Game Time: 7:00PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: In Lou We Trust
Somewhere John McDonough is livid that the Devils are in town on Christmas Eve Eve, the biggest marketing bonanza of the year, and there’s now not an extra dollar he can wring out of it with some punny or hackneyed take on their name or anything to relate to Christmas. The Devil and Christmas; never the twain shall meet outside of the brilliant mind of David St. Hubbins. And if McDonough really had any foresight, he’d make the Hawks wear home whites just to make the jolly fat man on the opposition have to wear red.
But naturally, the jolly fat man will take a back seat to one of his elves tonight, as Corey Schneider is set to start in place of Marty Brodeur tonight. To this point in the season Fatso has seen more of the action, but it’s been a pretty even split with Schnieder starting 16 of 37 games, and getting the better of the play with a .915 save percentage and a 2.03 GAA. This is helped by the fact that the Devils allow a league-low 24.4 shots per game. They’re also right behind the Kings and Hawks as the third best possession by Corsi team in the league, carrying 54.3% of the play.
A lot of this can be chalked up to the coaching of Peter DeBoer, whom master talent evaluator Dale Tallon fired and promptly turned around and took a mismatched bunch to a 2012 Cup final they had no business being in. The Devils do a ton right and are disciplined beyond belief, as evidenced by the above numbers and the fact that they have taken the second fewest minors and have engaged in the second fewest fights in the league.
Basically all of the Devils’ staggering mediocrity is a result of just simply being outgunned. After consecutive summers of defections from Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, what’s left is a team with a 42 year old Jaromir Jagr as its leading scorer with 33 points in 37 games in a contract year (shocker). Travis Zajac would be a fantastic #2 center elsewhere, but is paid to produce like a #1 in the Swamp, and consistently gets swallowed whole by defenders who don’t have to key on much else. Unless the cement-skated Michael Ryder and a 900 year old Patrik Elias are someone’s idea of a threat. The blueline is equally nondescript, with Bryce Salvador now being overpaid to be perpetually hurt and therefore nullifying whatever stability he was supposed to provide. Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky have good offensive instincts, but no one to cover for them when they get too shotgunny.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the lineup will remain the same from Friday night save for one change. Because we were speaking of shotgunning up the ice, Michael Kostka will get a go as Nick Leddy’s partner tonight, which has yielded mixed results to this point in the year. Kostka doesn’t play nearly as safe as Rozsival and Brookbank do, and that led to this pair getting exposed big time against Toronto last weekend. The Devils don’t have some of the game-breaking talent the Leafs do, but they sure as shit play a whole lot smarter, and you can bet that DeBoer will try to take advantage of this.
On paper there isn’t much question who should take the two points up for grabs tonight. But the Devils can play a patient, smart game, and if the Hawk blue line starts to run around, they’ll be in position to make it count. Time to hang the stockings by the chimney with care. Let’s go Hawks.
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