The Devils weren't bad last night, but they didn't win in Chicago. Their penalty killing was a lot better; but the finishing wasn't there. Despite an excellent record in overtime, Chicago dictated most of the play in the fourth period. So the Devils are now winless in their last 3, and now they have to right the ship tonight against a very, very, very, very, very hot Carolina Hurricanes team.
I'm pretty worried about the Devils' chances tonight, let me list why:
- According to Canes Country, the Hurricanes are the most disciplined team in the league AND the best team in the league at drawing penalties.
- Given that the Devils took 5 penalties - almost all of them avoidable - in the first period last night; we could see a special teams situation like last night where the Devils are killing 3 times as many man-advantages as they got.
- Yes, the Canes only have a power play scoring at a 17.7% rate; but handing a team chance after chance is playing with fire. Even if they don't score, they'll surely take the momentum from having 2 minutes to go at the Devils' defense.
- The Devils played a very physical game for over 60 minutes just last night; and they're coming back from Chicago for this game tonight.
- The Hurricanes didn't play a very physical game last night, or any kind of game. They just traveled up to New Jersey.
- Did I also mention the Hurricanes are hot? They won their last 5 games starting with the last time the two teams played (which, incidentally, also came after a game against Chicago for the Devils). The Hurricanes are the hottest team in the league right now.
I think these are legitimate causes for concern! The Devils need to reach inside themselves (or...whatever) and find whatever energy they have to at least avoid falling flat at the Rock. That, I think, will be the important factor. If the Devils come out hustling and can continue to do so as the game goes on, then, I think they'll have a good chance.
Almost as important as this, is discipline. Bobby Holik, to a pick a particular player - and, no, I'm not seeing any reports where it is indicated he won't play - needs to play with a brain. Hitting people late, away from the play, or too early are all interference calls. And, guess what, the ref calls those! Especially when the ref is clearly within 5 feet of the incident! The guys taking these penalties aren't young guys learning how the game is actually called. They're veterans who should know better! Don't even get me started about clearing the puck over the glass (seriously! twice in a row! I'm still beside myself!) The Devils need be very careful with their sticks and their decisions to hit someone, nevermind that the opposing team draws penalties better than anyone else.
Anyway, for the Devils tonight, Gulitti says that Brodeur expects to play tonight. This is a team that the Devils have had trouble with in the past, and Sutter may want to put in one the greatest goaltenders in net against them. I don't think we'll see Kevin Weekes until next weekend, really. Speaking of things we may see, I think we'll see a better performance from Patrik Elias; he actually said just that to Chere after last night's game.
I don't think Sutter will necessarily change the game plan, but more or less encourage the squad to put out a strong performance. The Devils shouldn't count on the Islanders beating the Flyers; New Jersey needs to keep pace to win the division and finish the season strong.
This should answer Chip Alexander's questions at Canes Now. Check out Canes Country for all your Canes analysis and preview needs.