With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.
You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.
No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.
They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.
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
Kris Versteeg’s powerplay goal at 13:17 of the third period extended the Maple Leafs lead to 3-1 in the third period of tonight’s game at the Air Canada Centre.
With Matt Corrente in the box for hooking, the Maple Leafs set up inside the Devils zone. Nazem Kari found the right-winger alone in the right faceoff dot, and Versteeg one-timed the puck past Hedberg’s shoulder for his fifth goal of the season.
Johan Hedberg will begin the third period in net. Martin Brodeur looked like he tweaked something in his elbow after colliding with John Mitchell while making a save. In his last relief appearance, Hedberg stopped 21 shots in the Devils’ 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on November 3.
Toronto has outshot the Devils, 20-18, through two periods. The Devils will have 46 seconds of powerplay time left on the cross-checking minor to Luke Schenn.
That isn’t a recipe for success, however. The Devils’ powerplay is a hapless 1-for-35 on the road.
Martin Brodeur held the score at 2-1 with a diving save on Mitchell. After a turnover along the side boards, Mitchell broke in on net. He tried to cut across the front for a stuff attempt, but Brodeur went down to the ice and knocked the puck off of Mitchell’s stick.
Dainius Zubrus’ goal at 10:14 of the second period cut the Maple Leafs lead to 2-1.
Ilya Kovalchuk began the play, holding the puck at the blue line. The left-winger found Alexander Vasyunov along the end boards with a pass, and the rookie threw the puck toward the front of the net. Zubrus crashed the net and swiped at the puck, missing with his stick. The puck deflected off of the center’s skate and past Jonas Gustavsson for his second goal of the season.
Phil Kessel’s goal at 7:29 of the second period extended the Maple Leafs lead to 2-0.
Kadri held the puck at the right point, and sent a pass through the Devils defense to Kessel down in the bottom of the left circle. Kessel, who was left alone, took the puck and fired it by Brodeur for his ninth goal of the season.
That was a complete defensive breakdown by the Devils, who all followed the puck instead of sticking with their assignments.
Mikhail Grabovski’s powerplay goal at 1:42 of the second period put the Maple Leafs ahead, 1-0.
With Brian Rolston in the box for hooking, Clarke McArthur sent a pass from his defensive zone to Nikolai Kulemin at center ice. The forward carried it on the wing and fired a shot on Brodeur. The Devils goalie left a rebound in the slot, and no Devil could reach the puck. Grabovski crashed the slot and fired a shot through a screen and into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the year.
The Maple Leafs outshot the Devils, 9-6, in the first period. Many of those nine shots were great scoring chances, and Brodeur needed to be sharp against the Toronto scorers.
Phil Kessel hit the post on a shot attempt during the Maple Leafs’ first powerplay opportunity. With Anton Volchenkov in the box for hooking, Kessel carried the puck along the side boards. He fired a shot on net that beat Brodeur low. The puck caromed off the post and back into the Devils’ defensive zone.
Brodeur made a great save on a loose puck in the crease to keep the game scoreless at the ten minute mark of the first period. Phil Kessel fired a one-timer on net, and Brodeur blocked the attempt with his pad. The puck skipped over the equipment, but the Devils goalie corralled the puck with his stick and put his glove on top of it to freeze play.
Here were tonight’s starters:
Brian Rolston – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson; Colin White – Matt Corrente; Martin Brodeur
Clark McArthur – Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin; Luke Schenn-Tomas Kaberle; Jonas Gustavsson
The New Jersey Devils head to Toronto to face off against the Maple Leafs tonight at the Air Canada Centre.
The Devils and Maple Leafs both sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. New Jersey sits in 14th place, while Toronto sits in the 13th position.
This is the second game of a three game swing for the Devils. The team lost to the Boston Bruins, 3-0, on Monday night. They wrap up their trip Saturday in St. Louis.
Martin Brodeur will start his third straight game for the Devils. Last season, Brodeur didn’t start any of the games in Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson gets the start for the Maple Leafs, replacing injured goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Here were the line combinations during pre-game warmups:
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: Martin Brodeur; Johan Hedberg
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 Parise, who 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
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 stay in the Eastern Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs vs. Devils – Historical Data
In 114 all-time regular season meetings against Toronto, the Devils are 38-51-20-5. New Jersey averages 3.05 goals against the Maple Leafs, but they allow Toronto to score 3.33 goals per meeting. Last season, the teams met four times, with the Devils going 2-1-1 against the Maple Leafs.
The Devils won the first meeting of the season, 5-4, in overtime. Carl Gunnarson scored the game’s first goal, his first in the NHL, at 6:11 of the first period. But the lead wouldn’t last long, as the line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus would take control. Parise tied the game at one apiece with a goal at 7:10 of the period. Parise would net another goal in the period, putting the Devils ahead 2-1 at 13:40 of the first period.
Zubrus gave the Devils a 3-1 lead at 9:22 of the second period. Colton Orr cut the lead back to one, netting a goal at 14:41 of the period. But Patrick Davis would restore the two goal lead, scoring his first NHL goal at 17:19 of the period. Toronto roared back in the third, with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan scoring goals to tie the game at 4-4 and send it to overtime. Zajac netted the overtime winner at 4:14 of the extra period, giving the Devils the 5-4 win.
The Maple Leafs would exact revenge on February 2, winning the first game of a home-and-home series, 3-0, in Toronto. Nikolai Kulemin scored the game’s first goal, putting Toronto ahead, 1-0, at 4:40 of the first period. Toronto extended the lead in the second period, putting the game out of reach. Phil Kessel put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-0 at 2:23 of the period, and Francois Beauchemin scored a powerplay goal to give Toronto a 3-1 lead. Newly-acquired goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere stopped 30 shots for the win.
The Devils took the second game of the home-and-home series, 4-3, in Ilya Kovalchuk’s debut. Zubrus gave the Devils an early 1-0 lead at 13:20 of the first period. But the lead wouldn’t last, as Toronto would roar ahead in the second period. Tomas Kaberle tied the game at one with a powerplay goal at 3:39 of the period. Lee Stempniak put the Maple Leafs ahead, 2-1, with a powerplay tally at 10:23 of the period. Rickard Wallin finished off the scoring, extending the lead to 3-1 at 19:41.
The Devils would answer back in the third period. Dean McAmmond brought the Devils to 3-2 with a goal at 16:56 of the period. The Devils would wait until the final minute for the real dramatics. Zajac scored a 6-on-4 powerplay goal to tie the game at 19:16 of the period. Then, with 19 seconds left, Jay Pandolfo scored the game-winning goal, giving the Devils a 5-4 win.
Continue after the jump for the rest of the preview!
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 Chicago Blackhawks.
Blackhawks vs. Devils – Historical Data
In 99 all-time regular season meetings against the Blackhawks, the Devils are 35-41-21-2. New Jersey averages 2.91 goals against Chicago, but allows the Blackhawks to score 3.34 goals per meeting. Last season, the teams met twice, with the Blackhawks winning both meetings.
The Blackhawks defeated the Devils, 5-1, on December 31 in Chicago. Troy Brouwer scored the game’s first goal at 14:44 of the first period, converting on a powerplay chance. Ben Eager doubled the lead, scoring at 16:29 to increase the lead.
The Blackhawks extended the lead to three at 2:12 of the second period, with Andrew Ladd picking up the tally.
Chicago’s offense continued to roll in the third period. Johnathan Toews scored at 4:41 to push the lead to 4-0, and ex-Devil John Madden made it a rout, scoring the Blackhawk’s fifth goal at 15:11 of the period. Jamie Langenbrunner spoiled the shutout, scoring at 18:27 to give the put the Devils on the board.
The Blackhawks took the second meeting, 2-1, in a shootout at the Prudential Center. 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. Toews scored the only goal in the shootout, giving Chicago a season sweep of the Devils.
Devils vs. Blackhawks – This Season’s Matchup
The Devils and Blackhawks will face off on November 3 in Chicago. Last season, Chicago went for broke and stacked their team, looking to win the Stanley Cup. And they did just that, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games for their fourth Stanley Cup championship, and first since the 1960-61 season.
But Chicago has undergone significant changes since hoisting the Cup. Gone is Cup-winning goalie Anti Niemi, who recently signed with the San Jose Sharks. Chicago’s list of traded players is long, with names such as Versteeg, Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, to name a few. The Blackhawks remained quiet on the free agent front, bringing in Marty Turco to challenge Cristobal Huet for a chance to start between the pipes.
Chicago will still be a tough team, even with their offseason moves. Their entire lineup features skill players, from Toews and Patrick Kane up front to Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blue line. Expect this matchup to be a hard fought contest, especially since it comes at the end of Western Conference road trip for the Devils.
Other Important Stats
The Devils won’t mind seeing Huet manning the Chicago net. In nine career starts against New Jersey, Huet is 3-6-0-0 with a 2.60 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage…In 34 career regular season games against Chicago, Langenbrunner has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) but is -8…Both Kane and Zach Parise were Olympic heros last season, but Parise holds the upper hand in head-to-head matchups. Kane has recorded two points (zero goals, two assists) in four career regular season meetings against New Jersey. Parise has three points (one goal, two assists) in six career games against the Blackhawks.
Tonight’s Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (44-26-7) face off against the Carolina Hurricanes (33-35-10). This is the fourth and final game of the series. The Devils lead, 2-1-0.
The Last Devils Game: Kris Versteeg scored a late goal, and Jonathan Toews tallied the only shootout goal to defeat the Devils, 2-1. Versteeg scored a 6-on-5 goal with 26 second left in the third period to tie the game. Martin Brodeur finished with 26 saves.
The Last Hurricanes Game: The Canes lost to the Senators, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday. Erik Karlsson scored with 7.7 seconds remaining to force overtime. Alex Kovalev scored the only shootout goal for Ottawa.
The Last Devils – Hurricanes Game: The Hurricanes defeated the Devils, 5-2, on February 13. Jussi Jokinen and Ray Whitney scored two goals each in the win. For a more detailed recap, you can check out the recap from the game here.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils really missed a golden opportunity last night. If they held on for the win, they could have an outright lead in the division. Instead, they’re now tied with Pittsburgh, and both teams have five games remaining. The Devils have the tougher schedule, and every point counts. Not only that, but the Devils are making mistakes and allowing teams to score late, which can swing a playoff series toward the other team. Here’s what Brodeur said about last night’s loss.
“It is a concern because I think we’re going to play some tight games in the playoffs and losing games like that can change the momentum of a series,” Brodeur said. “We have to bear down in those situations. With a minute left, we have to be desperate. The puck needs to get out; we need to get it out by kicking it, batting it … anything. It’s got to get out.”
Tonight provides one of those opportunities. Carolina has been hot, but the Devils have the opportunity to gain two big points. These are the games the Devils need to win. They’ll be without Jamie Langenbrunner, who’s getting a rest in tonight’s game.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can watch the action on MSG Plus or listen to the game on WFAN.