The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - 660 AM WFAN
The Last Devils Game: See the "The Last Devils-Jets Game" section.
The Last Jets Game: On Monday night, the Jets flew into Ottawa to play the Senators. While they were without Blake Wheeler, Jim Slater got the Jets on the board early as he re-directed a Chris Thorburn into the net. The Jets pounded the Senators with shots all night long and they doubled their lead in the second period when a Tobias Enstrom slapshot beat Craig Anderson from distance. With a 35-25 shot differential, a lead in the third period, and not giving the game away, the Jets faithful have every reason to be pleased with a strong 2-0 win over Ottawa. TJCAPS has this short recap of the game over at Arctic Ice Hockey.
The Last Devils-Jets Game: The Devils stopped in Manitoba to play the Jets to end their four game road trip. Compared to the other three games on the trip, the Devils didn't so poorly. They did, however, go down first when Andrew Ladd scored on a shot Martin Brodeur should have stopped near the end of the first period. Still, the Devils had a slight edge in possession and came so close to tying it in the second period, only for Ondrej Pavelec to make a few tough stops. The Devils did manage an equalizer when Dainius Zubrus won his first and only faceoff in Winnipeg's end all afternoon and Kurtis Foster swooped in and fired a lovely wrist shot to beat Pavelec short-side. The Devils would take a 2-1 lead when Patrik Elias dummied a Petr Sykora pass, which allowed Adam Larsson to get the puck. Larsson saw Elias open and breaking to the net; so he made an excellent pass through the slot that Elias banged into the net with no problem. The Devils would keep the Jets honest, earned a penalty shot (Elias did not convert), and it was only in the final minute of the game did the Jets really pour on the pressure. Martin Brodeur remained big, the defense did what they could to hold them off, and the Devils held on to win. My recap of the game is right here; and TJCAPS has this short recap over at Arctic Ice Hockey should you want an opposing perspective.
The Goal: Utilize the home-ice advantage to get the Elias line, among other units, going. The one common feature across the three wins in the recent road trip was how the Patrik Elias line got beaten in possession. Sure, Elias scored the game winning goal in Winnipeg and that game featured a modification with David Clarkson taking Dainius Zubrus' usual spot at right wing. Yet, they've struggled in the tough match-ups in recent games. Opposing coaches knew that and acted accordingly. That has to stop to make it easier for the team to compete. Even if their struggles aren't necessarily ending up against the goal against, if Peter DeBoer wants to continue using Elias, Sykora, and Clarkson/Zubrus as their power line, then they need to get back into positive territory in possession. That means the players have to work to get shots on net and it means that the coach has to put them in a better position to succeed if they struggle early on. Now that the Devils will play at home until the beginning of February, DeBoer will have the last change. Let's hope he makes full use of it tonight.
I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. For the opposition's point of view in general, please check out Arctic Ice Hockey.Since the Devils just played the Jets, please check out the preview of the last game if you're unfamiliar with how the Jets are playing overall this season. The purpose of this preview will be to summarize what's happened since then.
|2011-12 - Patrik Elias||43||16||25||41||-4||14||6||1||3||94||17.0|
Let's start with the Devils. As much as the Elias line hasn't done too well in terms of possession in recent games, Patrik Elias has certainly been hot. With the game winning goal on Saturday, Elias has a five-game point streak; on it, he scored 3 goals and picked up 4 assists. He may not be doing so well in preventing the other team from attacking at evens or generating a lot of shots; but he's at least getting points. I'm confident Elias (and Sykora and Zubrus) will get back on track eventually. I just hope it's soon, preferably tonight. The team as a whole ended up even against the Jets, as indicated by the 0 in Corsi the Devils had at the end of the game and further backed up by the BW Chart by Bettman's Nightmare over at Arctic Ice Hockey.
It's an open question whether Dainius Zubrus will return to the right wing position along side those two tonight. Adam Henrique was held out of the Winnipeg game for a minor groin strain. On Monday, Tom Gulitti reported that Henrique skated but didn't practice and will be a gameday decision for tonight's game. I hope he'll be fine enough to play tonight if only to set the Elias line back to what it has been and to put David Clarkson on a line where he really should be. If not, I would expect the same top six from Saturday's game and the team will call up a twelfth forward to fill out the bottom six.
Why a twelfth forward? Well, the Devils sent down Nick Palmieri back to the AHL, as reported here by Gulitti on Monday morning. I can't say he hasn't earned the demotion. He was called up a few games back, he had every reason to make an impact in limited minutes, and he has done nothing with it. So it goes for the young winger. Incidentally, Lou was at the Albany-Adirondack game on Monday afternoon as mentioned in this short post by Gulitti. Surely that visit and the Devils' 5-3 win will sway Lou's opinion on who to call up. Maybe it'll be Jacob Josefson. I really hope it won't be Tim Sestito.
I do expect the Devils defense to be fine tonight. They did a good job in their own end against Winnipeg's top players and they chipped in quite a bit on offense. They're going to have a little more of a challenge tonight should Blake Wheeler play. Wheeler started in the Devils-Jets game, but he was knocked out of the game in the second period when he took a Sykora shot to the throat. Wheeler couldn't play then, but he was ruled just fine by the medical staff. However, as Ed Tait noted in the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, he didn't travel with the Jets to Ottawa. Who knows if he goes to New Jersey at this point? As the team's leading scorer, he would be a player of concern for the Devils' defense. He'll be out there with their big guns: Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane. Maybe Bryan Little will get in the mix somewhere, depending on how Claude Noel wants to use his lines. If Wheeler's not playing, then that helps a bit - though Ladd, Kane, and Little remain threats.
Speaking of familiar, the Jets will see Martin Brodeur in net again as Gulitti confirmed he'll start tonight's game. Brodeur was pretty good, though his one goal allowed should have been stopped. Nevertheless, Brodeur has a good opportunity as any to really get back into his groove. There shouldn't be anything by the Jets that should surprise him. It'll go both ways, though. Since Chris Mason got the start in Ottawa for the Jets, the Devils forwards will likely see Ondrej Pavelec again. Pavelec played pretty well and didn't have much of a chance on either goal against in that game. Hopefully the Devils can get him moving and possibly lift the puck when he is going post to post. Alternatively, use the skaters in front of him to his disadvantage.
One final point, the Jets haven't been very successful on the road this season. They're 7-11-4, their close score Fenwick% is much lower on the road than at home (51.31% to 49.24%); and they just played a game last night in Ottawa. While they performed rather well the Senators, fatigue could be an issue. All the more reason for DeBoer to really take advantage of having the last change to get good line match-ups. For example, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk saw plenty of Jim Slater and his line on Saturday in Winnipeg. At home, DeBoer will have the chance to move them off that unit and against more defensively prone Jets line or defensive pairing (read: one that doesn't include Tobias Enstrom). That could pay off huge, especially if Kovalchuk continues to be a SOG machine - which has not coincidentally boosted his possession.
What do you think will happen in this rematch of Saturday's game? Will the Devils enjoy better possession en route to another victory? Do you see the Jets putting up more of a fight in spite of playing last night since they pasted the Sens? Will the Elias line have a good night, or will they struggle again? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.