By Dave Turner
New Jersey Devils (11-8-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (13-9-1), 7:00 pm PNC Arena- Raleigh, North Carolina
New Jersey finally got off the “schnide” with a shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. Though the win went a long way in terms of ending the losing streak and giving the Devils some confidence, this weekend can either completely wash away that sentiment, or find the Devils on a hot streak once again.
Saying that these two games aren’t huge would be an understatement. If the Devils fail to get at least two points, the Buffalo win means nothing.
Keep in mind that the Hurricanes are playing without starting goaltender Cam Ward who is injured. Starting in his place will be Dan Ellis.
Some thoughts and questions coming into tonight’s game:
1. The Devils need to score first. I feel like a broken record when I say this, but that’s because the Devils have not scored first in their last eight games. That results in a tough hill to climb. I don’t care who the opponent is, if you’re playing from behind, it’s going to be tough to come back.
2. Peter Harrold gets another chance to build on his solid performance against the Sabres. With injuries to Bryce Salvador and Henrik Tallinder, Harrold will be in the lineup again tonight. I really liked what I saw from him and it’ll be interesting to see if he can be even better with a game under his belt after his long lay-off.
3. Where is Ilya Kovalchuk? He was on fire with points early on in the season, but one part of the Devils slide that might have gone unnoticed was the fact that No. 17 isn’t scoring. He hasn’t scored in the past six games and he has only two goals over the last eleven. The fact of the matter is that when Kovy is on, the Devils follow suit, but when he’s not, they will struggle to score. He needs to have a good game tonight.
4. Can Moose play well again? For as bad as he was over the past few games, Johan Hedberg was very good against the Sabres. He came up with some huge saves that kept the game close, which allowed the Devils to come back. He’ll need to be good again tonight for the Devils to have a chance.
5. Can the new third line produce? Travis Zajac will be centering Stefan Matteau and Steve Bernier. While both wings have talent, putting Zajac on that line is more a product of his poor play than anything else. Zajac has struggled all season and the fact that the coaching staff is going with Andrei Loktionov over No. 19, shows just where he is right now.
Prediction: Devils 4 Hurricanes 2
I think that this team got some of their mojo back with the hard-fought win over Buffalo. It’ll translate into the Devils coming out hard and finding their way to some goals against Ellis and Hedberg will do enough to keep them ahead.