The Time: 10:30 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+(HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN
The Last Devils Game: They won it. No, really. The Devils played much smarter and had sounder fundamentals in Anaheim last night. It was still a close game, but they managed to come from behind and hold on to win it 2-1. My recap of the game is here.
The Last Kings Game: Like the Anaheim Ducks before Friday's game, the Kings went into Dallas in their previous game. Like the Ducks, the Kings came out of Dallas with a decisive 5-2 win. After Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal in the first period, the Kings never looked back. Quisp of Jewels from the Crown has this summary of points from the game.
The Goal: The New Jersey Devils will be facing off with the best team in the Western Conference tonight. The Devils are coming off a game against Anaheim. While fatigue may set in, it is vital that they maintain their focus at all times and continue to play fundamentally sound hockey. When a player or a line or a pairing or a goalie loses focus, they are prone to making careless and costly errors. It tends to lead to losses, as we have witnessed in the most of this month of hockey. It will not be acceptable against a team as skilled and confident as Los Angeles. The Devils managed to do this in Anaheim. Now they need to do something they didn't do after their other two wins: continue doing what works to build on that performance.
I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.
First off, let me note a number of items that I read at the what may be the best source for Kings news, Rich Hammond's LA Kings Insider.
- The amazingly talented defenseman Drew Doughty remains out with a concussion. The timetable for his return may be next Thursday at the earliest. Therefore, he is not playing tonight.
Wayne Simmonds is questionable with the dreaded "lower body injury." He got hurt in the second period in Wednesday's 5-2 win over Dallas. The Kings will hope the young winger will be in, but his health comes first.
- Their head coach, Terry Murray, isn't taking the Devils lightly.
MURRAY: "This is a very hard game for us. We’re going to have to really make sure that we’re getting ourselves ready throughout the day. It’s not just a matter of coming to the game and having a presume warmup and then your meetings, and think that you’re going to be able to get it done that way. It’s going to require a lot more. Every player is going to have to spend some time getting themselves emotionally ready for a big challenge."
OK, that can be said for, well, any opponent. Still, that the coach regards the Devils in a second back-to-back road game in the middle of a west coast road trip as a "big challenge" shows that he's not looking ahead to the next opponent. I don't think Murray will allow the Devils to "sneak up" on the Kings tonight. Which is a shame because the Devils could certainly use the win a lot more than Los Angeles does right now.
That said, expect the Kings to put out their full line up. This means the talented Anze Kopitar (3G, 6 A, 33 SOG) and the team's co-leading scorer Justin Williams (4 G, 5 A, 28 SOG) will be bombing rubber on New Jersey all night long (along with Ryan Smyth: 3 G, 3 A, 32 SOG; and Jarret Stoll: 3 G, 4 A, 27 SOG) This means Dustin Brown putting in goals (5 G, 2 A, 28 SOG) and drawing plenty of penalties. This probably means Jonathan Quick will be in net and probably plays like he has been all season - exceptionally well.
|2010 - Jonathan Quick||7||429||6||1||14||1.96||194||180||.928||0|
Oh, and what about their Doughty-less defense? Jack Johnson and Willie Mitchell have that covered. Johnson is coming off a fine 3 assist night in Dallas and 22:16 of work. Mitchell scored his first goal of this season along with an assist while eating more time than Johnson with 24:56 of ice time. Both will be looking to build on their previous and productive game. Sure, Dallas outshot the Kings 32-24, but they were chasing the game for most of the night - I wouldn't necessarily take it as a sign that the Kings' blueline is porous.
Going back to the Devils, the lines John MacLean had last night worked very well. I noticed the defensive pairings moved around a bit, but the four lines seemed in sync and so MacLean didn't have to jumble them up. Jacob Josefson might play tonight, as he told Rich Chere he might be ready after missing Friday's game with a sore hand. If MacLean chooses to use him, then things will change. Yet, the Devils won with this lineup last night:
Why not run it again? They were smart together in Anaheim, they could do it again LA and they should be given the chance. Hence, this is my guess at the lineup. The team can improve of course. They can be a little smarter on the ice by attempting fewer touch passes in the neutral zone, taking fewer point shots through traffic (yes, when it goes on net it's fine, but most of the time, it's not getting to the net), and put out a more intense second period performance (still waiting on one of these).
All the same, please discuss tonight's game in the comments to this post in advance of the Gamethread. If you have any news to share, please link to the source. I did write this after the Ducks game, so I'm sure there will be some news updates to keep track of during the day. If you have any additional points, feel free to make them here. Let's go (and build on Friday night's win) Devils!