Game Preview: Habs and Devils Could Be a First Round Matchup


Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night, but is it the last time for the season?

It will be the final meeting of the regular season (The Devils lead 2-1), but with a tight race at two ends of the Eastern Conference playoff race, these two teams have an excellent chance to meet in the first round.

The Devils curently sit in the fourth slot with 91 points, trailing division leader Pittsburgh Penguins by two points and two games at hand.. Right on their heels are the Northeast Division leader Buffalo Sabres with 90 points. Montreal has a two point lead for 6th spot, amongst a pack from 5th to 10th that are separated by just 10 points.

Gametime is at 7 p.m. at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens recovered from a humiliating loss to the Sabres, on Wednesday night, with a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers to snap a three-game losing skid. Despite the streak, they are 7-1-2 in their last ten.

With just seven games to go, and a few scares (see Moen, Travis), the Canadiens finally have a healthy roster to give coach Jacques Martin ability to mix up his team more to his liking. Paul Mara is the lone exception and will be out for the seson with a shoulder injury.

Leading scorer Tomas Plekanec (67 points) is dealing with a hip problem, but is taking strategic therapy days and will play through the injury. Both he and defenceman Josh Gorges are the only Canadiens to have played all 75 games this season.

The Devils lost in a shootout to the New York Rangers on Thursday night, missing a chance to clinch a playoff berth. New Jersey has lost three straight games decided in a shootout with Brodeur (the career leader in shoootout wins at 34) being in for two of those losses.

One asset that the Devils did not have, in their previous three meetings with the Canadiens, was Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian forward has 17 points in his 18 games, since being accquired my New Jersey, and 5 in his last two.

Patrick Elias also has 5 points in his last pair of games fo the Devils.

Brodeur is a no-brainer to start in goal for New Jersey. The Montreal native has a 37-16-5 career record against the Canadiens.

Jaroslav Halak was in goal for Montreal in their lone win over the Devils so far this season, a 3-1 decision in New Jersey, and will get the start for the Canadiens.

Glen Metropolit returns to the Canadiens lineup, after being a healthy scratch in Thursday night's game. Maxim Lapierre will join Mathieu Darche and Ben Maxwell in the press box .

Devils vs Canadiens coverage

In Lou We Trust

Tweeter's might consider following NorthJersey.com's Devils insider Tom Gulitti for tonight's game.

 

Potential Playoff Clinchers on Saturday (via NHL.com):

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1
Washington Capitals (idle) would clinch the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference...

* if the New Jersey Devils lose (in regulation or overtime/shootout) to the Montreal Canadiens

#2 New Jersey Devils would clinch a playoff berth...

* if they get at least one point against the Montreal Canadiens

OR

* if the Atlanta Thrashers lose (in regulation or overtime/shootout) to the Carolina Hurricanes

#3 Buffalo Sabres would clinch a playoff berth...

* if they defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning

OR

* if they get one point against the Tampa Bay Lightning AND the Atlanta Thrashers lose (in regulation or overtime/shootout) to the Carolina Hurricanes AND the New York Rangers lose (in regulation or overtime/shootout) to the Toronto Maple Leafs

OR

* if the Atlanta Thrashers lose in regulation to the Carolina Hurricanes AND the New York Rangers lose in regulation to the Toronto Maple Leafs

EOTP Update: #4 Pittsburgh Penguins  clinched a playoff berth Satuday Afternoon with a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers


WESTERN CONFERENCE

EOTP Update #4 Phoenix Coyotes clinched a playoff spot with the Calgary Flame's 5-0 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday afternoon

 

Habs cited as a potential top-seed killer:

The Sporting News list the Canadiens as a potential team to beat a top seed in this year's playoffs. Full article from Craig Custance is found here.

3. Montreal Canadiens
The way they're playing, it's doubtful the Canadiens even have to worry about dropping to the eighth spot. That's good news for the Capitals. Montreal is 8-2-2 in March and is getting healthy for the first time all season.
 
All it takes is a goalie capable of stealing a series -- and the Canadiens have one. Jaroslav Halak is 7-1-1 in March with a 1.91 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. If it happens, the Canadiens might be the worst possible draw for the Capitals in the first round.

 

March 27, 1926 the loss of a legend:

On this day in 1936 Canadiens legend Georges Vezina passes away, at age 39, after a battle with tuberculosis. Here's a look back at Vezina's last game as a Canadiens on November 28, 1925 and events leading up to his passing at Ya! The Habs Rule!

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