Game 68 Preview: Devils @ Montreal Canadiens

The New Jersey Devils get a chance to make it a winning streak when they visit Montreal tonight.  Some other notable achievements could be made tonight:

  • Patrik Elias needs 3 points to break John MacLean's total of 701 to become the all team leader in points for New Jersey.
  • Zach Parise needs 10 goals to become the first ever 50-goal scorer in Devils history. He has 15 games to do it, starting tonight.
  • Martin Brodeur can tie Patrick Roy's career wins total with a win tonight.

As expected, Brodeur's getting a lot of attention for this achievement.  Even if he doesn't win tonight, he'll certainly win 2 more games before the end of this season.  Hence all the coverage at NHL.com and elsewhere. After all, it is a historic achievement.  Gulitti got a ton of quotes from Brodeur yesterday - all worth your time.

But don't ignore the rest of the Devils. Against Phoenix, the team looked great.  Elias finally got an even strength goal, his first in over 2 months.  Goals have come from the new lines, such as Zubrus from the "fourth line" and Madden on the "third" line.  They continue to also come from the Parise line.  Credit goes to Brent Sutter for those moves.  The defense has been pretty good so far and if you'd like some evidence of this, go straight to Mirtle and recognize how good Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, and Colin White have been this season.  Needless to say, the Devils are doing great.

Gulitti has stated yesterday that there will be no line up changes for tonight's game.  Good. I don't think there is a need for any changes.  Brodeur will start and, look at that, he's 34-15-4 lifetime against Montreal!  Expect Marty to play great tonight, as he ususally does against the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge.

In contrast, there is Montreal.  A team that has floundered in recent weeks that their GM Bob Gainey decided to take over coaching duties in an attempt to spark the team.  So far? Well, they won their first game under Gainey and lost to the Islanders in overtime in their second.   The latter irritating the Habs faithful, like Robert L. It was a pretty recent move - maybe some time is needed for adjustment. Still, because the team has struggled, they have been dragged into the playoff battle for the final four spots in the Eastern Conference.  The margin for error is slim with 6 teams in this mix, with 5 points separating fifth place Montreal and tenth place Buffalo.   There really isn't that much time for adjustment!

After the loss to the Islanders, it will not be any easier tonight for Montreal.  Ignoring Brodeur's great play in Montreal and his potential date with destiny, consider this: The Devils are healthy.  The Canadiens are not healthy.  Pat Hickey at Habs Inside/Out reports that Carey Price and Ryan O'Byrne will not play tonight and  so Jaroslov Halak will get the start tonight with Patrice Brisebois (he's still in the league?! I didn't know this!) lacing up the skates on defense.   This is what happened the last time the Devils played Halak.  It was good. It would be good if it happened again. From my reading of what Hickey had to say, I wonder if Alexei Kovalev will play tonight? 

Regardless, like the Phoenix game, the important thing for the Devils tonight is to take control of the game early and to not assume anything about Montreal.  Yes, they have fallen in recent weeks. Yes, they just didn't look all that good against the Islanders (not something the Devils can say for themselves given their last two games against Long Island). But they remain to be the home team with an intimidating atmosphere, and a desperate team looking for much-needed points. At no point should the Devils deviate from what has made them successful this season:  battling in the neutral zone, cycling down low on offense to keep possession and open up space, and playing that bend-not-break defense that fits Brodeur's game well.

If Montreal can play to their abilities, then expect this one to be close. Robert at Eyes on the Prize may disagree with that possibility, and expect him to have a different view of tonight's game. Of course, you shouldn't be worried if that happens because if it's a close game, you should always bet on Brodeur.  Tonight, let's hope history is made tonight!

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