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Game 77: Madden Returns To The Rock

Tonight’s Matchup: The Chicago Blackhawks (47-22-7) face off against the New Jersey Devils (44-26-6). This is the second and final meeting between the teams this season. Chicago leads the series, 1-0.

Ex-Devil John Madden returns to The Rock tonight to face his former team. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Last Blackhawks Game: Chicago blanked the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, Wednesday night in Minnesota. The Blackhawks, only 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, received stellar goaltending from Antti Niemi, who stopped 21 shots for his seventh shutout of the season.

The Last Devils Game: The Bruins defeated the Devils, 1-0, in overtime Tuesday night in Newark. Jersey’s Team was behind the eight ball all night, allowing Boston to double their shot total (22-11) by the end of the second period. Boston center Patrice Bergeron knocked in a rebound to an open net with 18 seconds left in overtime to give Boston the win.

The Last Blackhawks – Devils Game: The Blackhawks defeated the Devils, 5-1, on New Years Eve in Chicago. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and John Madden tallied a goal against his former team. Jamie Langenbrunner broke up the Cristobal Huet shutout with 1:33 remaining in the third period.

Tonight’s Matchup: Just when I think I have the Devils figured out, they go and do the complete opposite. For the past few weeks, the Devils have played really well against playoff opponents, but terrible against non-playoff opponents. In their past two games, they’ve flipped the script. The Devils have lost two straight to playoff teams (Philadelphia and Boston), scoring one goal in both contests combined. What’s worse is the effort the team showed. In both games, the Devils were thoroughly outplayed by their opponent. It’s this inconsistency that drive me (and every other fan) crazy.

The team, much like the situation a few weeks ago, realizes they need to break out of the slump. Yesterday, the team held a meeting, attempting to address these concerns. The last time they held one of these meetings, they won four of their next five games. But meetings can only go so far. It’s time for action, and while the Devils looked to turn a corner last week, they’re right back at square one now. Langenbrunner realized the need to simply play better.

“There are certain points in the season where you need to be doing certain things to be successful and we haven’t done that in the last two games,” Langenbrunner told The Bergen Record. “There isn’t time to let it snowball. Do you need a meeting to fix that? There’s got to be a mindset change and I think we’ll be all right.”

The team needs to put a solid effort together tonight. Niemi is a solid young goaltender, and the Blackhawks are a deep and talented team. The Devils can’t sit back and wait for their opportunity. They need to come out attacking and pressuring Chicago. I believe Devils coach Jacques Lemaire should return Travis Zajac and Brian Rolston to the second line with Ilya Kovalchuk. They seemed to be doing well together and producing offensively. Patrik Elias cannot play with Kovalchuk, as we saw in Tuesday night’s game. Reuniting that second line combination gives the Devils two good scoring lines, which they will need against a potent Chicago team.

A win tonight would put the Devils into first place in the Atlantic Division and second place in the conference. These are two big points on the table, and the Devils need the points. Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch the action on the NHL Network and MSG Plus or on the radio on WFAN.

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