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Game 10 Preview: Looking for a turnaround on the West Coast

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-6-1) face off against the San Jose Sharks (3-3-1) tonight in San Jose. This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.

The Last Devils Game: The New York Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. After a scoreless first period in which the Devils were outshot, 17-10, the Blueshirts capitalized first, with Michael Rozsival tallying his second goal of the season at 1:26 of the second period to put the Rangers ahead, 1-0. Ryan Callahan doubled the lead, connecting on the powerplay to put the Rangers ahead, 2-0, at 12:22 of the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk closed the gap to one goal, cutting the Blueshirts lead to 2-1 with 5:02 left in the third period. But the Rangers held on, and Brandon Dubinsky put home an empty-net shot to clinch the 3-1 victory.

The Last Sharks Game: The Calgary Flames blanked the Sharks, 4-0, Sunday night in Calgary. The Flames chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi after the Stanley Cup champion allowed three goals to Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy on five shots in the first period. Antero Niittymaki stopped 24 shots in relief. Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for the shutout win.

The Last Devils – Sharks Game: The Devils defeated the Sharks, 4-3, in their only meeting on March 2 in San Jose. Dainius Zubrus scored the game’s first goal, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 11:13 of the second period. Mark Fraser scored 35 seconds later to increase the lead to two. The Devils continued to pound the Sharks, with Kovalchuk extending the Devils lead to three with a powerplay tally at 19:42.

The Devils completed an unanswered four-goal streak at 5:44 of the third period, when Travis Zajac scored his then-20th goal of the season. The Sharks, however, wouldn’t go quietly. They broke the shutout at 8:46 of the period on a Devin Setoguchi goal. Less than two minutes later, Setoguchi struck again, tallying a powerplay goal and cutting the Devils lead to 4-2. Joe Pavelski scored the third straight goal for San Jose to bring the score to 4-3. But the Devils were able to hold on for the victory.

For a look at the full historical matchup, take a look at our season preview post detailing the matchup with the San Jose Sharks.

Tonight’s Matchup: It’s a pretty simple gameplan for the Devils – play a complete, 60-minute game with the effort needed to win a hockey game. Martin Brodeur kept the Devils in the game against the Rangers Sunday night, keeping them afloat throughout the first period. While the Rangers brought relentless pressure, the Devils failed to make Henrik Lundqvist work. They put little to no pressure on the Rangers defense. The second period brought much of the same, but this time Brodeur couldn’t save New Jersey.

The third period – the best since the 3-0 shutout win over Montreal on October 15 – showed what the Devils need to do in tonight’s matchup. In the third, the Devils controlled the puck and pressured the Rangers defense. They worked hard on the forecheck and created opportunities throughout the period. The result? A dirty goal and some great play.

But the play in the third period can’t be a one-time thing. This team needs to bring that hunger and aggressive play to the ice during every shift. We’ve already seen the byproduct of that type of play, with two shutout wins on the road. That hasn’t been a consistent effort, and it’s become one of the many driving forces behind the teams 2-6-1 start. An aggressive start, especially during an away game, will help silence the crowd and give the Devils an early advantage.

As I detailed in an earlier post, this game begins an important five game stretch for the Devils. New Jersey needs to put together a consistent effort and get some wins. Hopefully tonight’s game against the Sharks will be the first step in the right direction.

Remember to check in with The Devils’ Den at 10:15 p.m. for a live game blog of all the action!

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