By Dave Turner
After what was arguably their worst performance of the year in Saturday night’s game out on the island, the Devils start a new week with a lot to prove. Can they quickly put that debacle behind them and focus on the task at hand?
They’ll have to, as the Pittsburgh Penguins have taken over first place and are showing no signs of slowing up. With a game today against a wounded Ottawa team, this is a game the Devils should win. Plain and simple, they need to get two points out of this one.
Here are some questions/thoughts/etc. for tonight’s contest:
1. Whats up with the penalty kill? Yes, the Islanders seem to have the Devils number in that regard, but it doesn’t make it okay. The PK was a major strength last season, but this year it has struggled mightily at times. The first way to help you PK is to stay out of the box. New Jersey must do that today, to limit the Sens chances with the man-advantage.
2. Start hot and stay hot. The Devils have struggled to get going at times this season, but they’ve also had a few bad third periods as well. This team needs to give a 60-minute effort today and it starts with a disciplined, hard fought first period. There can’t be the major ebbs and flows that the Devils have faced in their last two games.
3. They need to score early. Though they got an early one against Philly, that period turned and then when they couldn’t score early on against the Islanders, they became more and more confident as the game went on. The biggest thing the Devils can do is to score one or two quick ones and then settle the period down and make the Senators chase.
4. They need a big game from Brodeur. Yes, Marty was excellent in the second and third periods against the Flyers, but he wasn’t so great in the first. He’s had some nice moments as of late, but what the Devils really need today is a full-game performance from #30 that will give them a chance to win, even if they start slow.
5. Henrik Tallinder, will you please step up? Tallinder has been DREADFUL at times this season and that would have been a nice way to describe his game on Saturday. He’s still in the lineup today. Is PDB giving him one last chance to right the ship?
Prediction: Devils 3, Senators 1
I expect NJ to come into this one with a chip on their shoulder after being embarrassed on Saturday. Ottawa is playing without it’s two best players in Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, so they are not quite the threat that they could be. I expect the Devils to come out hard and take an early lead and hold it the rest of the way.
Here are today’s projected lines and pairings:
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias – Adam Henrique – David Clarkson
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta -Steve Bernier
Krys Barch – Andrei Loktionov – Bobby Butler.
Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder – Anton Volchenkov
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur.