The Matchup: The Nashville Predators (32-22-5) at the New Jersey Devils (36-20-3). This the second and final meeting of the season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils took an early two goal lead against the Flyers, but, once again, the second period doomed the Devils. Jeff Carter, the new Devils killer, tied the game in the second period, and Simon Gagne scored his 18th goal against Martin Brodeur in overtime to give the Flyers the victory, 3-2. Gagne's goal broke a tie with Jaromir Jagr for most goals against Brodeur.
The Last Predators Game: The Predators visited the Garden in the second game of a four-game road trip. Panthers rookie Colin Wilson scored the game-winning goal in the second period, and goalie Dan Ellis made 18 saves in the third period. The Predators won, 2-1.
The Last Predators/Devils Game: The Devils visited the Predators on November 19, 2009, in the second game of a three-game road trip. The Devils received two goals from Zach Parise, but ended regulation and overtime tied at two. Martin Erat scored the game-winning shootout goal in the third round, beating Brodeur top-shelf. The Predators beat the Devils, 3-2.
Tonight's Formula: There are two things the Devils need to work on in tonight's game. The Devils need to stop forcing the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk hasn't lit the lamp yet, and it's probably been frustrating for him. But the Devils need to stop forcing the puck to him. Instead, let the offense flow and let Kovalchuk find his own within the system. Forcing him the puck will only continue to throw off the entire team's offense. The second is playing an entire, 60-minute game. In the past five games, the Devils have been outscored 11-1 in the second period. It seems as if the team loses intensity during the middle period. They need to work through that and put together a solid performance tonight.
The Devils didn't practice yesterday, instead opting to work out off the ice. Coach Jacques Lemaire met with several players, though none of what they discussed was released to the press. The team did take the ice this morning for practice, with Parise and defenseman Bryce Salvador on the ice preparing to play tonight. Parise missed Tuesday night's game with a stiff neck, and Salvador left at 6:05 in the first period after a high-stick hit him in the eye. He will wear a visor for tonight's game and the rest of the season.
In the third period, Lemaire changed the line combinations a bit. He put Kovalchuk with Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac, but the line couldn't click for a goal. I like Kovalchuk with Patrick Elias and Dainius Zubrus, but Lemaire needs to let them play together to build some chemistry. Elias and Kovalchuk had some miscommunication, sometimes running into each other or being in the same zone on the ice.
The Devils also made a roster move today, calling up Cory Murphy and sending down Rob Davidson. A roster freeze is set for three p.m. today, so calling up Murphy will probably be the last roster move the Devils make until the freeze ends on February 28.
The Devils are mired in a terrible slump, having lost three in a row and five of their last six. The team needs to come out with high energy tonight and play a complete, 60-minute game. If they come out wanting the win, this team can impose its will on any team. I'd like to see a complete game from the Devils in their second-to-last game before the Olympic break.
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Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk - Dainius Zubrus - Patrick Elias
Jay Pandolfo - Rob Niedermayer - Brian Rolston
Vladmir Zharkov - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley
Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Mark Fraser - Cory Murphy