Game 71 (Calder Trophy Showdown) Preview: Your New Jersey Devils (Henrique) vs. Colorado Avalanche (Landeskog)
New Jersey Devils (40-25-5, 87 points) vs. Colorado Avalanche (38-30-4, 80 points)7:00 PM EDT
TV: MSG +2
Radio: WFAN 660AM
In the midst of their own version of “March Madness,” the Devils tough March continues tonight against a hungry, on the playoff bubble, Colorado Avalanche team that currently holds the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. This will be the 2nd and last time the two teams match up, and for the Devils sake, they hope it ends with a better result. Back on November 30th in the Pepsi Center, the young Avs dominated the Devils, a team still searching for their identity then, in a 6-1 rout with the lone goal coming from Ilya Kovalchuk.
Tonight will be an opportunity for the Devils to make up for their lackluster effort on Tuesday against the Flyers. The Devils barely tested Ilya Bryzgalov, producing only 17 shots and getting shutout for only the 4th time this season. It was a disappointing game for them, being unable to carry along the momentum they had gained from the past 4 straight victories. Ilya Kovalchuk’s 5 game point streak was also snapped, and he remains on the cusp of reaching 400 goals, still stuck with 399. After being outshot 29-17, DeBoer called the Devils “outcompeted” by the Flyers. Although Captain Zach Parise didn’t believe the Devils played their best brand of hockey, he did give credit to how the Flyers performed stating “… tonight it seemed like we didn’t do enough to challenge him [Bryzgalov] enough. We made it pretty easy for him. I think he saw a lot of the shots. We weren’t able to get rebounds. It’s a credit to the way they play too. They just didn’t give us much.” With that loss, the Devils now sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 85 points. With 9 other East teams in action tonight, a Devils have an opportunity to gain ground on a lot of teams depending on the outcomes of the other games. Returning to the Prudential Center tonight should only help the Devils case: they have won three straight at home, outscoring opponents 13-3 in the process.
Meanwhile in Colorado, the Avs come to Newark in dire need of extending their current 3 game winning streak. With 80 points, they lead the Sharks, Flames, and Kings by only two points. However, if they are able to keep up this pace and secure a playoff spot, they will have gotten hot at the perfect time. In the past 12 games, the Avs are 9-3-0. They last hit the ice Wednesday, in which they won in dramatic fashion as Jamie McGinn forced overtime with just 2 seconds left in the 3rd period. Peter Mueller ended up scoring the lone goal in the shootout to lock up another victory for the surging Avalanche. A lot of the focus tonight will be on center Matt Duchene, a dynamic center is making his return to the lineup for the first time since March 6th, after the original prognosis had him sidelined until April. In 48 games this season, Duchene has registered 26 points on 13 goals and 13 assists. He may see limited ice time being it is his first game back, but he is always dangerous for Colorado.
Another story heading into tonight is the matchup between the two front runners for the Calder Trophy (NHL’s version of Rookie of the Year). Adam Henrique of the Devils, and Gabriel Landeskog of the Avalanche are both putting together fantastic rookie years, making the decision for the NHL award voters extremely difficult. Henrique and Landeskog are currently in a deadlock for the rookie lead in points scored, with both of them collecting 46. With a goal and an assist last night, Henrique was well aware that Landeskog had tied him for the lead, but insisted it will not be a factor for tonight: “He’s been fire lately, the last month,” Henrique said. “It makes it fun, going out there and playing. But it’s something you can’t focus on too much. You don’t want to take away from the game. It’s not me against him tonight. They’re in a tight race for a playoff spot, so we’re going to see their best game and we’re going to have to be a lot better.” Regardless of who wins, both players have had a tremendous impact on their teams this season. Adam Henrique’s game has been so solid this season that DeBoer has placed him on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Landeskog leads all rookies with 20 goals, and his recent surge has the Avalanche clinging to a playoff spot.
Finally, the goaltending matchup tonight should bring back good (mostly) memories for Devils fans. With J.S. Giguere getting the nod from head coach Joe Sacco, and Martin Brodeur most likely starting for the Devils, a 2003 Stanley Cup rematch is in effect tonight. The Devils raised Lord’s Stanley Cup that year, defeating the Ducks in game 7, but Devils fans were shocked when Gary Bettman awarded the Conn Smythe trophy to Giguere – 7:25 into this video. Brodeur has lost his last three straight against the Avs, but comes into this game with a 16-8-6 record against them.
New Jersey Devils Projected Lineup
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus
Ponikarovsky – Josefson – Clarkson
Boulton – Carter – Bernier
Greene – Fayne
Volchenkov – Larsson
Salvador – Zidlicky
Colorado Avalanche Projected Lineup
McGinn – Stastny – Jones
Landeskog – O’Reilly – Downie
Mueller – Duchene – Hejduk
McLeod – McClement – Oliver
Johnson – Hunwick
O’Byrne – Hejda
O’Brien – Wilson
This will be the first of two matchups between the Avalanche and the Devils this season. They will play again on March 15, 2012 in New Jersey. Last year, in their one and only meeting of the season on October 15, 2010, the Avalanche won 3-2.
Did Parise Kick it In?:
The Devils seemed to have tied the game against the New York Islanders with two seconds left on Saturday, but the NHL War Room had a different opinion.
There is no question that Zach Parise directed the puck in off of his skate, but was it a distinct kicking motion? NHL Rule 49.2 states that if the puck is deflected in off the skate, it will count as a goal, but if the puck is propelled in by a distinct kicking motion, it will not be a legitimate goal. I was always under the impression that a distinct kicking motion was a pendulum, back to front, motion.
Evidently, Parise’s skate going to the right and making contact with the puck was enough for the NHL to declare it a distinct kicking motion, but listen to this:
In the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Jay Pandolfo performed almost the same exact move as Parise. Originally the goal was waived off, unlike Parise’s which was called a goal. After going to Toronto to review the goal, the NHL said it was a goal because there was no DISTINCT kicking motion.
Clearly, most Devils fans believe it should’ve been a goal, but to quote head coach Peter DeBoer, “You live with it, and you move on.”
Against the Avalanche:
All-time the Devils are 30-26-9-0 when playing the Avalanche/Nordiques and 12-16-4-0 when playing in Colorado/Quebec.
Patrik Elias is the all-time leading scorer for the Devils against the Avalanche with 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 17 games played.
Zach Parise, has played in 5 career games against the Avalanche and has 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in those games.
Martin Brodeur is 16-7-6 in his career against the Avalanche with a 2.22 GAA.
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus
Tedenby – Carter – Clarkson
Boulton – Sestito – Janssen
Tallinder – Fayne
Salvador – Larson
Volchenkov – Fraser
Avalanche Having Hard Time Winning at Home:
Currently the Avalanche find themselves in midst of a eight-game homestand. So far on this homestand, the Avalanche find themselves with only two wins, with three games left. Also, in their last three losses, the Avalanche scored only two goals.
On the bright side, the Avalanche’s number one goalie, Semyon Varlamov is starting to come around. The former Capitals goaltender struggled in the beginning of the season with his new squad, but Varlamov has only allowed a pair of goals in each of his past three starts.
Projected Avalanche Lineup:
Duchene – Stastny – Hejduk
Landeskog – O’Reilly – Winnik
McLeod – Galiardi – Jones
Porter – McClement – Kobasew
Quincey – O’Brien
Hejda – Wilson
Hunwick – O’Byrne