Game preview: MTL vs. NJD
CANADIENS (26-15-5) VS. DEVILS (19-18-10)
On Tuesday, the Habs welcome the New Jersey Devils to the Bell Centre for the third and final game of their season series.
The Canadiens will look to build on last Saturday’s home win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite narrowly prevailing 2-1 in overtime thanks to a pair of goals from Andrei Markov, the Canadiens thoroughly outplayed the reigning Cup champions, dominating all facets of the game in ways rarely seen this season. Tomas Plekanec had a game-high eleven shots on net, while Brendan Gallagher dropped the gloves against Kris Versteeg to inject energy into an already pumped-up Bell Centre crowd. The home team peppered Corey Crawford with 38 shots and would have beaten the Chicago netminder on several occasions if not for some well-timed heroics from the Montreal native, including an improbable toe save on a glorious shorthanded chance from Lars Eller. For his part, Carey Price was in typical Olympian form, holding the opposition to a single Marian Hossa goal, and bearing down late in the game to deny several Hawks scoring opportunities.
For their part, the Devils are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Off-season acquisition Ryane Clowe had a strong game, scoring his first for New Jersey and adding an assist in his fifteenth game of the season. Despite outshooting the Leafs 38 to 25, the Devils could not solve Jonathan Bernier on more than two occasions. Meanwhile, Cory Schneider played well enough but simply could not get any goal support in the tie-breaker. James van Riemdyk, the first shooter, scored right out of the blocks and Bernier turned aside all three Devils shooters thereafter for the win.
While by no means a team composed solely of reclamation projects, New Jersey’s core is composed largely of veteran players who have found a second wind under coach Peter DeBoer’s system. The team’s top-five scorers are all 31 or older. Leading point-getter Jaromir Jagr is 41 (36 PTS in 47GP) while 33 year-old Michael Ryder is tops in goals with 16 in 47 games. Manning the points are Marek Zidlicky, who made his name as a powerplay quarterback in Nashville over a decade ago, and Andy Greene, who has been an underrated key piece of the Devils’ defense corps for the past five seasons. There will, however, be two promising youngsters to look out for on Tuesday. Rookie Eric Gelinas is the team’s third-leading blueliner despite missing out on eleven games since the start of the year, and 20 year-old first-year forward Reid Boucher had an assist and a shootout goal against the Canadiens earlier in the season. The dynamic Sarnia Sting alumni had previously skated alongside Alex Galchenyuk during a history-making junior season, which saw him break Steven Stamkos’ 58-goal league scoring record.
In terms of injuries, the Devils are missing free agent signing Damien Brunner, face-of-the-franchise winger Patrik Elias, depth forward Jacob Josefson and defensemen Peter Harrold and Adam Larsson. Meanwhile, the Habs will have to do without Alex Galchenyuk and Ryan White, who are both out with upper-body injuries.
Tuesday’s game will be the third of three season meetings between the teams. On December 4, the Habs won a wild one in New Jersey 4-3 in extra time. David Desharnais tied the game with 37 left in regulation before scoring the game-winning shootout goal.