RECORDS: Devils, 3-0-0; Canadiens: 2-1-0.
THEME: Stay "North" in the standings; send the Habs "South."
PLUS: Martin Brodeur remans undefeated after three games and has been stellar in the trio of wins. More often than not, Mister Goalie wins in his hometown.
MINUS: Even in winning their games the Devils have started too slow for comfort and required big Brodeur saves to keep them in the game. Better starts are a must. In addition unnecessary penalties hurt them on Friday night at Newark. Coach Peter DeBoer twitted himself for the too-many-men-on-the-ice infractions. To his credit DeBoer accepted the blame with a quip: "I'm leading the team in penalties!" Mattias Tedenby was a non-factor.
EVEN: The "New" Crash Line -- Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier-Ryan Carter -- is getting significant ice time and making it worthwhile. Gionta's goal proves that he can score as well. Despite giving up one goal on a five-on-three power play, New Jersey's penalty-killing remains at the top of its game. Jacob Josefson -- slowly but surely -- is proving that he's a solid two-way prospect.
CHALLENGE: With a new coach (Michel Therrien) and new g.m. (Marc Bergevin), the Habs have an upbeat attitude. Healthy Andrei Markov already has three power play goals in three games and is a constant threat. Carey Price has matured into a top NHL goaltender. Winning a fourth-straight will not be a snap for the Devs.
THREE KEYS TO STOPPING MONTREAL:
1. New Jersey's top defensive pairing -- Bryce Salvador-Anton Volchenkov -- must contain the peripatetic Max Pacioretty.
2. Devils need a gung-ho first period and must maintain the pace throughout.
3. Minus holdout defenseman P.K. Subban, the Canadiens defense is vulnerable. Devils forecheckers must wear down the Habs backline.
THREE MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
1. Martin Brodeur vs. Carey Price always is a main-eventer. Just because Marty's in his home town does not guarantee a win; especially if the Price is right!
2. Before the Devils penalty-killers were scored upon by Washington's five-on-three PP, New Jersey's penalty-killers stopped eight straight Caps power plays, including a five-on-three. They'll be up against one of the league's better PP clubs. This is a dandy irresistible force vs. immovable object confrontation.
3. Stefan Matteau vs. Alex Galchenyuk: A pair of highly-rated rookies will try to outdo each other. Matteau could very well wind up on the Devils first line alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac; at least for a trial few shifts.
Every Devil I spoke with following the Friday night win at The Rock allowed that the club still has plenty of honing to do before it reaches the desirable sharpness. Even though the club is undefeated, it's not nearly in mint condition. Winning in Habtown could erase doubts about whether the Garden Staters are for real.