The Date: September 23, 2009
The Time: 7 PM EST
The Goal: It's been quite a long time since the last preseason game, a 3-2 shootout win over the Rangers. Oh, to have a roster named in advance and reported on ahead of the game. (Disclosure: I always write these the night before and in advance since I can't do this at work and it's sort of useless if it's written/up literally before the game starts.)
Now that Jacques Lemaire made his first cuts on Sunday, tonight's game and tomorrow's game at Philadelphia will help truly determine who's going to stay up with New Jersey and who's just sticking around before they go back to junior/Lowell. So any non-regular player that you see tonight is worth watching to see whether they will raise their game or not.
Many of the recent posts at Gulitti focuses on the fight on the blueline. Today, according to Gulitti, Lemaire may be planning to keep 7 defensemen on the Devils' roster - and Gulitti thinks there are 10 defensemen with a real shot at making the team. Since Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, Colin White, Mike Mottau, and Bryce Salvador are definite shoe-ins, that leaves 5 for 2 spots per Gulitti's thoughts. On Monday, Lemaire hinted that Andy Greene and Cory Murphy are in direct competition with each other per Gulitti's post. Shades of Greene and Anssi Salmela last September perhaps. Today, Gulitti spells out Mark Fraser, Rob Davison, and Jay Leach as other possibilities and lists who would be subject to re-entry waivers should 3 go back to Lowell and pass waivers. Apparently, everyone would dodge re-entry waivers except for Leach and Greene - meaning if they go down, they'll likely stay down.
Personally, who Lemaire plays and how they perform over the next two days will be a bigger indicator of who will make the team so look out for that. Also look out for Michael Swift and Tim Sestito, who has impressed enough in camp to be training with the regular Devils. Since Patrice Cormier was ill on Tuesday, perhaps either one (or both) will get their chance to impress tonight. Ilkka Pikkarainen and Tyler Eckford were also ill; so it's possible they don't play and that means 2 more prospects/Lowell Devils can step up in their place.
One thing is certain, according to Rich Chere, the Islanders will face their former goaltender Yann Danis for two periods tomorrow. He'll start, so I'm guessing Jeff Frazee will close out the game? At least he'll get his first preseason minutes. As far as that other New Jersey Devils goaltender, Chere confirms that Martin Brodeur will start against Philadelphia. In fact, I'd expect most of the Devils you don't see tonight to be featured against the Flyers.
Now, the Islanders played in Kansas City last night, so the Devils should see whoever wasn't on that trip represent the Orange and Royal Blue at Nassau. The Islanders look to be re-building, though they may not be doormats the whole season. Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey has a season preview that's worth your time. Additionally, I was fortunate to have him answer 3 questions about the team prior to this game.
1) The Islanders were in a rebuilding mode last season and look to continue rebuilding this season; so who has been looking good in preseason for the Islanders (other than a certain John Tavares)?
Dom: Calvin de Haan, the "other" 1st round pick from this summer, has been looking excellent and poised on defense. His only deficiency right now is size, so he'll need more seasoning in juniors. But you could imagine the Islanders keeping him around until they have to send him back. Matt Moulson, an L.A. castoff, is making a case for himself by sniping goals, killing penalties, and fitting Scott Gordon's up-tempo system.
2) There seems to be a fight for the starting goaltender position, who do you think it'll be?
Dom: Goaltender: I have no idea. [Dwayne] Roloson will play again tonight in K.C., but I imagine it's going to be a platoon until one asserts himself over the other. There have been no hints at who is the favorite yet. I expect both to get healthy time, though, and hope that [Martin] Biron turns himself into a good trade commodity.
3) Lastly, how is Scott Gordon running the show behind the bench - has he made any changes from last season? What can Devils fans expect from him in terms of coaching style and/or tactics?
Haven't noticed any changes from Gordon yet -- and I've only seen one TV game and two shabby Web feeds. But knowing him, he's staying the course with his up-tempo, intense forecheck system that is designed to force turnovers. All he needs now is lots of players who can do that without getting groin injuries (Doug Weight and Sean Bergenheim each suffered those early in camp). I wish him luck.
Thank you Dominik for your cooperation and responses.
Ultimately, it's a preseason game and the result really doesn't matter. As long as the veterans and the regulars get back into their respective grooves, the Devils fighting for a spot do well, and the team doesn't do something terrible like choke away a big lead, I'll be pleased.
Perhaps you would be as well. Or perhaps not. Have your say about tonight's game. Feel free to provide any additional news, any thoughts on who you want to see do well, and whatever else Devils or game-related that strikes your fancy. Gamethread will be up at 6ish (maybe). Go Devils!