Devils Will Face Tough Test vs. High-Powered Lightning Offense

Carl StoffersCorrespondent IIFebruary 7, 2013

Stopping Steven Stamkos will be key for the Devils
Stopping Steven Stamkos will be key for the DevilsBruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have registered two straight impressive victories, beating the Islanders and Rangers, but they will face a dangerous opponent as they try to win their third in a row on Thursday night. The Tampa Bay Lightning will visit the Prudential Center, bringing with them a powerful offensive attack.

Led by high-scoring centers Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and rookie Cory Conacher, the Lightning have logged an NHL-best 4.44 goals-per-game average, a full goal more than second-ranked Anaheim. Tampa Bay has also been proficient on the power play, scoring on an impressive 32.5 percent of their chances on the man advantage. It all adds up to trouble for Devils head coach Pete DeBoer.

“They’re dangerous,” DeBoer said on Wednesday while preparing for the matchup. “This is a tough week for us against some of the elite teams in the league. A lot like Pittsburgh, if you turn the puck over, you make bad decisions, they [Tampa Bay] make you pay very quickly.”

Stopping Stamkos, Tampa Bay's perennial all-star and a goal-scoring aficionado, will be New Jersey's main concern heading into the tilt. Last year's Richard Trophy winner is currently third in the NHL in goals scored (7), second in points (16) and appears to be picking up where he left off last season, when he set a single-season franchise record by netting 60 goals.

The Devils will try to counter Tampa Bay's attack with goaltender Martin Brodeur in net. Brodeur has been stellar so far this season, continuing the outstanding play from last season, when the 40-year-old led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. Brodeur is coming off a solid performance against the Rangers in a 3-1 win and has already recorded one shutout this season.

Despite the offensive firepower, the Lightning appear to be vulnerable to a strong forecheck and aggressive play in the defensive zone, as evidenced by their back-to-back losses to the Flyers and Rangers. Expect the Devils to come out and try to smother the Lightning early to prevent the offense from gaining any momentum. The puck drops at 7 p.m. EST in Newark.