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Game 17, Preview and Open Thread: The Hammer Enters The Hall, New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers

New Jersey Devils (14-4-0, 28 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (10-5-1, 21 pts)
Wachovia Center - 7:00 PM EST - Philadelphia, PA
TV: Versus HD, TSN 2 HD
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 205
This is the open game thread.
Behind Enemy Lines: In Lou We Trust

It'll be Hammer Time at the Wachovia Center tonight as Dave Schultz enters the Flyers Hall of Fame. But after the memories are relived, the speeches are given, and the standing ovation for a great Flyer subsides, there is a hockey game to be played. And man, should tonight be a hockey game.

The New Jersey Devils are the hottest team in hockey, winners of their last eight and nine of their last 10. They've won nine straight in a row on the road and are undefeated away from home on the season. With a win tonight, they'll tie the record for most road wins to begin a season.

It looked like the Devils win streak could come to an end on Saturday night. Washington jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead before New Jersey struck back with five unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 victory. The Devils finished their chances and outplayed the Caps when it mattered most, and that's how they've been able to string together this streak.

New Jersey isn't blowing teams away. For the most part, their wins have been one or two goal cushions that were the result of come-from-behind efforts. Cue John Fischer from In Lou We Trust...

In my opinion, the Devils are in that odd area where they've won so much - undefeated on the road - yet the wins largely didn't come easy. In five of the last six games, the Devils conceded the first goal - most recently, the first two goals against the Caps - forcing them to make a comeback. Can we honestly expect the Devils to keep doing this over and over? Yet, just when I think the opening to a game may lead to the eventual end of the winning streak, the Devils dig deep and eventually make their presence felt, equalizing before killing off the game for yet another win.

So what do the Flyers have to do to win tonight? They need to score first and not let up off the gas pedal until the final horn sounds. In essence, they need to do the same things they did in defeating the Devils back in October. In that game, they received outstanding goaltending from Ray Emery while five different players in front of him scored goals. They were helped by Martin Brodeur, who looked positively awful that night, and we shouldn't expect that again from the future Hall of Famer.

But while the Devils are scary good right now, there's no reason to believe the Flyers can't end their streak. James van Riemsdyk is back in the lineup after missing Saturday's game with the flu. Claude Giroux is switching to center, and he'll play in between Darroll Powe and Arron Asham tonight. Taking his place at wing is Mika Pyorala, who will move up to play with Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell.

Riley Cote is back in the press box thanks to the return of JVR. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is still out, and it's looking like we'll see more of Oskars Bartulis tonight, meaning Danny Syvret will sit again.

Questions To Answer

  1. Do the pre-game ceremonies hurt the Flyers or help pump them up?
  2. Can the Flyers solve Brodeur, and can Emery out-duel him again?
  3. How does JVR look in his return from the flu?
  4. How many fights are there tonight, out of respect for Mr. Schultz?
  5. Does the move to center help Claude Giroux?
  6. How much emotion does The Hammer show in his Hall of Fame speech?

Tonight's game will be broadcast on Versus in the US and TSN 2 in Canada. Locally, you can listen at 610 WIP or online at the Flyers official website. If you're going to the game, arrive early and applaud Dave Schultz until your hands fall off. If you're staying home, as always, join us here for the conversation, and LET'S GO FLYERS!