The Devils lone win came via a 1-0 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres, and the Devils offence has managed to score just ten goals in it's first six games. On the flip side, they have allowed 21 goals. Both totals are at the bottom of the futility chart in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the Devils lack of success this season, the Canadiens are well aware of their opponents success at the Bell Centre, especially with Martin Brodeur in goal. New Jersey took three of four meetings last season, and are 8-2 in their last ten visits to Montreal.
Brodeur himself owns a 38-16-5 mark and a career-best 1.78 goals-against average against the Canadiens.
"Looking up (in the stands) I probably, by looking up, know more people in Montreal than I do in New Jersey," Brodeur said. " It’s always fun to come back home. It’s not just because it’s home for me, but I think it’s a great hockey atmosphere that you live in."
Carey Price, who lost his only start against New Jersey last season, is expected to make his sixth straight start for the Canadiens.
The Devils scoring, or lack thereof thus far, is led by Ilya Kovalchuk. After signing, and re-signing a controversial contract, that has pretty much burst the Devils salary cap, his five points seems paltry compared to current league scoring leader Marian Hossa.
Devils coach John MacLean decided to tweak his lines on Monday, and will put Kovalchuk out with Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias.
The Devils also took advantage of three straight days practice, before playing seven of their next eight games on the road.
"We’re going to work on facets of our game," MacLean said on Monday. "We have to work on D zone, we have to work on our neutral zone, our O zone, our power play. We have to work on our game. We have the time here to work on our game."
"I can’t be happy. I think we’re all in the same boat, I think everybody could play better," Brodeur added. "I had some good moments, I thought, played some good periods and had a shutout. But right now, we need more of certain guys, and I’m part of it. Not really happy with the way we’ve started.
The Canadiens meanwhile continue to tinker with their second line, consisting of former Devils Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. Tom Pyatt will get a chance to play on the wing with the duo, to try and jump-start it, and is looking forward to the challenge.
I had a few games with them last year s and (we) played pretty well together," Pyatt said. "I’m not nervous about it; I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a challenge and a great opportunity and hopefully we’ll go out and get some goals."
In light of the attempt to shake things up, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin is keeping Benoit Pouliot on the power play with Gomez and Gionta.Pouliot, though still looking for his first goal of the season, leads the Canadiens with 18 hits.
"You hope tomorrow it’s the right team in town," said Martin. "That’s the team that gave them their first opportunity, they spent a lot of time there and they had success. That will be a good start."
Canadiens Projected lineup (based on Wednesday's Practice)
Forwards: Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn; Brian Gionta - Scott Gomez - Tom Pyatt; Benoit Pouliot; Jeff Hampern - Maxim Lapierre; Travis Moen - Dustin Boyd - Lars Eller
Defense Pairings: Roman Hamrlik -Jaroslav Spacek; Josh Gorges - Hal Gill; P.K. Subban - Alexandre Picard
Goal: Carey Price
Injuries: Andrei Markov (knee)
Devils Projected Lineup (based on Wednesday's practice) via Tom Gulitti
Forwards: Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus; - Jacob Josefson - Ilya Kovalchuk; Rod Pelley - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner; Adam Mair - Tim Sestito - David Clarkson
Defense Pairings: Colin White, Matt Taormina, Henrik Tallinder, Matt Corrente, Andy Greene, Olivier Magnan
Goal: Martin Brodeur
Injuries: Anton Volchenkov (broken nose/stiff neck), Brian Rolston (sports hernia), Mark Fraser (hand), Bryce Salvador (concussion), Anssi Salmela (knee)
Swapping Questions with SBNation's Devils site In Lou We Trust
John Fischer, at our Devils counterpart on SBNation, fired over some questions on the Habs for his game preview.
In turn, I threw over a few to get his perspective of the Devils so far this season.
1- The Devils were expected to be an offensively charged team, yet have a conference low 10 goals after their first six games. What must John McLean do to get the team's offense running?
As strange as this may sound, he may not have to do too much. The Devils have shot at a really low percentage as a team less than 5%. Teams do not do this over the course of the season, it would take a masterstroke of misfortune for the Devils to only put up 120 goals in 82 games. If the Devils can keep generating lots of shots as they have been, they'll eventually get through. All MacLean really needs to do is to make sure the lines he puts together are able to keep generating shots. Some Devils fans will talk about how MacLean has changed the lines, but that's not necessarily going to lead to more goals - they just need to stop running into hot goalies and bad luck, and the Devils (or anyone) can do little about that.
2- With the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils ran into serious salary cap problems and needed to come up with some clever accounting (roster moves) to work around/circumvent the cap . What do you feel the Devils need to do to balance this out, going forward, as the season progresses, and do you see some names being moved?
The easy (on paper) solution is for the Devils to trade Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus. Unlike some other rumored names, they don't have no trade clauses and they aren't critical members of the team. Moving both would clear up $6.5 million for this season and next season as well, giving the Devils more space to play with in the 2011 offseason. The Devils can't do that now as Salvador is on long term injured reserve for concussion issues; and who knows if anyone will want him after he's cleared to play? Right now, the Devils are fine with Salvador and Brian Rolston (a little over $5 million) on LTIR; but before the end of 2011, a permanent move must be made to clear space.
3- The Devils have let in 21 goals this season. His overtime shutout aside, Martin Brodeur's numbers statistically are not what Devils fans are used to seeing from him. Just six games into the season, and obviously he will start Thursday, how long until Johan Hedberg gets his first start? Does McLean put him in a situation to rest Brodeur, or to send a message to his team that they need to step up?
Fans thought he was going to get his start last week, when the Devils played Colorado and Boston back-to-back. That didn't happen, so the next possible game could be this Saturday when the Devils host Buffalo. The Devils will play the Rangers the next night and Brodeur will almost definitely start that one. I don't believe starting a backup sends a message to a team, especially not a 37 year old guy who's here for one season and is used to having the guys in front of him make regrettable errors on the ice (the main root cause for a lot of the goals allowed by Brodeur, Price, and most any goalie). The Devils didn't play any better with Yann Danis starting last season; so any starts for Hedberg are just to spell Brodeur. I believe he should get a start soon if only to justify paying $1.5 million for a backup.
4- Who on the Devils, is an offensive darkhorse that the Habs defense needs to watch out for?
Dainius Zubrus is a bit of a conundrum. He doesn't put up the stats that suggest he's useful, but during games he's quite noticeable. He's got a big frame, he's got good hands for a player of his size, and he's adept at winning battles down low for pucks. For one reason or another, Zubrus tends to get into situations where he show off some flair. It hasn't led to many goals (though he came ever so close on Friday when he beat Anderson around the crease only for the puck to sail into the far post) like the rest of this team, but you don't want tonight to be the one night where he does shine with a goal or a play that leads to one. Jacques Martin will certainly be on the lookout for #8, so should Habs defensemen. You know, when they're not too busy worrying about Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, his current linemates.
Guy Lafleur is back with the Canadiens as an ambassador as per The Toronto Sun, who make it sound like he was at war with the organization. When I spoke to Lafleur a few weeks back, he noted a new deal was in place, after his old one had expired, and just had to be finalized. Leave it to a Toronto paper to make it sound like they were feuding! There is no official word from the Canadiens yet.
Great news: If you live east of Belleville and have Bell ExpressVu, TSN will begin regional coverage of 24 Canadiens games, beginning on Monday. The deal extends to the 2012-13 season
ETOP's Chris Boyle with his take on the Habs at SBN's Fanatsy Hockey Scouts.
FIRST PERIOD SCORING
1. NJD - Zach Parise (Travis Zajac) - 4:20
Shots on goal, after first period Montreal 10 - New Jersey 3
2. NJD - Jason Arnott (Zubrus, Langenbunner) - 14:59
3. NJD - Matt Taormina (Arnott) 3:38
THREE STARS: 1. Martin Brodeur 2. Zach Parise 3. Carey Price