Three Stars of the Game:
3rd Star: Alex Killorn (1 goal, 1 assist)
2nd Star: Andy Greene (1 goal, 1 assist)
1st Star: Steven Stamkos (2 goals, 1 assist)
Stephen Gionta, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Bryce Salvador all made their returns from injury, but it wasn’t enough as the Devils (15-11-8) dropped another tough one in the shootout Friday night to the Tampa Bay Lightning (15-18-1). The offense wasn’t the problem this time, it was the defensive play. The Devils scored in almost every way they could, scoring goals at even strength, on the power play, shorthanded, and even on a penalty shot, but couldn’t put one past Mathieu Garon during the shootout. The Devils are now 2 – 6 this year in the shootout, a huge drop-off from their shootout success last year.
Game Time: 7:30 PM
Radio: 660 WFAN AM, 101.9 FM
For the first and only time this season, the New Jersey Devils (15-11-7) will travel to Tampa Bay to face-off against the Lightning (14-18-1). The previous two meetings between the teams were split, with the Devils winning the first game 4-2, and the Lightning taking the second contest 5-2. The Devils will look to bounce back from a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators, while the Lightning will look to continue their strong play at home.
Game Time: 7:00 PM
Radio: 660 WFAN AM, 101.9 FM
For the second time this season, the New Jersey Devils (10-7-5) will face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (9-12-1) at the Prudential Center, their first meeting being a 4-2 win for Jersey’s Team, with goals coming from Henrique, Kovalchuk, Greene, and Elias. Both teams will be playing their second game in as many nights, with the Devils coming off of a 4-2 loss in Toronto, and Tampa Bay coming off a 4-3 loss against the Penguins. The last time these teams met, the Devils were in the middle of their 5-game winning streak, while the Lightning were in the middle of what would be a 6-game losing streak.
One of the biggest questions coming into this season was “How were the Devils going to replace the scoring production when that guy from Minnesota went back home?” 10 games in, it sounds like David Clarkson and Patrik Elias are trying their best to answer that question. Elias had a goal and 2 assists and Clarkson added an assist to keep his amazing start to the season alive.
After a scoreless 1st period the Devils opened up the scoring as Adam Henrique poked home a rebound for his 3rd goal in 5 games since coming back from thumb surgery. The play of Henrique on the same line with Elias and Clarkson has given the Devils their most productive line given the small sample size of 3 games. I expect this line to stay together for most of the season.
(I had to use my own headline tonight. Sorry!)
Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Ilya Kovalchuk (Goal, assist)
2nd star: Ryan Malone (Lighting – 3 goals)
1st star: Patrik Elias (2 assists)
New Jersey Devils (43-28-6, 92 points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (35-34-7, 77 points)
7:00 PM E.T.
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
This is the fourth and final meeting between the Devils and Lightning. As was the case with Toronto, the road team has won every game between these two teams this season, so the Devils will look to break that trend tonight. The Devils have had the Lightning’s number over the years, but a loss tonight would mean they did not win the season series against Tampa Bay. The Lightning won the most recent meeting, 4-3 on February 26th at Prudential Center, as Martin St. Louis scored a hat trick in the game. The Devils’ late comeback fell short that day.
(headline submitted by @RAJH7191)
After playing the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and preparing for the New York Rangers on Monday night, it would be easy for the Devils to look past their Sunday afternoon game against Tampa Bay. Well, let’s be honest: they did just that. They played a decent first period, but they looked out of sync for most of this game against a very beat up Lightning team that lost 8-1 in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Marek Zidlicky wasn’t much of a factor in his Devils debut, and Adam Larsson struggled in his first game back from injury.
Just as the Devils looked at the Vancouver loss on Friday, the Devils looked as if they couldn’t connect on some of the plays they tried. Their start in this game was better than their start against Vancouver. Alexei Ponikarovsky made a brilliant play, stealing the puck from Ryan Malone, and then patiently skating in front of Tampa Bay goaltender Mathieu Garon before scoring into an open net. The Devils took the 1-0 lead, but they weren’t able to do too much once they had the lead. Still, they finished the first period with a lead.
Here’s some reaction from Twitter after the first period:
@zerogravityfat: Pretty dominant first, gotta keep this up, stamkos is always a treat.
@NJDevilsFans: Zidlicky looks like he has been playing with the Devils for the season.
@RyanQueler: Loved the 600 pound line. Zubie poni and bernier wearing down tampa bay on the forecheck
@jjennii8: The Devils should just play a man down the entire game if they play like they just did on the PK
Unfortunately, the second period wasn’t as smooth as the first period. Tampa Bay’s frustrating defensive scheme prevented the Devils from connecting with their passes and ability to set up elite scoring chances. The second period then became the Martin St. Louis show. After a terribly slow line change by the Devils, Garon sent the puck up the right side of the ice, past Cam Janssen, to Steven Stamkos, who found St. Louis on a breakaway. St. Louis then beat Brodeur up high to tie the game. Minutes later, he scored again on a rebound after Ilya Kovalchuk was called for a questionable penalty call.
The feedback after the second period wasn’t as positive as the first:
@emanupo: So, if the Devils play 40 min out of 60 and this period is the 20 min of non-play, we should expect a really good 3rd period…
The third period didn’t start well for the Devils. They failed on a power play that carried over after Stamkos took a penalty at the end of the second period. However, less than 30 seconds after the failed power play, Steve Bernier came from behind the net and threw the puck right to Petr Sykora, and the game was tied. Sykora picked up his 15th goal of the season. The Devils’ celebration was short-lived, though, as just over 30 seconds following Sykora’s goal, the Devils broke down again. Adam Larsson chased the puck-carrier on a 3-on-2, turning it into a 2-on-1, and St. Louis found Matt Gilroy, who just had to tap the puck a few inches, and Tampa Bay re-gained the lead.
The Devils couldn’t manage much offense in the following minutes, but Teddy Purcell spun around his shot from the right point and St. Louis deflected it past Brodeur for a hat trick and a 4-2 Lightning lead. The Devils didn’t push back much until a late penalty on St. Louis gave them a power play. After a frustrating afternoon for Zach Parise, who came close to scoring several times, but kept getting stopped or missed, Parise finally got one, as Kovalchuk faked a one-timer, he fed Parise, who left his normal spot on the power play, down low, and assumed duties along the right circle and point. Parise snapped a shot from the right side off the post and in for his 23rd goal of the season to cut the deficit to 4-3. Kovalchuk then led a tremendous rush up ice, but it was too little, too late, as the Devils eventually fell, 4-3.
It was a rough return for Adam Larsson, who hadn’t played since taking a big hit from P.K. Subban weeks ago. The Swedish rookie didn’t finish as a minus, but didn’t seem to make the right decisions when he needed to today. As for the other addition to the lineup, Marek Zidlicky had an even tougher day. He took a penalty, registered just one shot on net, played 14:25 and was a minus-2. Perhaps the best player on the Devils today was Alexei Ponikarovsky. He had scoring chances all day, and could have scored at least two or three goals, had he not been robbed by Garon from the crease or missed passes.
The Devils improved in one of the areas that haunted them on Friday: the face-off circle. Although Tampa Bay doesn’t have the face-off machines that Vancouver does, the Devils won 27 of 53 draws in the game, although they struggled in the final minutes. That isn’t an impressive percentage, but it helped the Devils maintain better possession of the puck. Even so, they only managed to take 22 shots on Garon. The Devils are amongst the bottom of the league in shots per game, and failed to take advantage of the Lightning’s horrific defense. Tampa Bay entered the day having allowed the most goals in the entire league.
Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on Parise’s goal. The assist gives him 60 points on the season, which matches his total from last season. Ponikarovsky’s goal gives him 11 points in 15 games as a Devil. Brodeur will start again tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, which will be three games in four nights for Marty. That’s not something many of you support.
@babycakes12304: I think Hedberg should be in the net knowing we play the Rangers tomorrow.
I guess we’ll all find out together tomorrow against the Rangers.
New Jersey Devils (35-21-4, 74 points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (27-28-6, 60 points)
1:00 PM E.T.
TV: MSG +
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
This Sunday afternoon game features the Devils and Lightning. This is the third of four meetings between these two Eastern Conference teams. The Devils won each of the prior two, both of them in Tampa Bay: 4-2 and 5-4. Martin Brodeur will be in net, which comes as a surprise to many, since the Devils also play Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Brodeur has beaten the Lightning 35 times coming into this game. After a horrific performance by the team and Dwayne Roloson on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Mathieu Garon will likely start against the Devils.
Can’t solve Cory Schneider:
The Devils didn’t play their best game of the season on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks, but they certainly had their chances. In total, they harassed Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider all night, with 31 shots, many of which were very good scoring chances, but Schneider had an answer for all but one David Clarkson shot, and had tremendous rebound control all night. Zach Parise led the way with 7 shots on goal. Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson each had 5 shots on Schneider, including Clarkson’s career-high 24th goal of the season.
Other than beating Schneider, though, the Devils played a very good game on Friday, following a ceremony to honor long-time play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick. Vancouver had six of the game’s first eight shots, but the Devils outshot them, 29-10 the rest of the way. The Devils held the Sedin line (Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows) to a total of two shots on goal. Martin Brodeur had little chance on either Vancouver goal, and he made some impressive saves, including one where he came out to prevent a Canucks breakaway, Dominek Hasek-style. Brodeur was beat once on a rebound to a pinching Aaron Rome and a shot by Mason Raymond that re-directed past him after hitting Andy Greene.
The Devils had a pair of power plays, and didn’t get much going. That may have had something to do with Kurtis Foster not being in the lineup, as he was held out due to a trade to Minnesota. They also killed off the Canucks’ only power play of the game, so special teams were not much of a factor at all. The one part of the game that the Devils struggled in all night was their inability to win face-offs. As I discussed in last night’s recap, Manny Malhotra dominated the Devils’ face-off men. At one point by my count, Malholtra won six straight draws. The Devils only won three of 21 draws in the first period, and just 19 of 61 all night.
Still, despite their inability to score goals and struggles in the face-off circle, the Devils should feel good about the way they played, and their position in general. Although the Penguins’ win over the Lightning on Saturday jumped Pittsburgh over the Devils, New Jersey is still fifth in the Eastern Conference and is 9-2-1 since the All-Star break. A win over a struggling Tampa Bay team would certainly keep them headed in the right direction.
It’s also worthy to note that Martin Brodeur will face the Lightning, as well as the Rangers on Monday. He hasn’t started games on back-to-back days this season. I personally find it strange that Johan Hedberg isn’t starting on Sunday.
A new face in town:
It was announced mid-game on Friday and discussed at length previously: the Devils acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky from Minnesota for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux and a pair of draft picks. If you want to read more about the trade, be sure to read Ross O’Shea’s piece from Saturday. Zidlicky did not arrive in Newark early enough to practice with the team on Saturday, but he did skate at the Prudential Center after practice with fellow Czech countryman and friend Patrik Elias, along with defensive coach Larry Robinson. Zidlicky will wear #2 and is expected to play on Sunday. He gives the Devils a much-needed puck-moving defenseman and will certainly help the power play out.
Speaking of defensemen, the Devils expect to get rookie Adam Larsson back in the lineup for Sunday’s game. Larsson has been sidelined with a bruised back after taking a hard hit by Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban on February 2nd. Including that game, the Devils went 8-2-1 without him. With Larsson, Zidlicky and Andy Greene, the Devils now have three legitimate defenseman who can help create offense, which is something that has been lacking in New Jersey for many years. General Manager Lou Lamoriello has certainly set the Devils up for a potentially long playoff run this spring.
About the Bolts:
The same can’t be said for the Tampa Bay Lightning, regarding a playoff run. The Lightning, who took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last spring, but sit 12th in the conference currently. Despite Steven Stamkos leading the league with 43 goals this season, the Lightning have been extremely inconsistent this season. They have also given up the most goals in the entire league. They gave up 8 goals in a loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday, led by Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick for Pittsburgh.
Nothing has gone right for Tampa Bay defensively this season. Their defensemen have been struggling, they get beat to pucks and sometimes, as Malkin proved on Saturday, beat one-on-one too often. In addition, Dwayne Roloson has not played nearly as well as he did last season. Garon has only been slightly better for Tampa Bay. Even though the Lightning have explosive offensive players, such as Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, they can’t score enough goals to make up for their defensive woes. It’s been a frustrating season for Guy Boucher’s Lightning after the expectations that they had after last season’s success, and playing in a weak division. The Devils can’t look past this game, though, because Tampa Bay can score goals if you’re not careful, and the Devils might have their sights set on Monday night at Madison Square Garden already.
Lightning projected lineup:
Connolly – Stamkos – Malone
St. Louis – Pyatt – Purcell
Smith – Thompson – Wyman
Angelidis – Hall – Wallace
Brewer – Hedman
Clark – Gilroy
Mikkelson – Gervais
Devils projected lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Clarkson
Ponikarovsky – Zubrus – Bernier
Carter – Josefson – Janssen
Greene – Larsson (if he plays)
Volchenkov – Salvador
Fayne – Zidlicky
New Jersey Devils (14-13-1, 29 points) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (12-15-2, 26 points)
7:00 PM EST
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
Tonight will be the second of four matchups between the Lightning and the Devils this season, it will also be the second of two matchups played at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. The two teams last met on November 19 in Tampa with the Devils coming away with a 4-2 victory.
Taormina Looking to Make Most of Second Chance:
Matt Taormina made the Devils out of training camp last year and had three goals and two assists in the Devils’ first 17 games last season. He had appeared to be adapting to NHL play quickly. Then on November 14, 2010, teammate Mattias Tedenby fell on Taormina’s ankle during a practice session which eventually sidelined Taormina for the rest of the season.
Taormina rehabbed throughout the spring and summer and came into training camp, looking for a fresh start. However, a back injury caused Taormina to be sidelined for a week during training camp, which hurt his chances at making the roster. He started the season in Albany.
Now with Andy Greene sidelined for four weeks, and Anton Volchenkov listed as day-to-day, Taormina has gotten a second chance to prove that he belongs in the NHL. He had over 16 minutes of ice time in Saturday’s loss to Montreal, and even had some powerplay time.
Taormina practiced on Sunday with the second powerplay unit, and is expected to play on the unit tonight.
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise (C) – Henrique – Kovalchuk (A)
Sykora - Elias (A) – Clarkson
Zubrus - Carter – Palmieri
Boulton – Sestito – Tedenby
Talinder – Fayne
Salvador – Larsson
Taormina – Urbom
The Latest on the Tampa Bay Lightning:
In five games so far in the month of December, the Tampa Bay Lightning have come away with only two points out of a possible 10. In those five games, the Lightning have scored first four out of five. However, squandering an early lead has become a Bolt trademark. This was last seen on Saturday when Ryan Shannon gave the Lightning an early 1-0 lead over the Flyers, but the Broad Street Bullies scored three unanswered and never relinquished the lead.
The team is clearly hurting from the absence of all-star Martin St. Louis, who is out indefinitely with facial and nasal fractures after teammate Dominic Moore hit him with a puck during a pre-game skate two games ago.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher says the difference between last year’s Lightning team and this year’s is the fact that the Lightning are struggling on the man-advantage this season. The Bolts have a 14.7% powerplay success, which is still higher than the Devils; however, with the Devils 93.4% PK, the chances of the Lightning improving their PP tonight is slim to none.
Projected Lightning Lineup:
Malone – Stamkos (A) – Downie
Pyatt – Lecavalier (C) – Purcell
Thompson – Moore – Shannon
Jones – Hall – Tyrell
Hedman – Brewer (A)
Bergeron – Gilroy
Clark – Gervais
This past week was a busy one for the Devils. Playing back-to-back games against two top Eastern Conference opponents in the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres, and then rounding it out with a Saturday night match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was a good test for Jersey’s team. And they didn’t disappoint winning 2 of those 3 games!
This week’s “Player of the Week” is a tough one as there were contributions from multiple players, making for some great hockey…but we won’t complain! We narrowed it down to three choices below. If you think someone else deserves it, tell us who and why by voting Other.
Vote for your “Player of the Week” and tell us why you picked that player. Stay tuned for the results!