New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: Game Preview #72

After a heartbreaking loss last night, the Devils are right back at it against the Maple Leafs who are coming off a tough loss, as well.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+ & RDS2; Radio - WCBS 880

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (30-27-13) vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs (36-28-8; SBN Blog: Pension Plan Puppets)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils fell to the Rangers last night in a frustrating 2-0 loss. Martin Brodeur was in net, and while he had a solid game with 25 saves while the rest of the team could only muster up 21 shots, 10 of which were in the third period. Andy Greene took a killer penalty with just over two minutes left in the game, and while they put up a solid effort with the empty net, the Devils were shut out for the ninth time this season. Rick Nash scored during the second period and Derek Stepan sealed the win with an empty-netter.

Jaromir Jagr led the team with four shots on goal while Ruutu and Zajac each had three. Anton Volchenkov left the game early in the second period due to a lower body injury, leaving New Jersey to play with five defenders for most of the game. You can read the full recap if you'd like here.

The Last Maple Leafs Game: The Leafs had a frustrating loss last night, too. They fell 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens. Toronto came back to tie after falling behind 2-0 during the first period, and then tied it again when they fell behind 3-2 but eventually fell to 4-3 and couldn't get another one. Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Katri scored the Toronto goals while James Reimer was in net and made 32 saves out of 36. They fell to five points behind the Canadiens, who hold the third spot in the Atlantic Division. The recap of the game wasn't up when I finished the recap, but you can most likely find it on Pension Plan Puppets now.

The Last Devils-Maple Leafs Game: The last time the Devils faced the Maple Leafs was in mid-January. It was in Toronto, and the Devils fell 3-2 in the shootout. In fact, the Devils lost to Toronto in both meetings, but salvaged one point in each game. A game-winning shootout goal from James Van Riemsdyk helped the Maple Leafs snap a four game losing streak and Jonathan Bernier made 36 out of 38 saves that evening. On the other side, Cory Schneider was starting his third straight game and made 23 saves while Adam Henrique and Ryane Clowe each scored to tie the game send it to overtime (it was Clowe's first goal of the season). It was a familiar game during the middle of the season - the Devils out shot Toronto, they controlled nearly the entire game, and seemingly deserved to win, but ended up with just one point to show for it. You can read John's full recap here.

The Goal: Both the Devils and Maple Leafs are coming off of heartbreaking losses last night. It will be vital to come out strong and keep the energy going for a full 60 minutes. 21 shots won't cut it against a team that makes the most of their opportunities. It seemed like every other shot last night went wide - get the puck on net.

They're Desperate, Too: With a loss tonight and a Columbus win, Toronto would be out of a Wildcard spot. Both would have 80 points, but Columbus has two games at hand. They will be just as hungry as the Devils for two points as the playoffs are right around the corner.

Who to Watch: The Leafs have a few threats in the lineup. Phil Kessel has 75 points - 35 goals and 40 assists, good for third in the NHL. Kessel may be the biggest target, but he isn't the only one. New Jersey will also have to watch out for James Van Riemsdyk. He has 27 goals and 29 assists in 70 games played. A few other guys to watch out for are Nazem Katdri, Mason Raymond and Joffrey Lupul. They don't have the most points, but players like Lupul are always a threat.

Strong(ish) Special Teams: While the Devils have the upper hand in both the power play and penalty kill, the Leafs do have the number five power play in the league, so it must be discussed. They went 1-for-2 with the man advantage last night and have scored three PPGs in their last five games. On the other side of special teams, Toronto is one of the worst on the penalty kills (28th in the league) with a 78.5% success rate. The Devils are first in the league with an 86.8% success rate.

The Great Goalie Debate: Like the Devils, the Leafs have been using two goalies pretty evenly throughout the season. It looks like the Devils will be facing Reimer, who is playing for the second straight night because Bernier is injured. So why talk about the debate? While both goalies have similar numbers so far this season, Bernier grabbed the number one spot before he was injured. Reimer was surprised last week when head coach Randy Carlyle said he thought the goalie was "just OK" during a loss to Detroit in which James thought he was good. Is there more of a controversy? JP Nikota at Pension Plan Puppets wrote two solid pieces on the goaltender situation in Toronto and who deserves to be the number one if you'd like to read up on it before the match tonight.

In the other net, we will see Cory Schneider. He has been less than consistant since the Olympic break. He will need to have a solid night following a game in which his team was shutout and didn't get many shots on net.

The Return of Clarkson: How much do we care? The Devils have faced Clarkson twice already this season and he hasn't made much of an impact in either game, or this season for that matter. It is a big game for him as it is his first back in New Jersey, and while Brodeur is hoping he will be booed like Parise was and that we shake him up a bit, I have a feeling our throats are still sore from booing on Thursday evening. He may get it to some extent, but I don't expect anything like the welcome Parise received.

What Else to Watch: With Anton Volchenkov injured last night we may see Gelinas back in the lineup. That could be the plan regardless with the Devils failing to score last night and his offensive ability. It will also be interesting to see the lines - they were shuffled like crazy during the third period last night. We saw Zubrus back is Zajac and Jagr, Henrique and Elias together, then split, then together again, then split again. There may not be a morning skate since the team played last night, so the lineup may not be released until later in the day.

While the loss last night didn't completely knock the Devils out of the playoff race, they can't afford to lose much of anything anymore. They obviously need to score, and they'll need as strong of an effort from Schneider as they got from Brodeur last night. Along with a win, we need to root for the Islanders to beat Columbus and Minnesota to defeat Detroit.

Your Take: What's the outcome tonight? If the Devils get a much-needed win, do you think they can go on a streak to make a run for the playoffs? Do you think Brunner is back in the lineup? Who sits in his place? Would you like to see Gelinas back in, as well? Are you going to be booing Clarkson when he takes the ice in New Jersey for the first time since going home to Toronto? Feel free to leave predictions and thoughts on the game in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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