Game 74 Preview: Devils @ Chicago Blackhawks

OK, this is the game to get back on the winning side on the road.  The Devils lost their last 3 road games, with some common threads between those three losses.  Namely, atrocious coverage on the penalty kill and a lackluster power play. Special teams have been awful, as the Devils have conceeded 8 power play goals in those three games while going 3 for 19 on the power play.  

Clearly, the first and foremost goal of tonight's game is to stop the bleeding on special teams.  That means not letting Blackhawks skate about in the zone without anyone noticing, and keeping the power play aggressive.  If they can do that, the Devils will have a true chance to win in Chicago. Otherwise, I fear we could see more of the same if the Blackhawks cut through the Devils' PK like butter. As far as the Devils' roster goes, Gulitti reported yesterday that Patrik Elias expects to play tonight.  This is good for the Devils.  The return of Elias, who both kills penalties and plays on the first power play unit, should yield to better results in both ends.  Colin White is a game-day decision and if he can't play, Andy Greene is healthy enough to play in his spot.   I don't think you need to ask who's starting in net tonight.

Back to the Blackhawks, they are in a playoff fight of their own, looking to hold off Vancouver for that fourth spot in the West.  The team is feeling pretty good as of late, with recent wins over Los Angeles and San Jose.  Prior to that, they were winless in the previous five games.  They were slumping when they came to the Rock, now, not so much today.

According to Chris Kuc at the Chicago Tribune's blog Icing, the Blackhawks will start Nikolai Khabibulin in net and the team is fairly healthy.  Only Matt Walker is questionable and Ben Eager is suspended.  A full Blackhawks team that has momentummeans this certainly won't be an easy one on the road.  Consider the following.  Their top players, Patrick Kane, Jonathon Towes, and Brian Campbell all had insignificant performances in New Jersey over a week ago.  (SamFels at Second City Hockey was more frank about it in his recap). But the team as a whole was slumping then.  I'd expect at least one of them to come out and do much better now that Chicago has at least two reasons to feel good.

Still, as many Devils fans would likely agree, the Devils absolutely need to perform better on special teams tonight.  If they can get something out of tonight's game, it'll definitely be a good sign going forward to Saturday against Carolina, Monday's visit to MSG, and Wednesday's visit to the Igloo.   Check out Second City Hockey for your need for Blackhawks thoughts and love for Jeremy Roenick.

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