New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks - 8:00 pm
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: MSG+ 2 Radio: WCBS 880-AM
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
Some thoughts on tonight's game:
1. The element of surprise? These two teams haven't squared off since late March of 2012 and the Blackhawks haven't beaten the Devils since April 2, 2010. Unfortunately for the Devils, that Hawks are 9-1-2 against the East this season. However, maybe that number begins to even out over the course of the year?
2. Huge advantage if the Devils are on the PP. As unbelievable as the Blackhawks are this season, they do have one big flaw; their penalty kill at the United Center. They are dead last in the league at 72.7 percent. This is not the case of a small sample size; their road PK is under 78 percent. For whatever reason, the Devils power play on the road is miles better than it is at home. Away from the Pru, they are connecting at a 23.4 percent rate, good enough for 4th in the league. Maybe they're more focused, there's less pressure, or something else, but whatever it is, that's one major area where the Devils have a leg up on the Hawks.
3. Need success from bottom two lines. The Top-6 of the Hawks is ridiculous. You know the names...Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Shaw, Saad. Now, the Devils top two lines will have their share of scoring chances but it's hard to imagine them dictating the pace of play when those quality players are on the ice. Therefore, the Adam Henrique line and the Stephen Gionta line need to outplay their opposition on a high majority of their shifts. If they can produce some chances and maybe even some goals, that would go a long way in getting the the Devils a victory.
Prediction - Blackhawks 4 Devils 2
I do think the Devils will be up for this game and will stick with them. I see it as a pretty closely played contest with Chicago potting an empty netter at the end, in turn, making the game look a little bit more one-sided. If the Devils got any amount of points tonight, I think that would be considered a good evening.