Game 40: Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils
Game Time: 7:30 PM
Radio: 970 AM
The New Jersey Devils (15-14-10) will play host to the Boston Bruins (25-9-4) tonight for third and final meeting of the season. This is the second game between these teams in the last week. Last Thursday, the Devils shipped up to Boston in a game that saw the Devils throw everything but the kitchen sink at Tuukka Rask, but he stopped all 40 shots. Jaromir Jagr would score in his debut as a Bruin, and the Devils would fall 1-0. These are two teams headed in different directions, as Boston is fighting to win the Northeast Division, and New Jersey is fighting to keep its playoffs hopes alive.
New Jersey Devils
It has been an extremely rough stretch for the Devils since Ilya Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder, going 0-3-4 in those games. That’s the Devils longest losing streak since 1986. The losing streak has not been from a lack of effort, however. Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres, for example, the Devils would keep the opposition pinned in its zone for 2-3 minutes at a time. They have been heavily out shooting opponents, but the puck luck just hasn’t been there. Posts, crossbars, shots trickling just wide, you think of a way for a puck not to go into the net, the Devils have done it, and done it a lot. It is obvious how much this team misses Kovalchuk. They now stand 29th in the league in goals for (92). Only the Colorado Avalanche have less (90).
The Devils currently sit in 10th, with 40 points, 2 behind both the Winnipeg Jets (9th) and the New York Rangers, who are in the 8th and final playoff spot. With 9 games remaining, and the schedule being as unforgiving as ever, the Devils are going to have to find a way to put the puck in the net, Kovy or no Kovy. They cannot continue to leave points on the table like they did Sunday night against Buffalo, losing another one in the shootout. The Devils are 2-7 in shootouts this year, nothing like their 12-4 mark last year. And those points may prove to be extremely costly if the Devils don’t break out of this slump, and quick.
The good news for the Devils is that Kovalchuk did practice with the team for the first time since his injury yesterday. And again today. He was out there taking soft shots, but not taking any contact. He says that the next step is to try some slap shots, one timers, and start contact. Coach Peter DeBoer admitted that waiting for Kovalchuk to be 100% is not realistic. Keith Kinkaid has been recalled from the AHL due to Johan Hedberg being sore after being run into during practice yesterday. Other Devils scratches tonight will be Adam Larsson, who was hit by a shot in practice, so Henrik Tallinder will replace him. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt D’Agostini will be back in the lineup as well, replacing Tom Kostopoulos and Jacob Josefson.
The Bruins rebounded from a tough 2-1 loss to their division rival Montreal Canadiens, with a 6-2 thrashing of the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night. The new Jagr, Brad Marchand, and Gregory Campbell line combined for 2 goals and 2 assists in that one. Rask was as strong as he has been all season, stopping 40 shots for the win. He is 17-6-4, with a 1.95 GAA and .928 save percentage this season, very impressive numbers for the 26 year old. But tonight, Anton Khudobin gets the start in net. Khudobin also has some impressive numbers as well, posting a 2.07 GAA and .929 save percentage in his 11 games played (8-3-0). Another impressive number for Boston is 90.4%. That is what their penalty kill is at right now, good enough for first in the league. Another great defensive stat is their 2.08 GA/G which is second in the league. With Montreal losing to the Washington Capitals last night, and being idle tonight, Boston will be looking for a chance to sit atop the Northeast division again with a win.
What to Watch For
This is it. This is the home stretch. Single digit games remaining. For some teams, like Boston, at this point it’s about positioning, and maybe winning a division title. For others, like the New Jersey Devils, it’s about just getting into the playoffs. While the Devils are in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, they still control their own destiny. With Kovalchuk’s return looking a little closer in the distance, the Devils’ spirits should be slightly lifted. I can’t see the Devils deviating from their plan of attack from their last few games. Although it hasn’t turned into positive results, they can’t let that frustration affect their game. They will need to forecheck hard, get a lot of shots on net, and will have to hope for some luck this time against a team that doesn’t give very much with the likes of Zdeno Chara shoring up the defense. Both games this season were extremely tight, and tonight should be no different. With games against the teams above the Devils in the standings remaining, there is still time to make up for their recent stretch. All is not lost, but it has to start tonight.
Not So Fun Fact: The Devils are 10-2-3 in games Martin Brodeur starts and Kovalchuk is in the lineup. In games where one is missing? 5-12-7.
Posted on April 10, 2013, in Game Preview, New Jersey Devils and tagged boston bruins, Brodeur, bruins, Devils, game preview, Hedberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, jagr, Johan Hedberg, Keith Kinkaid, kinkaid, Kovalchuk, larsson, marchand, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.