The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV – VERSUS
The Last Devils Preseason Game: Beaten. Smashed. Pasted. These adjectives and more can describe the Devils' 6-2 loss to the Islanders last Saturday. Tom Stivali has the recap of that game right here.
The Last Flyers Preseason Game: The Flyers took on the Rangers and came out 5-3 winners in a penalty-laden game. Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey recapped the game here.
The Goal(s): Tonight begins a stretch of three games in three nights to close out the Devils’ preseason. Not that the Flyers will offer much sympathy since they played four games in a row last week. In any case, with preseason winding down, both teams will be using this final week of preseason to figure out their opening night roster. For the Devils, this game will be especially huge for anyone on the bubble, such as Petr Sykora or the multitude of defensemen still in camp. Those will be the players to look out for as they have plenty to prove. As for the veterans who are pretty much guaranteed a roster spot, look for them to pick up the pace and get organized as Peter DeBoer sees fit. Above all else, hope for no injuries (and no slurs from Wayne Simmonds, assuming he’s even in the lineup tonight).
For a few more thoughts on tonight’s game, please continue on after the jump. For the other side, please check out Broad Street Hockey.
Back on Tuesday, DeBoer admitted to Gulitti that with three games in three nights, everyone in camp has a shot to get a game. Though, that doesn't necessarily mean everyone has a shot to make the team. In that post, it's easily inferred that Alexander Urbom is a victim of the numbers game. I would think Urbom's cheap contract and development will force the Devils to move him to New Jersey at some point this season, if not next season. However, it doesn't seem like he'll make the opening night lineup. Since Steve Zalewski, Stephen Gionta, and Chad Wiseman were put on waivers on Monday, that's a clear sign that they're also Albany-bound to at least start the season (and likely for the whole season). Everyone else has some
As usual, it's unclear as of this time as far as who will be playing for the Devils tonight. According to Tom Gulitti, Peter DeBoer says Adam Larsson will get two of the next three games - but he didn't mention whether that would mean tonight. According to that same post, Gulitti doesn't think Anton Volchenkov will be playing tonight, though he did skate and participated in Wednesday's scrimmage. Dainius Zubrus also skated on Wednesday but didn't play in the scrimmage, so I'd be surprised if he plays tonight. Assuming they're out, that leaves something like 39 other players left for DeBoer to fill out the roster. We'll find out on gameday who that will be, of course.
That said, it's just as unclear coming out of Philadelphia. I can tell you who won't be there. Tom Sestito got suspended for the rest of preseason for a nasty hit on Andre Deveaux in the Flyers-Rangers game; and he was sent down to Adirondack anyway, so he's not going to play tonight. On Tuesday, Frank Seravalli reported at Frequent Flyers that James van Reimsdyk, Andreas Nodl, and Brayden Schenn are all suffering from minor injuries. All three are at least questionable to play tonight. In the same post, Scott Hartnell was cleared to play so he could be in the lineup tonight. There's that at least. Still, pay a little attention as to who is out there as the team needs to figure out their roster as well. As this article at CSN Philly by Tim Panaccio shows, it's not at all clear.
Going back to New Jersey, I will say that whoever is on defense that wants to make the team and isn't a veteran (at least not on a tryout contract) should be quite motivated for this week. These next three games will determine who's here or not, and for some defenders, they may only get one shot at it. It could even be tonight. Among them all, I think Matt Taormina needs to step up and show some sign that he can handle the responsibilities of a defenseman at the NHL level. He wasn't terrible against the Rangers last Friday, but he was against the Islanders on the very next night. When the head coach isn't being subtle about being a liability in your own zone, it's not a good sign - especially in this organization. If he can show off his stuff tonight - if he plays tonight - and changes DeBoer's mind, then all the better. If not, then what will Taormina can show New Jersey at age 25? (Note: he's got an October birthday, so he'll be 25 soon.) For him and maybe a few others, it's a classic case of "If not now, then when?" with Taormina. Should he get in a game - like maybe tonight's - then pay close attention when he's on the ice.
Up front, again assuming he plays, the guy to look for is Petr Sykora. He's stood out in training camp and preseason to a point where it's a serious question whether he gets a contract or not. Matt had a good article on that question yesterday. Can he keep up on the wing? Can he keep up in multiple games? How much can he contribute at even strength? How much will he shoot overall? These are the questions Sykora's play can answer - and they'll go some way in determining whether he should get a deal from the Devils. We may get them tonight - or on some other night.
Outside of the players, I would like to see how the Devils' forecheck goes up against the Flyers' breakout tonight. They were plenty aggressive against the Rangers and it paid some nice dividends in their games against them. Will it be as effective against a tougher Philly team? If it isn't, what will he change it to during the game? Well, that will depend on who's on each side, of course. But if you're looking for a "big picture," tactical goal for this game, then that's the one since it's a key change DeBoer has brought to the Devils so far.
What will you be focusing on as you watch tonight's game? Who do you think will even play (assuming you see this before rosters are known)? Is there a player or two you want to see in action? What are your expectations for this game? Please feel free to leave your answers and other comments on tonight's game in the comments. Thanks for reading.