2/7 Pregame Primer: Devils vs. Lightning

The highly-talented Tampa Bay Lightning roll into Newark tonight.(wknight94/Wikimedia Commons)

The highly-talented Tampa Bay Lightning roll into Newark tonight.(wknight94/Wikimedia Commons)

By Jeff O’Connor

New Jersey Devils (5-1-3) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (6-3-0) 7:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

With more games coming up against tough Eastern Conference opponents and Atlantic Division rivals, a good stretch can separate them from the rest of the pack.  The Devils are perhaps coming off their best 60-minute effort of the season; a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday.  Now, can they get on a roll like they had the first few games of the season?

Tonight, they will welcome in the Lightning; a team that got out to a blazing 6-1 start but have since dropped their last two.  They have pumped in a ridiculous 40 goals in nine games.  You know the names; Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are the studs.  A very top-heavy club much like the Rangers, these three snipers are much deadlier than anyone on New York.  It will be another tough battle at The Rock tonight.

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

1. No letdown.  It’s easy for a team to have their effort/passion dip after an intense game against a rival.  I expect that to happen tonight.  However, limiting that timeframe will be key.  I can live with them sleepwalking through the first five minutes.  They can bounce back from that.  When it gets towards the 10-minute mark and later, that’s when trouble is brewing.  Let’s hope they come out and at least play smart to begin the night.

2. Atlantic Ocean. The Lightning have lost to three teams so far this year.  All of them are from the Atlantic Divison…Islanders, Rangers and Flyers.  Certainly, there must be something to that.  The Lightning are fast and built to score, more so than defend.  Clog up the neutral zone.  If they get in the offensive zone, pin and seal them to the boards.  Don’t let them breathe.  That’s how most of the Atlantic teams tend to play, especially the Devils.  Stick to the basics.

3. Holding down the big guns. Just like Tuesday night; limit the QUALITY chances of their top players.  Rick Nash had two strong chances while Marian Gaborik had one.  Neither could bury their chance(s).  If they play the top line as tough as they did the Rangers’ top line on Tuesday night, I like NJ’s chances.

4. What is Anders Lindback? Beatable…that’s for sure.  He’s started seven games and has allowed two or more in six of them.  The one game he allowed less than a pair?  It was against the lowly Flyers.  If they can get an early first goal (we saw how huge that was on Tuesday), it gets the crowd into the game early and makes other teams get out of their element.

5. Waiting on the Kovalchuk line.  While the win on Tuesday was great, the top line contributed nothing on the stat sheet once again.  I really do think that once they get THAT goal they’ve been working so hard for, that things will start to click and they will gel from there.  I think their confidence will get a big boost on any type of goal.

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Prediction:  Devils 4 Lightning 3

I see the Devils struggling to keep pace early, but the defense and goaltending stepping up to let the offense find its rhythm.  I think the Devils hold a comfortable 4-2 lead with about 10 minutes to go before the Lightning sneak in a meaningless goal with under a minute to go in regulation.

Tonight’s Lineup:

Tweet us your predicted score @DevilsInsiders before the puck drops.

1 Comment

  1. NJ Devils Militia

    Post Ranger games are worrisome, especially against a team that can score at ease in most games.
    Devils will have to expoit TB”s defense tonight by getting the puck deep and grinding away along the boards.
    Also, limit the penalties, no unnecessary ones either.
    And lastly Marty has to play great again like he did vs the Rags.
    The Devils rely on strong goaltending since the roster is somewhat offensively-challenged at the moment.
    Hopefully our fans will be amped tonight and give Red & Black a boost.

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