Today's game concludes the season series with the division rival that resembles the color of a traffic cone: the Philadelphia Flyers. The last time these two matched up, I noted the Flyers were getting Daniel Briere back as an addition to their potent offense while the Devils were still enjoying the return of Martin Brodeur. The result? Martin Brodeur's 100th shutout. The Devils were just rolling then and continued to be ahead of the Flyers in the Atlantic Division.
Now? Well, the Devils are still ahead of the Flyers but not everything is smooth like a Michael McDonald song for the New Jersey hockey club.
The Devils lost yesterday afternoon in Boston, a game decided by stupid penalties and poor play from the special teams, the latter highlighted by head coach Brent Sutter as reported by Gulitti. In that same post, Gulitti notes that the team is 3-5 in their last 8 road games. While the Devils are blazing at home with an 11 game winning streak, the road games are of a concern for Sutter. You can be sure he'll motivate his squad to work real hard to try get a win on the road.
What better time to get back on the winning side on the road than against Philadelphia? I don't believe fatigue will go against the Devils, as the Flyers also played yesterday afternoon. The Flyers earned a 3-1 win over their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. But they still played the day before. Also, consider that the Devils have not lost two games in a row since the first week of January. This is no coincidence or lucky break. The Devils have been consistent in responding to losses with improved performances. Remember, the 4-0 win over Minnesota came after a let down of a 3-2 loss in Carolina - a win highlighted (among other things) by a vastly improved performance on the penalty kill. There's no reason we can't see the same thing occur in Philadelphia today. Lastly, it's a rivalry game for the Devils and by that alone they will likely be up for this one (though, so will the Flyers!)
In fact, the Flyers themselves are the big reason cause for concern. They will be confident and pleased about their win over the Penguins. Martin Biron is coming off a solid performance and he could use that momentum again today, should he start. Daniel Briere has finally started scoring, with 2 goals against Buffalo on Friday and an assist yesterday against Pittsburgh. Even if he wasn't, his talent justifies attention from the defense. As always, the triple threat of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne are, well, still threats. Lastly, they really need this win if they want to have any hope of challenging for the Atlantic Division title, so the team has something to play for. I guess that's
Both teams are quite talented, despite earning different results on Sunday afternoon. Neither team is returning anyone significant, except the possibility of Brendan Shanahan for New Jersey. I would imagine both teams are going to start their top goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, who usually does very well after a poor loss; and Martin Biron, who usually rides the momentum. I believe this game will break down into who wants it more, really.
And by who wants it more, I also mean who wants to give it away the least. If, say, the Flyers just cannot keep the puck on their sticks, the Devils will do everything to make them miserable for it. If, say, the Devils just keep those sticks high and carelessly hit people away from the play, the Flyers will pounce on the PK units all night long. Because it is a rivalry, the will to win and in-game focus are crucial.
Check out Broad St. Hockey for the Flyers side in this one. Travis' previews are usually on point and to the point. I'll find any update on Shanahan's status in the GameThread later tonight. Feel free to add anything else about the game in the comments.