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Game 72 Preview: Obligatory Van Halen

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Earlier this year, with the Devils in free fall, it was hard not to look at this game and think it would be a free two points.

Now, much has changed. With Jacques Lemaire behind the bench (again), the team finally found its' stride, and for a time they appeared to be rising to challenge  for a playoff spot, ripping off win after win. The Devils came back down to Earth a bit, but they still remain a dangerous opponent, and one that the Jackets have had trouble against in their last two meetings.

Essentials:
Game Time: 5:00 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 102.5 WWCD-FM
Devils vs Blue Jackets coverage

Opponent's Blog:In Lou We Trust

When you say "New Jersey Devils", one name comes automatically to mind: Martin Brodeur.

Love him or hate him, he's pretty much the ur-goaltender for much of the current generation of NHL netminders, and he and Patrick Roy changed how the position will be played going forward. He's something of a living legend, strapping on his pads and leading his teammates out onto the ice. For someone like Steve Mason, who grew up idolizing the man he'll see across the rink from him tonight, I imagine it's a lot like the feeling guys like Wayne Gretzky or Ron Francis felt when they suited up in the WHA, and looked up to find Gordie Howe staring back at them in the faceoff.

In this case, though, the Jackets are going to need to play a bit of legend killer - New Jersey is in the midst of their first losing streak since going on their 25-3-7 run to revive their season (or cost themselves a lottery pick, depending how you look at it), and the Jackets need to take the momentum from yesterday's win versus the Wild into today to keep the Devils down.

With Grant Clitsome questionable for today's game, we'll assume that Craig Rivet will take his place in the lineup, and if that appears to change we'll update everyone in the game thread.

Keys To The Game:

  • Home Cooking - The Devils have largely rebuilt their season on home wins - they're still below .500 on the road. The Jackets are going to have the advantage of shorter shifts and last change to help deal with the rigors of playing back to back afternoon games. Don't waste it.
  • Get On Top - For whatever reason, the Devils are NOT a counterattacking team - when trailing after 1 period, they are 3-22-0, and 4-29-1 when trailing after two. Jumping on top early, just as they did in Minnesota, will go a long way towards a win.
  • Power vs. Power - After Rick Nash broke out of his scoring streak with a bang, and Antoine Vermette got back on the score sheet with the GWG, the Jackets need to keep the top six pumping. It's just as important to shut down the top two lines for the Devils - much of their scoring power is concentrated into Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Patrick Elias. If the Jackets turn this into a game of secondary scoring, they might actually have an edge. (I don't get to write -that- very often...) The Devils only have 148 goals scored, compared to 181 allowed. (The Jackets 209 allowed is nothing to write home about, but the 191 for is a much more respectable number...)

The Jackets continue to have a solid record against the East - 10-2-2 this year. Let's make it 11, and see if the Jackets can keep the sputtering candle of playoff hopes alive.

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Derick Brassard Jakub Voracek
Matt Calvert Antoine Vermette R.J. Umberger
Derek Dorsett Samuel Pahlsson Scottie Upshall
Ethan Moreau Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Jan Hejda Sami Lepisto
Fedor Tyutin Marc Methot
Craig Rivet Kris Russell
Steve Mason

Mathieu Garon

 

New Jersey Devils

Ilya Kovalchuk Travis Zajac Nick Palmieri
Brian Rolston Patrik Elias Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby Jacob Josefson David Clarkson
Vladimir Zharkov Dave Steckel Adam Mair
Andy Greene Anssi Salmela
Henrik Tallinder Mark Fayne
Colin White Anton Volchenkov
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg


Tidbit: If you didn't get the title of this post, maybe this will help. Also, is it me, or do you see Vladimir Zharkov and think Flash Gordon?