Game 66 Preview: Devils vs. Calgary Flames

Ideally, we'd like to see the New Jersey Devils make a statement in tonight's game. A statement that they aren't going to take a 7-3 loss to the Islanders lying down.  As Rich Chere reported yesterday, the Devils sound like they are/will be motivated for tonight's game.  Plenty of quotes from players and Brent Sutter in this post; but I think this one from the captain really sums it up:

"It's definitely a conscious thing," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "That's something all teams strive for. Don't let those things snowball. You're going to have off-nights, but don't let it snowball into two or three."

Actually, the loss to the Islanders may have help be angrier against the Flames and Coyotes.

"Saturday gave us focus right away," Langenbrunner said. "But Calgary is one of the top teams in the West. They're a measuring stick for us. They have a good goalie, a good defense and one of the top players in the game in (Jarome) Iginla."

The Devils will definitely need that focus, as Calgary is currently the Northwest Division leaders with a nice lead.  The team is really well-built on the attack.  They are led on offense by the face of their franchise Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri (34 goals, 197 shots, 17.6% shooting percentage).  You should know about Iginla's skill, but Cammalleri has been massive for Calgary.  Rene Bourque and David Moss have also been nice surprises with 21 and 19 goals respectively from the secondary forwards. The Flames are tied for fourth in the league in average goals per game with 3.23 - tied with San Jose and just ahead of Washington.   Oh, did I also mention this team just picked up Olli Jokinen as well?  Yeah, the Flames have a potent offense.  A definite challenge for the Devils' defense.

At first glance, their defense is nothing to sneeze at. The Flames' defense is led by a hard-shooting (232 shots, 2 behind Iginla for the team lead), hard-hitting, 26-minute-averaging, jet-flying, limosine-riding son of a gun by the name of Ric Flair Dion Phaneuf. Truly a stud defender.  He's helped out by two-way defender Adrian Aucoin, defensive defenseman Robyn Regher, and the re-acquired Jordan Leopold.  Pretty impressive. Though, the numbers say a different story.  over the whole season, they've been average in average shots against per game with 30 (16th in the league, tied with...the Rangers!) and the team is actually in the bottom third in average goals against with 2.97 given up per game (22nd in the league). Still, this is a defense that punishes the power play (84.8% on the PK is the third best in the league) and the player (again, see Phaneuf).

Not that has been a big issue with Calgary as Miikka Kiprusoff continues to do what a legendary goaltender that you and I may know does: win games.  This is a results-oriented business, and you can't complain about that aside from the unimpressive save percentage and goals against average.


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
Miikka Kiprusoff 61 3600 39 16 5 3 166 2.77 1765 1599 .906 4

That all said, this mostly jibes with what Langenbrunner has said: Calgary is a very good team.  And similar to the Devils recent loss, Calgary just lost a pretty bad one to Atlanta on Sunday.  At the least, based on his admission in the AP recap at NHL.com, expect Kiprusoff to perform better.  He knows he didn't do well and he'll have every chance to make his point against New Jersey.

Lineup wise for the Devils, as of this writing, it appears that Sutter may keep the lineup together as reported by Gulitti yesterday.  Maybe Mike Rupp steps in for Jay Pandolfo.  It wouldn't be a bad move, Rupp could spark the team.  Gulitti's not sure either way; and neither is Sutter, well publicly he isn't, at least.  That would mean Martin Brodeur would get the start, Niclas Havelid will also play (he's not dwelling on Saturday, per Chere), and the rest of the Devils get the chance to walk the walk after yesterday's talk.

Per Sutter's quotes to Gulitti yesterday about the loss to the Islanders, it seemed the Devils weren't up for Saturday's game right from the start. Therefore, the Devils should make it a priority to get this game started off in their favor.  They'll be at home, they have the ability to line-match if necessary, and the team is aware that a second bad loss is not a viable option.  Remember, as Chere has pointed out, this team has not lost consecutive games in over two months. (Last time: January 6-8) Honestly, I don't care if comes from which line (though the Parise line is usually a good bet); the Devils just need to get on the proverbial good foot real quickly.  Letting Calgary's offense dictate the pace of the game isn't a good idea. It definitely wasn't a good one for the Islanders' offense.

Regardless, for the Calgary take on this game, check out Matchsticks and Gasoline later.  I don't know if Kent will put it in his Gamethread or not; but in the meantime, read a good defense of winless-backup Curtis McElhinney.

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