'm sure a lot of effort was focused on setting up the units; something that requires some work in that department. That would certainly help. Then again, that would be for specific man-advantage situations. I still feel it needs the passing and puck protection to be much sharper for the Devils tonight. Be it on the power play, the breakout, and in their own zone, really.
In any case, a lot will be forgiven from that first game if the Devils go out and stomp all over the Rangers. Something that won't likely to happen, unfortunately, as they've had a strong start to their season. They only lost 3-2 to Pittsburgh at the Igloo, giving the Penguins a lot of trouble as they raised their third Stanley Cup banner. Then they beat Ottawa on Saturday, giving the team a good lift going into a big rivalry game. Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik had strong games against Ottawa, combining for 3 goals and 9 shots (out of 34 for the team) in that game. The Devils defense should be especially careful where they are when they attack. And even if the Devils can breakdown an overpaid Rangers defense, they still have to deal with Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers may suck, but they aren't a bad team. Now, at least.
Most importantly, if the Devils felt they dropped in intensity after not scoring on the first 5-on-3 against Philly (something I don't fully agree with, but I'll go with it), then the real key for the Devils is to remain intense. Throw a couple of big hits early, go to the net early on offense, and get in the Rangers' faces. I feel that the Devils can't afford to get down on themselves, even if they score first or if the Devils lose an opportunity to score. That will only invite the Rangers to do as Philly did on Saturday, get the Devils into a frustrating and fruitless cycle where they end up getting pinned in their own end and scored on. Don't think the Rangers won't be looking to do the same tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if John Tortorella made a point of it to find out how the Flyers were able to jump on New Jersey on Saturday.
I'm confident in Martin Brodeur bouncing back from a bad game (he usually does) and I'll even assume the power play will perform much better due to today's practice. Yet, giving up the intensity - among other things - against a hated rival is simply not an option for tonight's game. I expect a better performance tonight; and by better, I'm looking for a win. A win before going on the road for 3 games, a win after a bad loss, and a win over Our Hated Rivals. I'm sure many of the Devils fans would agree with me on that expectation.
Either way, I'll be at my usual section, row, and seat. Steve will take care of the GameThread tonight, so you got that to look forward to. Check on Gulitti and Chere for any breaking news prior to the game on Monday. If, for some reason, you want the Rangers' perspective, Blueshirt Banner is a place that has plenty of that. Feel free to use this post to comment about what you want to see in tonight's game, who you want to perform well, and other thoughts you have about the game in advance of the GameThread. Go Devils!