Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio - CSN, WGN-AM 720
No Love You'd Call Real: In Lou We Trust
Now that I've finally calmed down from my acute case of chapped ass from Monday's frustrating loss to the Rangers, we can now take a look at what a team in true disarray looks like these days - the New Jersey Devils. After a protracted battle with the League, the CBA, and his own common sense, GM Lou Lamoriello landed prized free agent Ilya Kovalchuk with a 15-year, $100 mildo contract that to this point has crippled the Devils from a roster standpoint. Even with Brian Rolston hurt and mercifully taking $5 million off the books temporarily, Lou's already had to resort to only icing a 15-player roster, and AHL numerous call ups. Adding injury to insult, New Jersey is currently missing sought-after free agent defenseman Anton Volchenkov to a broken nose, and just yesterday, they learned they'd be without the excellent Zach Parise for three months with a torn meniscus.
Unsurpisingly, the Devils currently sport the league's worst record at present, with a 3-9-1 mark, leading some to openly question whether new boss/longtime Devils guy John "Give me my detonators!" MacLean and his purported desire to play a more uptempo game should be...well, detonated. It's hard to blame MacLean for any of this (he even resorted to scratching Kovy to jump start the team), but it wouldn't be all that unsurprising should it happen. That said, there's been a more than a bit of bad luck on the ice as well, with the Devils shooting at a mere 4.9%, which if pro-rated out for a whole season, would be a league record. One would think that number would buoy back up a bit, and even a makeshift top-line of Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner should not be taken lightly. Past that, the line of Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, and Dainus Zubrus should be effective...if this were 1998. And of course, Fatso has, as always, been backstopping the whole mess. His numbers are obviously bloated compared to his career averages (2.76 GAA, .902 SV), but are far from abhorrent.
The Devils are a wounded animal right now backed into a corner, and while MacLean may have wanted to push the pace, it would not be shocking to see them revert back to their old circle-the-wagons ways in order to save his own ass and keep the season from completely slipping away.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, things aren't quite as dire, but it's still a bit more of a clusterfuck than we're used to around here. The last two games against the Wild and Rangers have been tighter defensively, which is good, but there were still lapses in the Ranger contest. Those will need to be tightened up, and the return of Brian Campbell should help that process, particularly for partner Niklas Hjalmarsson, who's had a rough go of it to this point. Patrick Sharp has cooled off his goal scoring clip just a bit, but Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith seem to picking it up a bit, which is encouraging and necessary with Hossa out for at least tonight's contest, and possibly Saturday's. Keith's decision making still isn't totally up to snuff, but it's getting better as his minutes come down and is asked to do less, and the more Campbell is able to play, the more that trend should continue.
As far as the lineup is concerned, Joel Quenneville is seemingly throwing his hands up in the air in the direction of Stan Bowman, dressing 8 defensemen tonight, two of which, John Scott and Jordan Hendry, appear to be skating at forward, centered by Fernando Pisani - which even the mental image of is enough to make me want to slam my dick in the sliding door of a 1989 Dodge Caravan (with wood paneling) to avoid watching. That means Boynton and Cullimore are your third pair tonight, and the top 9 is still completely up for grabs, and will still be shuffled around by the end of the first anyway. Marty Turco gets the nod in net again tonight, despite what that pecker Justin Bourne thinks.
This one could go either way as far as entertainment factor is concerned, but the way things have been going, bank on it being a slog. Or not. We'll see, won't we? Let's Go Hawks.