2/21 Pregame Primer: Devils at Capitals

Source: Wiki Commons

Source: Wiki Commons

This is a big game for the Devils tonight. Though it’s a road matchup against the team that is currently the worst in the Eastern Conference, don’t be fooled into thinking this game should be a gimme, or anything of that sorts.

The Devils MUST start fast tonight and not let the Capitals gain some momentum. They started out the season terribly and have been playing better as of late. You have to expect that they’re looking at these two home games against New Jersey as a place to turn around their season.

Blink once, you might lose the first. Blink twice and if the Capitals win both games here over the next three days, there could be big trouble brewing for the red and black.

How to avoid all of that? It’s simple, go out and win tonight. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to even be flashy. They just need to get two points and start to put this small slide behind them.

Here are some points and questions coming into tonight’s game:

1. Tallinder, again, really? It looks like Henrik Tallinder is playing again today. I’m not sure why, unless they’re trying to get him to play a bit better in order to move him later on. He’s been dreadful this season and it should lead to some tense moments again tonight. Maybe he’ll start to wake up and prove us wrong.

2. Once again, stay out of the box. The PK has struggled and a good way to give a bad team like the Capitals a chance is to give them some power plays. Make them beat you 5-on-5 and you’ll be much better off. The last thing the Devils want to do is give up an early power play goal.

3. Would it be too much to ask for a 60-minute effort? In the past few games, the Devils have either gotten off to a fast start and fizzled, or started slow and worked their way back into the game. You can’t keep living and dying by those big ebbs and flows. If they’re going to start winning games on a consistent basis it will be because they start strong and keep up the pace the whole way.

4. What can Stefan Matteau do on the third line? Not to diminish anything that the CBGB line has done, because they’ve been great, but Matteau brings more natural scoring ability than any of those three have. The question is, does he have the drive and physicality to play their style. Regardless, with Ryan Carter out, the young winger will get his chance.

5. Someone take over the game.  Yes, it would be nice for a big group effort among 18 players and a goalie.  But some nights in the NHL, though, your money player(s) have to dominate.  Someone needs to have a big performance.  Patrik Elias has had four three-point games this year.  He hasn’t gone more than four games in a row without a three-point night. He hasn’t had one in his last two. Is it him?  One point for David Clarkson in his last four games…multi-goal performance tonight?  Adam Henrique? No points in his last four.  While anyone would be a great candidats to have a big night, maybe Clarkie and Henrique need it a bit more.

Prediction: Devils 3 Capitals 2

I wanted to pick the Capitals because I just have this feeling that this one could get out of hand, but then again maybe I need to reel in my thoughts just a bit. This is a well coached veteran team that knows the importance of stopping any losing streaks in a shortened season. In the end, they’ll do just enough to squeeze out a victory.

Projected Line Combinations:

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk

Patrik Elias – Adam Henrique – David Clarkson

Stefan Matteau – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier

Krys Barch – Andrei Loktionov – Bobby Butler.

Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene – Adam Larrsson

Henrik Tallinder – Anton Volchenkov

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur