Running With The Devils - A New Jersey Devils Blog
Game 69 Recap: Devils Rock The Green and Rock The Pens
Written by Darren S   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 20:39

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A few thoughts come to mind from tonight's game. The first is a word..."Dominating!!" That's what the Devils have been against the Penguins this season and once again they dominated the Penguins tonight. The second thought is that while most love putting on the old uniforms, I forgot how ugly they really are on TV but thankfully the Devils only looked like the Devils of old in uniform and not in play.

So some thoughts on tonights tilt..

Paul Martin - I was wrong, he didn't need to sit tonight because the Penguins were too strong of a team. He fit in very well, looked very good and had a nice goal to put the Devils up 2-1 in the first. He looked good on defense as well which is the bigger story because we need him going forward.

Patrik Elias - Did we mention it's St. Patty's Day?? This guy loves to show up on this day and play, oh who are we kidding he shows up most days we just needed to make the Elias - St. Patricks Day connection. In all honesty those, his goal in the second came from a stretch of excellent play by the Devils. First Zajac takes off on a break away while shorthanded to get, i can't say robbed but it was a beauty of a save by Fluery. Penguins try to regroup and immediately get picked off by Elias who streaks down the ice and goes "Seven Hole" and then we get a lesson on the "Goalie's Hole's" by Chico Resch. (Insert crack about Henrik Lundqvist here!!)

Penguins Defense - or actually lack there of. Lets see, Zubrus, breakaway..SCORE!! Zajac..shorthanded breakaway, Fluery makes an incredible stop and Elias..shorthanded breakaway..SCORE!! If I am a Penguins fan I am scratching my head and asking WTF?? Why are you letting the Devils and this game get SO wide open??

Devils Offense - Right now its clicking and hopefully will only continue to do so. For the second game in a row, the Devils chase the starting goalie to the bench. I actually thought Johnson did a very good job although the first shot he faced is one I am not sure how it didn't go in.

Rod Pelley - It was an ulgy hit. Obviously the name Goligoski and the number 3 were plain as day and Pelley probably shouldn't have followed through with the hit. Glad to see Goligoski out on the next shift but I'll be interested to see if the NHL doesn't demand a little money from Pelley. Huge penalty on Letang in that whole mess because it took 2 mins away from a 5 Minute Major.

Devils Dominance - I thought the Penguins actually dominated the first 5 minutes of this game and then backed off. Its amazing what the Devils have done to the Penguins this season but I am going to keep the broom in the closet until games actually matter. With that said, the Devils have outscored the Pens 22-5 this season and no team has ever knocked off a team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when losing 6+ game in the regular season.

Devils Power Play - If I have to look for something disappointing from tonight its the PP. Every night it's usually the PP. It just doesn't perform like I hope it would and it hasn't changed since we got a very good QB in Kovalchuk on it.

Tonight's Three Stars

#1 - Patrick Elias - 1 Goal, 1 Assist on 1 Shot (LOL!!)
#2 - Paul Martin - 1 Goal  on 1 Shot (again LOL!!) and 18:05 mins of ice time (Huge ice time for first game in 5 months).
#3 - Danius Zubrus - 1 Goal on 2 shots.

The Devils travel to Toronto tomorrow night against a team that probably wants a little redemption for losing a game like they did the last time they played NJ, even if the game was here.

 
GameDay 69: We're Going Old School Tonight
Written by Darren S   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 09:31

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The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (41-24-3) vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (41-23-5). This is the sixth and final regular season meeting of the season.

You're My Boy Blue!!The Last Devils Game: Devils came out with a bang, put home 3 goals in the first and then hit the brakes a bit. Boston climbed back into the game but ultimately failed to put home the 3rd goal and watched NJ skate away with a 3-2 victory.

The Last Penguins Game: They played a close game against the Lightning and in the end skated away with a 2-1 victory but that's not what people were talking about in this game. Crosby got tangled up with Downie and went to the ice in a very painful looking way but would end up being ok and playing a ton of minutes in the third. Malkin left early after taking a Letang shot off his foot. X-ray's were negative on Malkin's foot and he if a game time decision for tonight's matchup.

The Last Devils / Penguins Game: Just the other night the Penguins came into NJ and once again found themselves on the losing end of the stick. That's 5 games played this season and 5 wins by the Devils. I thought both goalies played well but NJ seemed to get the bounces that the Penguins didn't.

Tonight's Matchup: This is one Devils fans circled on their calendars long ago. Something that Devils fans have wanted for some time. Tonight, the NJ Devils celebrate their history and rock the old Green and Red uniforms. Marty Brodeur will also be wearing the goalie mask he wore when called up to the Devils back in 1992. This game has the same kind of feeling that the Stevens and Daneykos retirement games had and the 3 games we played this season honoring our Stanley Cup champions. The good news is that all those games ended with the Devils grabbing 2 points at the end of the night.

But this is Pittsburgh we are playing tonight and it doesn't matter that we are going old school tonight or that we are 5-0 against them this season. The Penguins could care less what NJ is doing and are going out there to win. The lead the Devils by 2 points in a tight race for the division.

The Devils need to be consistent, both with the puck and without the puck. With that said, there may be a Defensive pick-me-up waiting to happen. Rumor is Paul Martin is a game time decision tonight so his return is either hours or days away. That's great news for this defense, I am just not sure I want Martin to return tonight, when he could come back against the Leafs or the Blues, two easier teams. Tonight's game is sure to have a playoff mentality and maybe we ease him back in. Plus, one would wonder if a rusty Martin is better than a healthy Salmela/Fraser? Against the Leafs, definately but not in this scenario.

So with that said, I'll keep Martin out for one more game and go with the lines from Friday Night



Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson
Jay Pandolfo - Dean McAmmond - Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond


Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Ansi Salmela - Martin Skoula


Martin Brodeur
 
Game 68: Devils Hold Off Bruins
Written by Darren S   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 09:11

If there is one thing I am going to remember about the Devils 2009/2010 season, it's going to be the Kovalchuk trade but if there is one other thing I will remember, its that the Devils won son many games by playing an excellent first period and then holding on the final two periods to secure the "W". Of cours, I just don't think that is a great recipe for winning in the post-season.

Last nights game against Boston followed this game play. The Devils came out, handed it to the Bruins and then played "Hold On Hockey." Brodeur stopped 34 shots, including 14 in the third period, in earning his 38th victory of the season. He also notched his third assist of the season on David Clarkson's breakaway goal at 17:23 of the first that gave the home team a 2-0 lead. Speaking of Clarkson's goal, it was a beauty because Marty was able to glove down the puck and make a tape to tape pass with a breaking Clarkson. I am sure it felt good for Clarkson since the last time these two teams met, Clarkson fractured his leg on a Chara slap shot.

I'm happy with the win but I certainly would like to see this team not just sit back when getting a 3-0 lead. They did it a few weeks ago in San Jose when they were up 4-0 and let SJ back in the game and did it again last night.

The win last night marked 4 home wins in a row and now have the Devils trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins by 2 points for the top spot in the Altantic Division. Oh, look at that, Pittsburgh comes back to town tomorrow night in a game we've all been looking forward to as the Devils pull out the old Red and Green Jerseys.

My Three Stars Last Night:

1. David Clarkson: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots on Goal
2. Zach Parise: 1 Goal (GWG), 3 Shots on Goal
3. Marty Brodeur: 1 Assists, Stopped 34 of 36 shots.

 
Game 68: Bruins visit the Rock
Written by Darren S   
Monday, 15 March 2010 09:36

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The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (40-24-3) vs. the Boston Bruins (30-25-12)

The Last Devils Game: Coming off a big win against the Penguins on Friday night, the Devils entered Long Island and had a very big let down. NJ got off to a 1 goal lead eary but let the Islanders slip away with the lead and eventually the win.

The Last Bruins Game: They took on their rivals the Montreal Canadieans and Montreal skated away with a 3-2 victory. Boston started slowly and weren't able to catch Montreal.

The Last Devils - Bruins Game: It was a game where the goalies shinned and stole the show. With the game knotted at 1-1 after an OT period, the game went into a skills contest and that's when Jamie beat Boston Goalie Tuukka Rask 5-hole to win the game. This was the game in which Marty passed Patrick Roy for most minutes played by a goalie.

Tonight's Game: The Devils need redemtion for the lose on the island but Boston has tons to play for right now. They are in the battle for that 8th and final playoff spot and it looks like Marc Savard won't be returning at all this season after the Cooke incident so Boston needs points wherevere and whenever they can get them.

Boston this season has been a team that has struggled to score goals and should hopefully continue that trend tonight. The Bruins goaltending on the other hand has been excellant and will certainly be a test for NJ who has stuggled putting pucks in the net so far in 2010, although recently they've been a little better.

I thought NJ spent a lot of time standing still the other night and not moving the puck, two key areas that they didn't do in wins over the Rangers and Penguins. If they want to win tonight, moving the feet and the puck is certainly a way to get the job done.

Lines for tonight probably look like:

 

Zach Parise  - Travis Zajac  - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson
Jay Pandolfo - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley


Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Anssi Salmela - Martin Skoula


Martin Brodeur
 
Game 66: Penguins Come To Town
Written by Darren S   
Friday, 12 March 2010 13:56

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The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (39-23-3) vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-5). This is the 5th time the two teams have met this season and the second meeting at the Prudential Center.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils played a game where they finished their checks, hustled to the puck and didn't allow the fact that Rangers kept fighting back to tie the score affect them.

The Last Penguins Game:
The started their 5 game road trip in Carolina that found the Penguins down a few goals but were able to battle back and force OT only to lose in OT on a quick goal from the corner by Brian Pothier.

The Last Devils-Penguins Game: The Devils have pretty much owned the Penguins this season. In the previos 4 games, the Devils have outscore Pittsburgh 14-2. The last game was a 2-0 victory with the Former Devil, Nik Bergfors providing the only goal that wasn't shot into an empty net. Like most games vs the Penguins this season, the Pens offense was certainly sputtering against the Devils in this game.

Tonight's Matchup: It's one of those 4 point swingers. While the offense was certainly firing on all cylinders the other night, the defense had noticable lags. Pittsburgh is a much more potent team offensively than the Rangers and the Devils will need to concentrate and those defensive lags tonight. The Penguins are 4-0-1 since returning from the Olympic Break so to say that this is a hot team would pretty much be spot on.

Zach Parise has shown no Olympic hangover with three goals in four games and Rob Niedermayer played arguably his best game as a Devil against New York with a goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating in more than 18 minutes of ice time.

Jordan Staal seems to have the hot hand for the Penguins lately as he has scored a goal in three of the last four games and has six points over the span. He's one goal away from a second straight 20-goal season.

Lets remember that Martin Skoula came to NJ from Pittsburgh via Toronto and probably wants to play a really good game tonight. He didn't fit in very well with Pittsburgh and he's been quoted saying that he wants to make Pittsburgh realize that trading him was a mistake. There's no mistake that Lemaire seems to like this guy as he had 21:03 of ice time in Edmonton and 21:55 of ice time against the Rangers despite being on the 3rd pairing.

Devils could really use the a win tonight as the schedule gets pretty busy with a trip to Long Island tomorrow night and then back at home on Monday against the Bruins and Wednesday against the Penguins to close out the season series.

I am going to go with the same Forward lines that we saw against the Rangers although Pelley might get the healthy scratch tonight. As for the Defense, Lemaire wasn't happy with Frasers mistakes against NY and if Salmela got the seat for his effort against the Oilers, than Fraser should get the seat for Wednesday night.


Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley


Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Anssi Salmela - Martin Skoula


Martin Brodeur
 
G.M's Want To Penalize Blind Side Hits To The Head
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 11 March 2010 14:22

The N.H.L. general managers meetings ended yesterday with one major rule change – a rule to penalize blind-side hits to the head.

A unanimously approved resolution from the G.M.s will be presented to the Competition Committee later this spring for approval. If it’s approved there, then the Board of Governors would have to give it the final approval. If it gets approved (and it should), the rule will be enforced beginning next season.

Here’s what the resolution says:

“A lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or is the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.”

A few days ago, I argued that the G.M.’s needed to ban these type of hits from the game. While I didn’t think a penalty would go far enough, this seems to be a step in the right direction. While the final language of the rule isn’t set, the rule above seems comprehensive. But there are some words in the rule I can’t agree with.

The first part of the rule I don’t like the fact a “minor” penalty can come from one of these hits. Only giving players a two-minute minor for a dangerous hit would be ridiculous. The possibility of a minor penalty shouldn’t exist. Don’t let the officials be subjective in these rulings. If a player hits another player with one of these blind-side hits, they should be put in the box for five minutes. No argument, no subjective calls. Blind-side hits to the head should only be five-minute majors.

The second part of the rule that I don’t agree with is the “possible” supplemental discipline. If a player decided to complete one of these hits, they’re clearly not worried about playing time or the consequences of their actions. The league should institute a mandatory, two-day suspension for blind-side hits to the head. Put this in context of the recent Matt Cooke – Marc Savard situation. Cooke delivered one of these hits to Savard, giving him a Grade II concussion. Savard was put on a stretcher and taken off the ice. The Bruins center, who was important to the Bruins playoff push, will probably miss the rest of the season. But Colin Campbell let him off without a suspension, which is ridiculous. By instituting a mandatory suspension, these hits will virtually disappear from the game. There still might be a blind-side hit to the head here and there, but it wouldn’t be so prevalent as it has become.

Overall, the G.M.s took a step in the right direction. However, they shouldn’t stop here. By making these two subtle changes, they can strengthen the rule and eliminate these dangerous hits from the game. I think Brian Burke says it best in the following quote:

“You can still hit this guy, you just can’t target his head,” Burke said. “Hitting in our game — it’s part of the fabric of our game. It’s what’s distinctive about hockey in North America. Anywhere else on the planet you go, there’s not as much hitting as there is in our game. We want to keep that, we want to preserve that. But we want to take out a dangerous hit where a guy targets a guy’s head. He can still reef the guy; he just can’t target his head.”

Hitting is a great part of the game. The G.M.s need to tweak the rule and strengthen it to preserve player safety. By doing that, hitting can still continue, but dangerous hits will be gone from the game. And that’s what all players, G.M.s and fans want.

 
Game 65: Devils Break Skid, Defeat Rangers, 6-3
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 23:07

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After the New Jersey Devils loss to Edmonton on Sunday, the Devils' were on a two-game slide and needed something to change their lethargic play.

Coach Jacques Lemaire cited one thing the Devils needed one thing to get back on track.

Practice.

After two physically intense days of practice, the Devils responded to the challenge with a win over their rivals, the New York Rangers, 6-3, Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.

"The last two days we’ve been working on the team concept," Lemaire said. "The guys responded very well to it. I think we played with more intensity. We showed that we really wanted to win tonight, more than I’ve seen lately. We’re headed in the right direction. This is what we want."

Jamie Langenbrunner broke a 3-3 tie at 13:06 of the second period. After a turnover by the Rangers in their own zone, Patrik Elias passed the puck to Andy Greene at the point. Greene sent the puck cross-ice to defenseman Mike Mottau, who shot the puck toward the net. Langenbrunner tipped the puck past Lundqvist and into the net for his 16th goal of the season.

That score would prove to be the decisive strike, as the Devils went on to score three more goals in the win.

Devils' center Rob Niedermayer scored the game's first goal at 4:16 of the first period. Brian Rolston took an awkward angle shot, and the rebound came to Niedermayer in the slot. The center blasted the puck off of Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s right shoulder and into the net for his eighth goal of the season.

The Rangers tied the game 57 seconds later to tie the game at one. Vaclav Prospal set up near the side of the net, and Marian Gaborik found him with a pass. Prospal, who was wide open, put the puck past a diving Martin Brodeur for his 15th goal of the season.

Bryce Salvador's goal at 18:17 of the first period restored the Devils' lead. Salvador began the play by keeping the puck in the zone. He took the puck and did a spin-o-rama, passing the puck behind the net to Niedermayer. Niedermayer got knocked down, and Langenbrunner passed the puck to Greene at the right point. Greene passed the puck to Salvador, who one-timed the pass. The puck hit the stick of Ollie Jokinen in front and went in for Salvador’s fourth of the season.

Erik Christensen pulled the Rangers even with the Devils at 5:01 of the second period. Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck into the zone and found Christensen at the point alone. Christensen received the puck and deked around a Devils’ defenseman, putting him alone in the slot. He whipped a shot past Brodeur for his sixth goal of the year.

The seesaw battle continued, with the Devils scoring again to take a lead, 3-2. With Wade Redden in the box for hooking, Brian Rolston took a shot on Lundqvist. Both Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac crashed the net, bringing the defensemen with them. The puck slid to the right side of the net, where Zach Parise came untouched and backhanded it into the empty net for his 31st goal of the year.

Just 37 seconds later, Brandon Prust scored to draw the Rangers even. The Rangers' used their forecheck to force a turnover from Mark Fraser, who tapped a loose puck into the slot. Jody Shelley took a spin-o-rama shot that Brodeur stopped. But Prust worked his way to the front of the net and put the rebound past the Devil's goalie for his second goal of the year.

The Devils lost three leads, but they showed resiliency, continuing to pressure the Rangers and put shots on Lundqvist.

"Three days ago we might have (crumbled)," said Langenbruner, who scored the eventual game-winning goal at 13:06 of the third period. "But we had a different mindset tonight. We didn’t let those things affect us. You could see it on the bench. It was a tough break on the third goal that they tied it up on, but it was right back, ‘We’re still going to get it.’ And that wasn’t there the last little while when something goes wrong, we were like, ‘Here we go again.’ It was much-better mindset and it I think it showed in the way we played as solid a 60 (minutes) as we have in a long time."

 
Game 65 Live Blog: Zajac's Goal Extends Lead, 6-3, In The Third Period; Lundqvist Chased To The Bench
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 19:03

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Travis Zajac's goal at 16:21 of the third period extends the Devil's lead, 6-3, in the third period tonight at the Prudential Center.

The play began with a turnover by Del Zotto at center ice. Zubrus stripped the young defenseman and sent the puck to Zajac, who entered the zone alone. His shot was initially stopped by Auld, but the puck trickled through his pads for Zajac's 21st goal of the season.

That score broke Zajac's career high of 20 goals, set last year.The Rangers start with 1:53 of powerplay time. They are 0-for-2 with the man advantage tonight.

Fraser hasn't played since his mistake in the defensive zone led to Prust's goal in the second period. Seems to me to be a bit harsh of a penalty for the rookie's first mistake of the season, but the Devils are playing well without him.

The Devils took leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, but the Rangers came back to tie each time. Twice, the Rangers scored within a minute of the Devils' goal.

The Devils outshot the Rangers, 13-7, in the second period. They lead the shot total, 21-13.

Brian Rolston's goal at 15:19 extended the Devils lead, 5-3.

After the Devils broke up a 4-on-2 Rangers' break, they started up ice with a 4-on-1 of their own. Niedermayer passed the puck to Rolston, who held the puck and skated to the right circle. Rolston tried to feed David Clarkson on the crease, but Rangers' defenseman Dan Girardi dove to deflect the pass. The puck went through the pads of Lundqvist and into the back of the net.

After that goal, Rangers' coach Jon Torterella pulled Lundqvist. The Rangers' goalie gave up five goals on 17 shots. This is his first time being pulled in 29 career games against the Devils.

Backup goalie Alex Auld replaced Lundqvist.

Langenbrunner 's goal at 13:06 put the Devils ahead, 4-3.

After a turnover by the Rangers, Patrik Elias directed the puck to Greene at the point. Greene sent the puck cross-ice to Mike Mottau, where the defenseman took a shot. Langenbrunner tipped the puck past Lundqvist and into the net for Langenbrunner's 601st point of his career.

Brandon Prust scored 37 seconds later to tie the game, 3-3.

The goal came from a good forecheck by the Rangers. Mark Fraser turned the puck over behind the puck, and it slid to the slot. Shelley took a spin-o-rama shot that Brodeur stopped. But Prust worked his way to the front of the net and put the rebound past Brodeur for his second goal of the year.

Zach Parise's powerplay goal at 8:38 put the Devils ahead, 3-2.

With Wade Redden in the box for hooking, Brian Rolston took a shot on Lundqvist. Both Zubrus and Travis Zajac crashed the net, bringing the defensemen with them. The puck slid to the right side of the net, where Parise came untouched and backhanded it into the empty net for his 31st goal of the year.

Erik Christensen's goal at 5:01 of the period tied the game.

Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck into the zone and found Christensen at the point alone. Christensen received the puck and deked around a Devils' defenseman, putting him alone in the slot. He whipped a shot past Brodeur for his sixth goal of the year.

Niedermayer had a great short-handed breakaway attempt. With Zach Parise in the box for interference, Michael Del Zotto lost the puck at the Rangers' blue line, and Niedermayer picked it up and raced into the zone. He went wide and tried to wrist the puck five-hole, but Lundqvist closed the pads and made the save

Martin Brodeur just made an incredible save at 1:36 to keep the Devils ahead. Jokinen and Gaborik broke in on a short 2-on-1. Gaborik sent the pass to Jokinen, but Brodeur dove across the crease and blocked the shot with the top part of his goalie stick. He recovered and covered the rebound to stop play.

It's been quite some time since I've seen a typical, Broduer jaw-dropper.

Bryce Salvador's goal at 18:17 of the first period put the Devils ahead.

Salvador made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone. He took the puck and did a spin-o-rama, putting a pass behind the net to Niedermayer. Nidermayer got knocked down, and Jamie Langenbrunner passed the puck to Andy Greene at the right point. Greene passed the puck to Salvador, who one-timed the pass. The puck hit the stick of Ollie Jokinen in front and went in for Salvador's fourth of the season.

Four seconds later, Rangers enforcer Jody Shelley and Devils tough-guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond dropped the gloves at center ice. Both players got some good shots in, but it was ultimately a draw.

With all the chatter in the first period, I was surprised that was the only fight.

The Devils led the opening period in shots, 8-6.

Vaclav Prospal scored 57 seconds after the Devils to tie the game at one.

Prospal set up near the side of the net, and Marian Gaborik found him with a pass. Prospal, who was wide open, put the puck past a diving Martin Brodeur for his 15th goal of the season.

Rob Nidermayer gave the Devils a short-lived lead at 4:16 of the period. David Clarkson made the play happen with some solid work in the offensive zone. Brian Rolston took an awkward angle shot, and the rebound came to Niedermayer in the slot. The center blasted the puck off of Henrik Lundqvist's right shoulder and into the net for his eighth goal of the season.

Both teams are showing a lot of energy early. Brodeur has had to make some great saves early in this game, and it looks as if this might be a barn-burner here at the Rock.

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The Devils dropped their last game Sunday, a 2-0 shutout loss in Edmonton. The Devils are just 6-13-1 in their last 20 games, and they trail Pittsburgh by five points for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Rangers come in on a three-game losing streak (two in overtime) and trail the Bruins for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Martin Brodeur will start in net for the Devils. Henrik Lundqvist gets the nod for the Rangers.

Vladimir Zharkov, Andrew Peters, Jay Pandolfo and Anssi Salmela will be the healthy scratches. Rookie Mark Fraser, Rod Pelley, and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond will start.

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus

Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner

Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley

Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene

Colin White - Mike Mottau

Mark Fraser - Martin Skoula

Martin Brodeur

 

 
Game 65: Rivalry Renewed
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:28
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The Matchup: The New York Rangers (29-28-9) face off against the New Jersey Devils (38-23-3). This is the fifth meeting of the teams this season. Currently, the season series is tied, 2-2.

The Last Rangers Game: The Rangers lost to Buffalo, 2-1, on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Patrick Kaleta scored the overtime winner, and Ryan Miller made 35 saves for the win.

The Last Devils Game: This was certainly one to forget, as the Devils were shutout by Edmonton, 2-0, Sunday night. The team barely made goalie Jeff Deslauriers work, and he recorded 22 saves for his second career victory over the Devils.

The Last Rangers – Devils Game: In the last meeting, the Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, at Madison Square Garden February 6. The Rangers scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Dainius Zubrus scored a goal in the third, but the Devils couldn’t mount a comeback.  Henrik Lundqvist stopped 41 shots for the victory.

Tonight’s Game: The Devils haven’t looked good at all since the break. While we as fans (and even the team) thought the Devils would turn it around, they’ve continued to play terribly in the second period and come out with a lackluster effort. They were shutout by the Edmonton Oilers! Clearly, the Devils need to turn it around. And they seem to step in the right direction yesterday after practice. The players finally admitted they haven’t played well and that they believed everything would go away after the break. Patrik Elias admitted people have sat back and watched Ilya Kovalchuk at times. Zach Parise admitted this slump is unacceptable and that the team needs to pick it up. Finally, the players said what we all wanted them to say for the past few weeks.

But words aren’t going to be enough to turn around this streak. If the Devils want to change their play, they need to do it on the ice. What a better opportunity then going against the hated Rangers. They come into the game sitting outside the playoff picture, and the Rangers have only scored 170 goals this year. But Lundqvist is a Devils killer, compiling a 17-6-5 record in his career over the Devils. The Rangers also bring Marian Gaborik to town, who isn’t 100% but recorded 69 points so far this season (35 goals, 34 assists).

The Rangers aren’t a great team by any means, and the Devils need to impose their will on them. I want to see Lemaire use an aggressive forecheck to try and get some early turnovers. Not only that, but the Devils need to be patient in the offensive zone. The team errantly threw passes to the slot and didn’t possess the puck in Edmonton, allowing the Oilers to gain possession and clear the puck. The team needs to set up and cycle in the zone. The only way to create offense is to skate in the zone and find open areas. The Devils haven’t done that lately, instead letting players try and take on the entire defense. If they can get back to cycling the puck and getting to the dirty areas, this team will have success on the offensive end.

On the defensive side of the puck, Mike Mottau or Colin White need to be benched. I know it won’t happen, but Mark Fraser played very well in the minutes he played. He’s looked better than both Mottau and White, whose weaknesses were exposed with their increased playing time this season. Fraser seems to handle the pressures of the league well, and he’s already scored three goals on the season (including two against Pittsburgh). He doesn’t back down from physical play, either. The rookie deserves to start this game, and either Mottau or White need to sit this one out.

Finally, as tough as it will be, the Devils need to ignore Sean Avery. The Rangers pesky forward seems to always find a way to get under the skin of the Devils. I’m sure everyone on the team wants to hit him, and Kovalchuk actually did in their last matchup. But Avery succeeds when he takes people off of their game. To be effective, the Devils need to ignore Avery and be physical and aggressive. Let Avery do his thing and, when he needs it, give him a good shove or put him into the boards. But the team shouldn't go out of its way to beat up Avery. The best way to shut him up is to win the game.

Game time is at 7:00 p.m. Join Running With The Devils for a live game blog, beginning 15 minutes before the drop of the puck.

Here are the top four lines (from practice yesterday):

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus

Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner

Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson

Jay Pandolfo - Dean McAmmond - Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond

Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene

Colin White - Mike Mottau

Anssi Salmela - Martin Skoula

Martin Brodeur

Yann Danis

 
N.H.L. G.M.’s Proposed Rule Change Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 09 March 2010 12:41

With the N.H.L. general managers meeting underway in Boca Raton, Florida, only one proposed change to the on-ice product surfaced. General managers are leaning toward recommending a rule change that would penalize some, but not all, hits to the head under current NHL rules.

I italicized the words leaning toward to highlight the current language of the rule change. The general manager’s haven’t gone far enough. To make the game safer, N.H.L. general manager’s need to ban hits to the head.

The numbers on head hits in N.H.L. games are revealing. According to Colin Campbell, the N.H.L. director of operations, and Gary Meagher, a league spokesman, noted about seven hits a game are shoulder-to-head hits. Both studied 21 league games, which showed an average of 22 hits to the head per game, from a light brush with a glove to a heavy blow. In all of those games, or 462 instances, there was one penalty called.

Clearly, there is an issue here with needs to be fixed. While the general managers don’t want to see any of the physical aspect taken out of the game, they need to institute a safer rule on head hits. Just look at the recent hits from Matt Cooke, Chris Neil, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. This is an issue which needs to be addressed. The N.H.L. Players Association proposed a rule change last season to ban shoulder checks to the head, such as in the Ontario Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation. Hits like these aren’t a new problem. With the players calling for a change last year, these problems existed before. With the speed of the game increasing, especially after the lockout, hits became more violent, and the chances of injury increased significantly. But the league has been slow to respond, and they need to step up and address this issue. The league needs to follow the call of the N.H.L. Players Association and ban shoulder-to-head hits.

By banning shoulder-to-head hits, the N.H.L. can control the physical aspect of the game. We all enjoy the big hit. And it has its place in the game. A big hit can change momentum or send a message to the other team. But these hits should be delivered in a way that can still protect the players. Without that insurance, we can continue to see players laying face down or back up, lost as to where they are.

As Doug Wilson, general manager of the San Jose Sharks said, “We all like hitting; it’s a big part of thisgame. But there’s a line that gets crossed, and people are getting injured.”

If general managers ban these hits now, they can be almost eliminated by the end of the season. Yes, it’s going to be difficult to adjust for players. There may be an increase in penalties called, which can be frustrating. But in the long run, it’s better to be frustrated to make the game safer than blatantly allow a dangerous hit to continually take place. The N.H.L. can also ease players into the transition. Begin giving players a two-minute minor for hits to the head. Creating a penalty would begin to eliminate the use of the hit throughout the lead. I could even see giving a five-minute major for the hit as well. Both would begin to transition the players into the new rules. Starting next season, each hit to the head should carry a mandatory game suspension, with length depending on the severity and intention of the hit. While this may not eliminate every hit, it will vastly reduce the number of instances these dangerous hits could possibly occur.

Limiting these hits wouldn’t take away from the physical nature of hockey. Trust me, the N.H.L. won’t becoming a no-check roller hockey league. Players can still take the body and make huge, earth-rattling hits. Banning shoulder-to-head hits makes those hits, and the game overall, safer. In the end, that’s what players, coaches and fans want to see.

Photo Credit: The Hockey News

 
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