The Time: 7 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+ (HD) for local coverage. As far as I know, 660 AM WFAN will not have this game.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils iced a mix of rookies and vets in Philadelphia, but ended up losing in the shootout 4-3. There were a number of positives from the game, though. Henrik Tallinder, Alexander Urbom, and Dainius Zubrus among others certainly impressed with their performances.
The Last Rangers Game: Not applicable, tonight's their first preseason game. Check out Blueshirt Banter regardless, should you want Rangers information.
The Rookie Game: It's at 1 PM, in the Devils' practice rink, and it is not open to the public. I suggest following Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice and his game-specific twitter account @fireandicegame for any updates for that game.
The Goal: The Devils will definitely put out a different lineup from Tuesday night. As reported earlier today by Tom Gulitti, head coach John MacLean has already confirmed part of the lineup, a few you may have heard of:
Devils coach John MacLean confirmed that goaltender Martin Brodeur and the Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk line will play on Thursday night’s preseason game against the Rangers, but said not all of the players that were in that first group that practiced today will be in the lineup.
The cast may be different, but the goal remains largely the same. Don't be concerned about the result, but put out a strong performance and stay healthy. This is the time of the season to iron out any wrinkles, develop chemistry with players, and try out new things. A win over Our Hated Rivals would be nice, but the game will be meaningless in a few weeks regardless. Read on after the jump for further thoughts on tonight's game.
The Rangers already have their lineup set for their first preseason game. Similar to the Flyers, they're putting in several veterans tonight. I can understand the decision; this is the ideal time to get everyone prepared. Steve Zipay of Newsday's Blue Notes blog had this short post spelling out the roster.
Rozsival, Zuccarello, Sauer, Biron, McDonagh, Stepan, Boogaard, Girardi, Prust, Gaborik, Kennedy, Dubinsky, Staal, Fedotenko, Boyle, Semenov, Christensen, Johnson, Frolov, Weise.
Gulitti confirmed this group, Martin Biron will get the start, and I see it'll be another good test for the Devils' youngsters like Tuesday's game. As of this writing (8 PM on 9/22) MacLean still hasn't decided who else will fill out the roster. MacLean told Gulitti that he may use the some of the prospects he played on Tuesday in tonight's game. It'll certainly be interesting to see who gets a second straight game. It would mean that the player has earned another look on the ice, and the Devils may seriously consider them beyond the first round of cuts. Congratulations in advance to whoever that is (Urbom? Corrente? Josefson? Vasyunov?)
In the meantime, there are a three of prospects I would love to see play tonight. First and foremost is Mattias Tedenby. He's fast, he's got offensive upside, he's one of the most talented prospects in the system, and he's even getting attention on the official website. I see no reason for MacLean to not play Tedenby in a preseason game. So why not tonight?
I'd also like to see Eric Gelinas get some ice time. Gelinas, in all likelihood, is going to back to his junior team before the NHL season begins. He would have to play ludicrously good hockey to surpass the glut of young defenders looking to break into the NHL. However, I would like to see how his game has improved a year since being drafted. Rich Chere had a good article on Gelinas' development today, and a preseason game would be a good way to gauge his progress so far. If he doesn't play tonight, he may play in the rookie game instead; but I'd like to see how he would respond to the next level now.
Lastly, there's the other young center in camp, Adam Henrique. Josefson didn't look out of place on Tuesday playing alongside NHL wingers against NHL players. I'd like to see Henrique being given a similar opportunity. However, he wasn't in that spot in practice yesterday; he was the pivot for Tim Sestito and Patrick Davis. Perhaps things will change before or during the game? Perhaps Henrique hasn't impressed as much as Josefson? Who knows, but being put on the ice would give us some clues to answering those questions.
As for the vets, the main goal is to stay healthy and get back into their rhythm. A lot of attention will be put on the line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Ilya Kovlachuk. Partially because of Ilya Kovalchuk himself, and partially because he and Parise have been left wings. As reported by Tom Gulitti yesterday, Kovalchuk gave some insight to how this line may operate:
Kovalchuk playing on the right side, especially entering the offensive zone, "is a little different."
"But like I said, we’re always switching," he said. "With the new system we’ve got, we’re always kind of switching and stuff, so I think it’s not going to be that tough."
Kovalchuk said lining up for faceoffs isn’t really different either.
"Even on faceoffs, sometimes I’m going on left side and Zach goes on the right side," he said. "We just need to talk more and help each other out, just support each other because most of the time we play together in the corners it doesn’t really matter."
I think that is how the line should be judged after tonight's game. Not whether they put up a lot of points (though, it would be nice), but whether the trio are communicating with each other, making the best on-ice decisions when possible, not getting caught out of position, and generally moving the puck well on offense. I'd be much happier with a Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk line that is organized and working well that didn't produce over that line producing but working inconsistently. Preseason is the time to try out new
The other veteran I would suggest keeping a close eye on is Brian Rolston. As wonderful it would be for the cap if he could be moved, I think he's stuck here. I don't think anyone honestly expects him to play like he's worth $5 million, but the Devils should make the best of a bad situation. I want to see him make a positive mark on tonight's game. If the chance for him to do that isn't there, then I want to see him try anyway.
As far as Brodeur goes, I would think he'd play half or two-thirds of the game. He usually does that in early preseason games; he goes the full 60 closer to the end of preseason. I don't know if he'll start, but I wouldn't be concerned over that. His position isn't up for grabs anyway.
In terms of team performances, I would like to see an improved power play performance. The Devils did OK on the first full one against Philly, but wasted the second by struggling to establish possession on offense. That's not good to see, even if it was a mix of vets and prospects. I know the personnel has an impact, but in general, I want the Devils to at least pin the Rangers back on man-advantages. Regardless of experience, they need to take advantage on territorial possession. If they score, then great. But I think more important that they work on setting up plays. The execution can be a focus in later games, when the roster is more concrete.
Thankfully, tonight's game will be on TV, so those of us in NJ can actually watch these guys play. Let's hope they do well. Good luck to the rookies in the afternoon, as well. Please feel free to talk about either game in the comments, link to updates regarding lineups and gameday news, and ask any questions. Thanks for reading.