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Game 14 Preview: Light At The End Of The Tunnel

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-9-1) face off against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (7-6-1) at the United Center in Chicago. It’s the only meeting of the season between the two teams.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils were blanked by the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0, on Monday night at Rogers Arena. Raffi Torres put the Canucks ahead, 1-0, in the first period off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone. Vancouver increased their lead to 2-0 at 1:09 of the second period as Ryan Kesler‘s backhanded shot beat Brodeur off yet another sloppy defensive play by the Devils. Henrik Sedin capped the scoring at 6:13 of the third period, converting on a penalty shot. Roberto Luongo made 30 saves for the win.

The Last Blackhawks Game: The New York Rangers defeated the Blackhawks, 3-2, Monday night in Madison Square Garden. Tied, 1-1, in the third period, Brandon Dubinsky converted on a powerplay opportunity to put the Rangers ahead, 2-1. Patrick Kane pulled Chicago even with an even-strength goal at 6:08 of the final frame. Only 28 seconds later, Erik Christensen scored the game-winning goal to put the Rangers ahead, 3-2.

The Last Devils – Blackhawks Game: The Blackhawks defeated the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout at the Prudential Cetner. Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Devils an early first period lead, scoring his then-40th goal of the season at 5:49 of the first period. The score stood at 1-0 until the third period, when Kris Versteeg scored with 26 seconds left in the game. Jonathan Toews scored the only goal in the shootout, giving Chicago a season sweep of the Devils.

For more information about the matchup, check this post.

Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils have 70 shots over the past two games. That number is pretty impressive, considering it’s coming from New Jersey. But how many goals have they scored in that time? Just one. One measly goal on 70 shots. Clearly, this team has a problem with finishing opportunities. That will only get more difficult with the loss of the team’s best scorer, Zach Parisewho underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss three months. On paper, the Devils have one of the best offenses in the league. But they haven’t cashed in on their potential, and the team desperately needs to start scoring goals in bunches. I’ve suggested everything here, from crashing the net to mixing the lines. Maybe it’s just a bounce that needs to go the Devils way, but the scorers need confidence, and the Devils need to start depositing pucks in the back of the net.

Defensive miscues plagued the Devils Monday night, and that lead to their loss. The team needs to play solid defense tonight, especially because the Blackhawks are a dangerous offensive team. Even without some of their Stanley Cup heroes, the Blackhawks can put Duncan Keith, Kane, Toews and Brent Seabrook on the ice at once. It’s been miscue after miscue for the Devils, but hopefully New Jersey corrects these mistakes tonight. If not, they’ll be in for a long game.

The road trip hasn’t gone according to plan (1-4-0), but the Devils can still salvage a feel good win to end the trip. The team needs something – anything – that’s positive heading into Friday’s matchup against the Rangers. Hopefully, it’ll be a great win to close the trip tonight.

Game-time is 8:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Here are the potential line combinations, based off of Monday night’s game:

FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Rod Pelley – Alexander Vasyunov; Dainius Zubrus – Jason Arnott – David Clarkson; Adam Mair – Brad Mills – Tim Sestito

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Andy Greene; Henrik Tallinder – Matt Taormina; Olivier Magnan-Grenier – Tyler Eckford

GOALIES: Martin Brodeur; Johan Hedberg

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