Home > Game Previews > Game 79: Kovalchuk Returns To Atlanta

Game 79: Kovalchuk Returns To Atlanta

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (45-26-7) face off against the Atlanta Thrashers (34-32-13). This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. The Devils lead the series, 2-1-0.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP Photo

The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated Carolina, 4-0, Saturday night in Raleigh. Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and David Clarkson all tallied goals for the Devils. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 shots for his eighth shutout of the season.

The Last Thrashers Game: The Thrashers lost in overtime, 4-3, Saturday in Pittsburgh. The Penguins, trailing 3-1 in the third, received goals from Tyler Kennedy and Sergei Gonchar to tie the game. Jordan Leopold scored the overtime winner to down the Thrashers. The loss didn’t help the Thrasher’s playoff chances, as they remained 10th in the standings.

The Last Devils – Thrashers Game: The Devils defeated the Thrashers, 3-2, at the Prudential Center. Parise tallied two goals, and Ilya Kovalchuk scored against the Devils. Brodeur made 24 saves for the win.

Tonight’s Matchup: The main story dominating the headlines is the return of Kovalchuk to Atlanta. Many people are wondering whether he’ll be booed or cheered. But, according to this article by Tom Gulliti, Atlanta players hope he will be cheered. All the talk has been about Kovalchuk possibly re-signing with the Devils or going to Russia, could he come back to Atlanta, etc., etc. But Kovalchuk is excited to play against his old team. He said he doesn’t know what will happen, but something will tonight.

“I’ll do something tonight,” he said to Gulliti.

But lost in this commotion is the actual game. The Thrashers are a desperate team clinging to a slim chance at a playoff berth. They’re going to be playing desperate because, if they lose tonight and Philadelphia wins, they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Devils will have to respond to that energy. The team played very well Saturday in Carolina. They attacked the ‘Canes, they forced turnovers and they put tough shots on goalie Cam Ward. It was their best 60 minute effort in quite some time. The ‘Canes had an off night, and I’m sure Atlanta will come out with piss and vinegar tonight.

The Devils need to respond to that energy and attack early. If they can control the tempo and the momentum, they may be able to wear the Thrashers down early. Remember, the Devils are fighting for second seed in the conference. They catch a break tonight, because the Penguins have a tough test against the Capitals. One point tonight guarantees the Devils home-ice advantage for the first round. But they shouldn’t settle for that. As I discussed earlier, the second seed looks to be the best position to get the Devils to the Eastern Conference Finals. They need to keep winning to get there.

Also lost in the shuffle is another Brodeur milestone. If the Devils’ goalie wins tonight, it will be the 600th win of his career.

Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch the game on MSG Plus or on the radio at WFAN.

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