NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Key Players for Devils vs. Flyers Game 1
The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers begin their second round matchup at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at 3:00 PM EST. Both teams will be looking to get the upper edge on what should be an interesting series.
Game 1 is destined to set the tone for the rest of the series so let's see which players on both sides have the potential to be game-breakers.
The grinding forward netted 30 goals for New Jersey in the regular season in what was an offensive coming-out party for the 28-year-old Ontario native. However, Clarkson failed to find the back of the net in New Jersey's first round matchup against Florida.
In order for the Devils to make a lasting impression in Game 1, Clarkson must make himself known both physically and offensively.
If Clarkson finds a way to score and possibly drop the gloves while he's at it, it may be just the spark the Devils need in this series opener.
"G" is an obvious choice here as he has had New Jersey's number all year, putting in four goals and seven points in six regular-season games against the Devils.
If the Devils allow Giroux room to operate in the neutral zone, it will be a long night for Martin Brodeur and the rest of New Jersey's defensive unit.
Zajac is responsible for keeping the Devils alive in these playoffs as he scored the overtime game winner in Game 6 of the Florida series to force a Game 7.
The Devils' center only played 15 games during the regular season due to a persistent Achilles tendon injury; however, he leads the team in points with six during the postseason.
Zajac's return to New Jersey's lineup has helped them mightily down the middle, and if he continues to be a driving force for the Devils, he could make an impact quickly in Game 1.
The Philadelphia rookie played a tremendous role in successfully shutting down the Pittsburgh Penguins' star combo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Round 1.
His order may not be as tall in Round 2 against the Devils, but you can bet that Coach Peter Laviolette will count on him to defensively match up with New Jersey's first line of Ponikarovsky, Zajac and Kovalchuk.
If the 19-year-old Courtier can successfully shut down the Devils' big guns, then Philadelphia's chances will greatly increase in Game 1.
The Russian netminder has played extremely well against New Jersey recently. The Flyers' goalie posted a 3-0 record versus the Devils this regular season to go along with a GAA of 0.29 and a .987 save percentage.
This brilliance was nowhere to be found, however, in the Flyers' first-round matchup with Pittsburgh. Bryzgalov was 4-2 with a GAA of 3.89 and a save percentage of .871.
Which Bryzgalov comes to play against New Jersey in Game 1 will make all the difference. If Bryzgalov puts together a robust performance, the Devils may find themselves on the wrong side of a shutout. If not, Philadelphia better hope New Jersey's veteran Martin Brodeur is also having an off day.