Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Patrik Elias (2 assists)
2nd star: Petr Sykora (Goal, assist)
1st star: Ilya Kovalchuk (Goal, 2 assists)
Let’s rewind two days. Entering Thursday night, the Devils were deprived of goal scoring. They had won just three of eight games, and scored two goals in the three wins. But after the shootout win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Devils finally exploded against Tampa Bay. In the second period, they scored 4 times, added two more in the third period, and the Devils had themselves a 6-4 win over the Lightning. In that game, the Devils felt good about their game offensively, but Martin Brodeur did surrender four goals, and the Devils didn’t really play a strong defensive game. Perhaps Pete DeBoer just let them play wide open to boost their confidence. So they went down to Carolina and cleaned up the other part of their game. They played one of their better games all season, blasting the Hurricanes, 5-0, and the Devils clinch a playoff spot in style.
New Jersey Devils (23-16-2, 48 points) vs Calgary Flames (19-19-5, 43 points)
9:30 PM EST
TV: MSG+ 2
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
Tonight mark’s the one and only time that the New Jersey Devils and the Calgary Flames will battle this season. The two teams last met in November of 2010 which saw the game end in a 2-1 shootout win for the Devils.
What a Difference a Year Makes:
Saturday marked the one year mark since the Devils traded their Captain, Jamie Langenbrunner, to the Dallas Stars. It seemed ever since that move, the Devils horrific season seemed to turn around despite missing the playoffs for the first time since the 95-96 season.
The Devils win on Saturday over Pittsburgh, which saw Ilya Kovalchuk score his 15th goal of the season which puts him in a tie for the team-lead with David Clarkson, put them at 48 points so far this season. This is impressively better as the Devils had only 22 points at the halfway point of last season.
This season so far, the Devils have seven players with double digit goal totals. Some of the skaters are surprises including David Clarkson, who has already surpassed his scoring from last season. Other surprises include Petr Sykora, who made the team out of training camp, and rookie Adam Henrique.
The Devils currently find themselves sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. They are two points out of fifth, four out of fourth (currently held by the Flyers), and eight behind the Rangers for first in the division and the East.
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise (C) – Henrique – Kovalchuk (A)
Sykora – Elias (A) – Zubrus
Palmieri – Zalewski – Clarkson
Boulton – Carter – Tedenby
Salvador – Larsson
Taormina – Foster
Tallinder – Fayne
Scratches: Zajac, Josefson, Janssen
The Latest on the Calgary Flames:
The Flames are coming off a bounce-back win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday after they were embarrassed by the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, 9-0.
The game against the Wild saw important career milestones get reached. Going into the third period the Flames and Wild were scoreless until Lance Bouma was able to beat Niklas Backstrom for his first National Hockey League Goal. This goal started a rally which saw Jarome Iginla score, the eventual game winner, as well as Curtis Glencross. Iginla’s goal was his 500th career NHL goal. What makes this mighty impressive is all the goals were scored with the same team, the Calgary Flames.
Iginla has shown no signs of stopping either, as he is currently on pace to score 30+ goals again in what would be his 11th consecutive season.
Flames Stats Leaders:
Points – Jarome Iginla, 33
Goals – Curtis Glencross, 17
Assists – Olli Jokinen, 21
Projected Flames Lineup:
Stempniak – Backlund – Bouma
Byron – Jones – Comeau
Brostopolous – Horak – Jackman
Bouwmeester – Butler
Brodie – Sarich
Wilson – Babstache
Tonight is the second of four times that the Devils and Jets will meet this season. They last played on November 5, which saw the Devils win 3-2 in overtime.
First Period Defense:
For the second time in two games, the New Jersey Devils allowed the opposition to score three goals in the first period. First on Wednesday night, the Devils allowed three goals to the Avalanche and found themselves down 3-0 at the end of the first period. Last night, the Devils gave up three goals once again in the first period, this time to the Minnesota Wild.
Despite giving up three goals in the first period, the Devils looked like a better team against the Wild then they did against Colorado. They outshot the Wild 31-16 in the game. Zach Parise said he thought the team deserved better than they got due to their play being better than when they got slaughtered by the Avalanche.
It was also a night that backups had to save their teams. Johan Hedberg came in for the Devils just 8:17 into the game when starter Martin Brodeur gave up three goals on four shots. Josh Harding had to come in for the Wild to replace Nicklas Backstrom who left the game after one period with a lower body injury.
Johan Hedberg is expected to get the start tonight in Winnipeg.
Last time the Devils were in Winnipeg:
Date: Dec. 29, 1995
Site: Winnipeg Arena
Score: Jets, 5, Devils 3
Goals: NJ—Petr Sykora 2, Bill Guerin. WPG—Mike Eastwood, Dave Manson, Ed Olczyk, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk.
Assists: NJ—Guerin 2, Steve Thomas 2, Sykora, Kevin Dean. WPG—Selanne 2, Tkachuk 2, Manson, Olczyk, Darrin Shannon.
Goaltenders: NJ—Martin Brodeur (33 saves, 37 shots—1 ENG). WPG—Tim Cheveldae (31 saves, 34 shots)
Forwards: Neal Broten, Bob Carpenter, Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, John MacLean, Randy McKay, Mike Peluso, Stephane Richer, Brian Rolston, *Petr Sykora, Steve Thomas, Valeri Zelepukin.
Defensemen: Shawn Chambers, Ken Daneyko, Kevin Dean, Scott Niedermayer, Jason Smith, Scott Stevens.
Goaltender: *Martin Brodeur.
(Courtesy of Tom Gulitti of The Record)
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora - Elias - Zubrus
Tedenby - Carter – Clarkson
Boulton – Sestito – Janssen
Greene – Larsson
Talinder – Fayne
Volchenkov – Salvador
Jets Coming Off a Win against….Themselves:
The Winnipeg Jets are currently playing in the Eastern Conference this season, which means they only got one home game against the Phoenix Coyotes, who were the Jets until they moved to Phoenix in 1996. Thursday night, the Jets hosted the Coyotes before a sold out MTS Centre. The crowd for the game was really into it, especially when Bryan Little scored a goal 6:53 into the game which eventually was the game winner.
The crowd also gave Coyotes’ captain Shane Doan a reasonable applause as he is the only player on the Coyotes currently who had donned a Jets jersey before the move.
Projected Jets Lineup:
Ladd – Burmistrov – Wellwood
Kane – Little – Wheeler
Klingberg – Stapleton – Jaffray
Glass – Slater – Thorburn
Byfuglien – Stuart
Oduya – Bogosian
Kulda – Flood
A familiar face was in the New Jersey Devils training camp this September, that face being 34 year old veteran Petr Sykora. Long time fans will remember Petr from his first stint with the Devils that ran from 1995-2002. Sykora was 1/3 of the infamous “A-Line” which also featured Jason Arnott and fellow Czech and Devils all time leading scorer, Patrik Elias. The A-Line was one of the most productive lines in the NHL for a couple of seasons, culminating in a 2000 Stanley Cup Championship.
Petr was invited to camp this year and most onlookers viewed the invitation as a gesture of good will. The Devils organization has a long time tradition of looking after their players; both past and current, and none in the game give and have garnered more respect than Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello. Many in hockey circles whispered that Sykora wouldn’t make the team which is seemingly loaded with forwards, many of them young and hungry. Well hockey pundits, looks like Petr is making you think twice. Sykora has been rejuvenated by his return to New Jersey, where he first served notice that he wanted to stick around by netting a hat trick in an intrasquad scrimmage game during training camp. Petr’s play in camp earned him a spot on the roster for some preseason games, where he recorded 2 goals and an assist. In Petr’s last couple of preseason games he has been skating on a line with longtime friend Patrik Elias at center and Zach Parise. Could we be watching A-Line 2.0 in the making? Most fans can’t help but feel nostalgic about seeing these guys playing together again nearly 10 years after Petr’s departure from New Jersey.
NHL players, coaches and General Managers alike will tell you that often a player’s shot is the last thing they lose. Petr certainly still has his and wants to be using it in the NHL this season. Has Petr done enough to earn a spot on the 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils roster? It appears so, but only time will tell. The fans and Petr alike will likely learn his fate at some point on Wednesday. If Sykora is here to stay, expect to see small waves of #17 jerseys around The Rock that do not have “KOVALCHUK” emblazoned on the back of them, but rather the name of an old friend, “SYKORA”.
Prediction: Sykora makes the roster and plays with Elias and Parise at times. He may be tried out on different line combinations to see where he fits and helps the team best. I also expect him to see some time on the 2nd power play unit throughout the season. Fifteen goals and 25 assists sounds like a great season for Petr Sykora!