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Game 74: It Must Be The Home Cooking…

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (43-25-5) face off against the Montreal Canadiens (37-30-8). The Devils currently lead the season series, 2-1-0.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils couldn’t put away the Rangers, allowing their rivals to tie the game late and win in a shootout, 4-3. The Devils took leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, but couldn’t hold off the Rangers. Chris Drury scored with 16 seconds left to tie the game, and Erik Christensen scored the only shootout goal in the Rangers win.

The Last Canadiens Game: The Canadiens defeated the Panthers, 4-1, Thursday night. Ex-Devil Brian Gionta scored two goals, his second two-goal game in his past four contests. Jaroslav Halak stopped 23 pucks for the victory.

The Last Devils – Canadians Game: The Canadiens defeated the Devils, 3-1, January 22nd at the Prudential Center. Zach Parise scored the lone goal for the Devils in the loss. Halak stopped 31 shots for the victory.

Tonight’s Matchup: While the Devils have lost four road games, they come to one of their favorite road arenas. The Devils have own the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, winning three in a row and seven of nine. What a better place to go to break a 2-11-2 stretch on the road?

This game is more than just a late regular season matchup. The game can be a preview to a future playoff series. The Devils sit in second and the Canadians sit in sixth, so there’s the possibility of the two teams facing off come April. The Devils will want to play well against a potential playoff opponent. They haven’t been able to beat Halak, allowing the Canadiens goalie to record a 1.47 goals against average against the team. The Devils need to get going on the road, and what a better place to turn around the road woes then Montreal. The past come into the game after two promising home games. Yes, the Devils did loss the game Thursday to the Rangers. But they’ve played two hard, almost 60-minute games. It’s been a lot more encouraging than some of the earlier games this month.

They need to continue that effort against the Canadiens. As coach Jacques Lemaire said the other day, if the Devils can’t get it together, they won’t go far in the postseason. This team has taken some major strides in the past two games, and they need to continue to improve. One of those improvements was the move of Travis Zajac to the second line. He’s really clicked with Ilya Kovalchuk, and as a result the left-winger has recorded five points in two games (2 G, 3 A). If they can put together another solid effort, I have no doubt they can win the game.

And just remember: Martin Brodeur is 37-16-0 with five ties and a 1.78 goals against average all-time against his hometown Canadiens. Expect him to raise his level of play, and I think the Devils will use that to put up a solid effort throughout the game. Every point matters at this time of year, and having a guy like Brodeur between the pipes in Montreal makes gaining at least one point a strong possibility.

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