2/24 Pregame Primer: Devils vs. Jets

Jets Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (John Slipec/Wiki Commons)

Jets Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (John Slipec/Wiki Commons)

By Dave Turner

New Jersey Devils (10-4-4) at. Winnipeg Jets (7-9-1), 5:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

There’s not much sense in getting into yesterday’s game in Washington D.C. other than the fact that is was an abysmal performance by the Devils. They hung around for two periods and then got out worked by a desperate Capitals team that clearly wanted it more.

As bad as yesterday was, the Devils can quickly put that in the past if they come out strong today against the Jets.

Here are some thoughts/questions coming into today’s game:

1. What’s going on down the middle? Adam Henrique has struggled of late and that pales in comparison to the struggles of Travis Zajac. Zajac, who signed an eight year, 5.5 million dollar per year contract just a few weeks ago, needs to be told that it’s not Halloween and he shouldn’t be wearing his ghost costume to the rink. Okay, all corny jokes aside, he hasn’t been producing. Especially when he’s playing with someone like Ilya Kovalchuk who is at the top of his game, it’s even more frustrating that Zajac has been struggling. When Andrei Loktionov is getting ice time with Kovy and Alexei Ponikarovsky, you know something just isn’t right.

2. There has to be a sense of urgency today. Yes, I know that the Devils are still tied for first place in the conference in terms of points, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. You can make the case that the Devils haven’t played a good game since the second game of the back-to-back against the Penguins. The Devils have managed just five of twelve possible points since those two wins. They MUST come out and play a strong game today, especially with a three day layoff before their next game in Winnipeg.

3. The Specials haven’t been special. The penalty kill was a major strength for this team last year, but this season, it is their achilles heel. The power play isn’t much better either. If the Devils expect to go anywhere next year, they have to be better both with a man-advantage and a man-down.

4. Whats wrong with the defense? Our readers on twitter have been throwing around hatred towards the likes of Henrik Tallinder, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov. When you have that many names being thrown under the bus on your defense, you know there are issues. Sure, you could throw in Peter Harrold for one of them and Mark Fayne has been reinserted for Tallinder, but there is a major issue for the time-being. Will these guys pick up their level of play, or will the Devils be scrambling to make a trade at the deadline?

5. What can we expect today?. After being embarrassed yesterday, you’ll find out a lot about the mettle and resolve of this team by how they come out today. The Jets can score and Evander Kane has been hot, but they are also a defensively-suspect team. With the Devils struggling to put pucks in the net as of late, the Jets SHOULD be a team that the Devils can score on, but if they don’t, they can’t expect to win this game to the tune of 2-1, I just don’t see it happening.

Prediction: Devils 4, Jets 3

You have to expect that the Devils will come out strong in this game. They had a few extra hours off after the early start yesterday and they should be angry from their debacle in the nation’s capital. If this team is anything like their record indicates, they should be able to come out and play a strong game to silence the critics and get back on track.

I believe that they’ll come out and put pressure on the Jets with their forecheck and force them into some turnovers. They should be able to find their way into a couple of goals. I don’t think it’ll be easy, as the Jets will challenge the Devils with their offense. Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien give them a nice 1-2 punch from the blue line, but in the end New Jersey will find a way to get the two points.