NHL Game Preview: Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils

Walker DanielsCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2011

Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya KovalchukPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

Sports Book Preview

The New Jersey Devils cannot help but think that if they had just made a coaching change earlier in the season then they may be fighting for a playoff spot rather than playing spoiler with two months left in the season. NHL lines will usually favor the team that has performed well all season, but betting on the Devils is like horse betting on two different horses to win the same race. The Devils are a completely different team now than they were when the season started.

The pay per head sportsbook experts were careful when previewing the Carolina Hurricanes in the pre-season. The Hurricanes were a huge disappointment last season, but injuries played a large part in the team’s demise. This season, the Hurricanes started out promising once again and once again injuries started to take their toll. But Carolina managed to stay the course this time, and now they are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina goaltender Cam Ward has been healthy all season, and the results are there to show it. But there have been moments when Ward and the Carolina defense have struggled. In his last five games, Ward is 2-3 but two of those losses are in overtime. Ward just came off a performance against the Atlanta Thrashers where he made 41 saves on 43 shots. The defense lets him down from time to time, and that is why the Hurricanes have allowed the most goals of any Eastern Conference playoff team to this point. But they can turn it around now that the defense is healthy, and they can start stringing some wins together. The biggest problem for the Hurricanes is that they cannot win the one-goal games. If they want to make the playoffs and go into the later rounds, they will need to tighten their defense and win some of those close games.

New Jersey Devils

Any NHL fan, player, executive or casual observer will be hard pressed to say that the coach does not make a difference in a team’s success after seeing what Jacques Lemaire has done in New Jersey. The Devils were once at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference, and now they have risen out of the basement to become the ultimate spoilers. In their last 10 games, the Devils are 8-1-1 and on a four-game winning streak. The Devils have won 11 of the 21 games they have played since Lemaire took over. But what is more amazing is that they have won 10 of their last 13 starts. They talked Lemaire out of retirement and now they are benefiting from his decision.

The Devils are even overcoming what looked like an insurmountable problem earlier in the season. Goaltender Martin Brodeur was not winning much earlier in the season, but when Brodeur did not play the Devils were guaranteed a loss. When Broduer went down with an MCL sprain, Devils fans were concerned. But backup Johan Hedberg has won three games in a row and put some confidence into the Devils.

The Bottom Line

The Devils were out of shape and despondent when Lemaire took over. Now they are fit and believe in themselves. The Hurricanes are going to have their hands full.

Pick: New Jersey Devils