The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (5-12-2) face off against the St. Louis Blues (10-5-3). It is the first and only matchup of the season between the two teams.
The Last Devils Game: The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Devils, 3-1, Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel gave the Maple Leafs an early 2-0 lead in the second period. Dainius Zubrus brought the Devils to within 2-1, but the team couldn’t solve Jonas Gustavsson. Kris Versteeg put the Devils away with a powerplay goal in the third period to put the Leafs ahead, 3-1. Gustavsson, who stopped 12 pucks in the third period, made 29 saves for the win.
The Last Blues Game: The Blues defeated the Ottawa Senators, 5-2, Friday night. The second period was the game’s turning point, as the Blues scored three goals to bury the Sens.
The Last Devils – Blues Game: The Devils and Blues faced off once last season, which the Blues won, 1-0. Alex Steen would score the game’s only goal at 19:47 of the first period. Steen found an open lane down the left side of the ice, where he received a pass from Barret Jackman. Steen rifled the shot past Martin Brodeur’s glove for the game-winning goal. Ty Conklin finished with 29 saves for the win. Brodeur stopped 19 shots in the loss.
For a full historical preview of the matchup with the St. Louis Blues, check our season preview post.
McKenna Gets The Call: Devils goalie Mike McKenna, called up as an emergency replacement for Brodeur, will make his first start of the season tonight. McKenna, whose from St. Louis, showed a contained excitement during today’s morning skate.
“It’s exciting to come home, but this is a business trip,” McKenna told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “We really need to win some games. If we win the game, I’m going to have a lot of fun.”
In 15 career NHL games, McKenna is 4-8-1 with one shutout and a 3.56 goals-against average. In seven games for the Albany Devils this season, McKenna went 2-4-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage.
Tonight’s Game: The injuries are continuing to mount for the Devils, as Brodeur will miss two weeks to allow his injured right elbow to fully heal. Devils coach John MacLean decided to make the headscratching decision of putting in McKenna tonight. The first key to tonight’s game, therefore, is offense. The Devils need to get some goals on the board early. One look at McKenna’s numbers shows that he’s not a great goalie, and I question his ability to win the game for the Devils. But he is playing in his hometown, and sometimes that can bring out the best in a goalie. Just look at Brodeur’s numbers in Montreal. Maybe (hopefully?) McKenna turns in a great performance.
New Jersey also needs to come out with a sense of urgency tonight. The team needs a win, plain and simple. There’s no more “moral victories” or building block games. The only thing that matters now is wins and points. Failing to get one tonight may cause drastic moves by general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Special teams will once again be the focus of tonight’s game. The Devils power-play is 1-for-36 on the road. That’s a .03 percent completion rate. That’s downright abysmal. The Devils need to make teams pay for making mistakes and taking penalties, but they’ve been unable to do that this season. If they get the opportunity tonight, the Devils need to make the Blues pay while shorthanded. If they can convert one or two of those chances, it would go a long way to restoring confidence in the powerplay and, hopefully, winning the game.
Gametime is 8 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Here are the potential starting lineups for tonight’s game:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Alexander Vasyunov; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Olivier Magnan – Matt Corrente
GOALIES: Mike McKenna; Johan Hedberg
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s preview, we go to the Western Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the St. Louis Blues.
Blues vs. Devils – Historical Data
In 96 all-time regular season meetings against the Blues, the Devils are 36-45-14-1. The Devils average 3.13 goals against St. Louis, but they allow the Blues to score 3.44 goals per meeting. Last season, the Devils and Blues faced off once, with St. Louis blanking the Devils, 1-0.
Alex Steen would score the game’s only goal at 19:47 of the first period. Steen found an open lane down the left side of the ice, where he received a pass from Barret Jackman. Steen rifled the shot past Martin Brodeur’s glove for the game-winning goal.
The matchup also featured one of the longest hockey fights I’ve ever seen. Former Devil Cam Janssen and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond dropped the gloves six minutes into the first period, going toe-to-toe for almost three minutes before officials stopped the fight. Here’s the video:
Ty Conklin finished with 29 saves for the win. Brodeur stopped 19 shots in the loss.
Devils vs. Blues – This Season’s Matchup
The Blues and Devils face off once this season, with that game coming November 20 in St. Louis. St. Louis made a big splash in free agency this offseason, trading Ian Shultz and Lars Eller for goalie Jaroslav Halak, who agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Blues. The team also kept several players, re-signing Steen, David Perron and Erik Johnson, to name a few.
The Blues are a rebuilding team, and while they may sniff the playoffs in the Western Conference, the won’t be a big powerhouse. Halak is an upgrade in goal, but the team around him has largely remained the same. I wouldn’t consider this an “easy” game, but it won’t be as demanding as others on the schedule.
Other Important Stats
In 16 starts against St. Louis, Brodeur is only 9-5-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage…In 32 career games against the Blues, Jamie Langenbrunner has 15 points (three goals, 12 assists), but is a -8.