3/4 Pregame Primer: Devils at Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf/(Wiki Commons)

Maple Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf/(Wiki Commons)

After their disappointing loss in Buffalo, the Devils take to the road again, this time, north of the boarder in Toronto.

Firstly, this is not the same Leafs team that we’ve seen the last few years. This team has had its ups and downs, but they’ve played some good games against very good opponents. Toronto looks like a team that is on it’s way towards the playoffs.

The Air Canada Centre hasn’t exactly been kind to the Devils over the past few years, so they’ll need a big performance in order to get a much needed win tonight.

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

1. How desperate are the Devils right now? Well, they got a point against Buffalo, but you have to think that this team is in dire need of a win. With five games on the schedule this week, if they don’t break the trend, they may not only be out of the top eight in the East, but also under .500. Expect the Devils to come out hard and try to reverse their recent trend.

2. Is this the last stand for Moose? He wasn’t that sharp against Buffalo and he has struggled in most of his starts lately. With Martin Brodeur not likely to be back for Tuesday, do we see Keith Kinkaid if Johan Hedberg falters tonight? There has to be a point where if he’s not producing, a change has to be made. Toronto has some potent scorers in the likes of James Van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel and their secondary scorers such as Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin.

3. The power play has been offensive..And no, not the kind that results in goals. The man-advantage has looked lost as times and you can point to that as one of the reasons for the team’s recent slide. I still don’t understand why Marek Zidlicky gets so much time as the first unit power play quarterback. It’s not like they’re having any sort of success with him there. It’s time to give Adam Larsson some power play minutes.

4. The Devils need to score first. One of the alarming things about their recent skid is that the other teams have been scoring first. This means that the red and black are playing catch up. You don’t want to have to do that every night. Especially when you’re on the front end of a back-to-back, if you have to press to even up the score every night, you’re going to be gassed by the end of the game.

5. Is this the game we see David Clarkson re-emerge? Clarky was on fire to start the season, but he has since cooled down considerably. Clarkson is from the area and loves playing in Toronto. It would go a long way if Clarkson could end up with a point or two tonight.

6. How bad will this get? Sure, they’re slumping, but a span of 4-out-of-5 or something to that tune will make everyone quickly forget about this stretch. On the contrary, there could be widespread panic by about 9:30 pm Tuesday night if things don’t break well. Basically, the Devils are at an impasse right now, where they can quickly right the ship, or things could end up snowballing out of control.

Prediction: Maples Leafs 4, Devils 2

I just have a bad feeling about this matchup. The Leafs are a hungry and gritty team that can score in bunches when they’re on. They will test Hedberg and I just don’t think he’s up to the challenge. I think the Devils will play from behind for most of the night and although they’ll cut it to 3-2 in the 3rd period, Toronto will bury the empty-netter to give them the win.