2/12 Pregame Primer: Devils vs. Hurricanes

E Staal

(Benjamin Reed/Wikimedia Commons)

New Jersey Devils (8-1-3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6-4-1) 7:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

Old playoff rivals meet up for the first time all season, as the ‘Canes head to northern New Jersey on this Tuesday night.  The Devils come in at first in the Eastern Conference while Carolina is third.  The Hurricanes have proven to be a very solid road team at 4-2-1 while the Devils have defended their rink at 5-0-1.

The Hurricanes are a high-flying offensive team and everybody knows the Devils stick to their bread and butter of defense and goaltending.  The Devils have seen a lot of teams like the Hurricanes of late.  Should be interesting to see that matchup head-to-head.

Here are some questions/thoughts/etc. for tonight’s contest:

1) Is a letdown in order?  It’s hard to think that the Devils won’t ease their foot off the gas pedal after sweeping a home-and-home series against the Penguins this past weekend.  This is a dangerous game for the Devils and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out tonight and got beat pretty soundly.  Pete DeBoer has the pulse of this team though and I think he’ll be able to lessen some of that hangover effect.

2) Stopping the big guns.  This is like any other matchup of late for the Devils.  They handled the Stamkos-Lecavalier-St. Louis line last week.  They did a REALLY nice job on Malkin and Crosby over the weekend.  Can they do the same thing to Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin.  If they can shut them down, the Devils’ opportunity to win this game elevates considerably.  They are Top-5 in the league in offense thus far.  Skinner is a small guy and Semin is too (more or less).  Staple them to the boards and don’t let them move.

3) Keep the special teams rolling.  The Devils PP and PK units have been fantastic of late.  They have a great opportunity to take care of that side of the puck tonight.  Carolina’s PP and PK comes in at 24th and 28th in the league.  Ouch.  The Devils don’t even need to convert at a spectacular rate but a 1-for-4 or 2-for-8 kind of night would go a long way towards a W.

4) Weaker win strength. While the Hurricanes lead their division, they have not shown a strong strength of victory.  Their most impressive wins have been over Ottawa and Toronto, who aren’t exactly elite teams.  They’ve lost to Tampa, Boston and heck…even Philadelphia…TWICE.  If the Devils find their legs early and there is no hangover from the weekend, the Devils could control the tempo of play.

Prediction: Hurricanes 3 Devils 1

This has letdown loss written all over it.  But is it really a letdown?  They’re on a five-game winning streak and have taken it to some of their divisional rivals.  Law of averages say a loss is coming at some point anyway.  If you’re going to pick a game to lose, it might as well be tonight.  It’s a team out of division.  The Penguins won’t gain any ground tonight since they don’t play.  The Devils haven’t seen them yet.

I think they will come out slow, much like in the last Islanders game at home.  They may fight back a little bit, but I think the Hurricanes will take their momentum from last night’s win and claim a victory at The Rock tonight.

But who knows?  It should be another sellout crowd tonight.  The building should be electric and if the Devils can get that first goal after a potential rocky start, like on Sunday, everything can change.  But we’ll say the law of averages indicate a Devils loss coming tonight.