November 01 2010 11:30AM
Game Day Recon #10 - Devils @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks return to action after 6 days off to host the last-place New Jersey Devils. The Devils have been plagued by injuries to their defense and are now without one of their top forwards. Sound familiar? Yes, the Devils and Canucks injury situations are eerily similar. But the difference is that the Canucks are getting healthy quickly, as they will see Alex Burrows and Keith Ballard return this week, and possibly Dan Hamhuis as well. The Devils, on the other hand, are not close to having those players return, and now have to play without Zach Parise.
The Canucks catch a break today coming off a lengthy rest, in that the New Jersey Devils are terrible. They're ranked 25th in goals against per game (3.25) and dead last in goals-for per game (1.67). In fact, they're the only NHL team to have less than 2 goals-for per game. So not only can they not score, they can't keep it out of their net either. That's a bit of a double whammy. And it's showing itself on the score sheet. The Devils have lost 4 of 5 and haven't scored more than 2 goals in any of those 5 games. In fact, they only scored more than 2 goals twice this season, and even then, they only scored 3 goals in those two games. They just can't score.
But it gets worse.
The Devils have now lost one of their main scoring threats, as Zach Parise is out with a lower-body injury. Parise was set to make his return to Vancouver after scoring his monumental game-tying goal in the gold-medal game during the 2010 Winter Olympics. So a team that was already struggling to score is missing one of their most potent weapons.
The second period will be an interesting one to watch. While the Canucks have had huge trouble scoring in the 2nd period (only 4 goals through 9 games), the Devils have allowed an embarrassing 21 goals through 12 games in the middle frame. So either the Canucks are finally going get their 2nd period going, or the Devils will look to solve their defensive problems.
Martin Brodeur has had a very tough time against the Canucks in recent years. Granted, the Devils and Canucks don't play frequently against each other, but Brodeur has lost 6 of his last 7 games against the Canucks, including a 5-2 loss in their last meeting (last season on Dec 2nd).
The Canucks are looking to come out of a long break with a quick start. However, Vancouver is dealing with injury problems of their own. The infirmary on the blueline is open for business again, as it looks like Ryan Parent has a slightly injured groin and may be out of tonight's lineup. But the Canucks may be getting some good news as it looks like Keith Ballard could be a game-time decision. Dan Hamhuis is getting close as well, but is still not ready to play at this point.
The Three Keys
1. Simple and smart on defense. The Devils are last in the NHL in 5-on-5 GF/60 (1.6) and 5-on-4 GF/60 (2.5), so they are struggling at even strength and on the power play. The Canucks, with their injury woes, need to make simple, effective defensive plays. There is no need to force plays against a team that is having huge challenges with their scoring.
2. Get some goals in the 2nd period. As I said earlier, the Canucks have had trouble scoring in the 2nd, while the Devils can't keep it out of the net. The Canucks, with the home-ice advantage, need to take advantage of their opponent's weakness and open it up on New Jersey in the middle frame.
3. Play up, not down. After being idle for almost a week, the Canucks start a swing of 4 games in 6 nights. They do themselves a huge favour by winning tonight. However, the Canucks have a history of playing down to weaker teams. In fact, last season they lost 3 consecutive games against the NHL's last place team. Guess what? The Devils are last in the league. The Canucks have to shake that ugly trend and come out flying to set the tone for their upcoming flurry of games.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape - Devils @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Devils Look to Get Back on Track (devils.nhl.com)
3. It's Game On, finally, for the Canucks (vancouversun.com)
4. Game 13 Preview: Devils @ Canucks (inlouwetrust.com)
5. Devils @ Canucks: Jump In The Fire! (nucksmisconduct.com)