DO OR DIE FOR THE DEVILS
For the second time on their current five-game road swing, the Calgary Flames are facing an opponent that is in a must win situation.
Calgary dropped a 3-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs less than a week ago, a team that was in danger of falling out of contention.
The Devils find themselves in a similar scenario and the clock is ticking.Playing spoiler is something the Flames have come acustom to and have frustrated a lot of desparate teams. Devils netminder Cory Schneider knows they can't afford to take them lightly.
"They’ve been playing very well," Schneider said of the Flames. "Since the Olympic break they’ve been one of the better teams in the league. They play hard, they haven’t quit at all this year ... they have some good young talent and some good vertan guys.
"These are the tough teams at this time of year—they aren’t necessarily playing for playoffs, they’re playing for jobs and pride. They’ve shown that they’re working and they’re going to make you earn it so it won’t be an easy game by any means."
They sit three points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just four games remaining.
New Jersey has managed to sqeeze at least a point out of their last seven contests to remain in the hunt, but they can't afford another setback this season.
"We don’t control our destiny, unfortunately," Schneider muttered after the Devils morning skate Monday. "It would be nice if we won all of our [reaminaing], games but we’ve put ourselves in a place where that’s not the case. We need to rely on a few other teams to lose a few games for us.
"All we can control is how we play our games—we’ve got to win this one to give ourselves another chance anddc that’s all we’re worried about."
Flames rookie forward Kenny Agostino grew up in Morristown, NJ., I mere 30 minute drive from the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
The 21-year-old has fond memories of the building, including winning three high school state championships in the Devils home arena.
"Those were really special," Agostino said of his high school hockey banners. "The State championships meant a lot to me."
Agostino will have a large contingent of friends and family from around the state coming to watch his boyhood dream come true, as well as cheer on the Devils as the vie for a playoff spot.
"A lot of family and friends coming and playing in my home State … it’s going to be fun."
He admitted, however, that he never shared the passion for the Devils growing up, he alegences lied across the Hudson River, in Manhattan.
"All my buddies growing up were Devils fans and I was a Rangers fan but I came to a lot more Devils games," he said form the very dressing room where his boyhood idol, Mark Messier dressed many times. Messier [was my favourite player], I loved the way he played. Mike Richter [as well], I’ve got all those posters at home."
"it’s going to be a cool feeling player here."
The Flames signed and called up Agostino almost imediately after his college career concluded. When he joined the Flames he admitted the game tonight in New Jersey caught his eye when he looked at the schedule.
"When I looked at the schedule the Jersey [game] popped out right away. It’s going to be a really special night."
CUNDARI GETS A SECOND CHANCE
Mark Cundari will get an encore tonight in New Jersey.
Cundari, who made his NHL debut last April scoring a goal and adding an assist, only played in four games with the Flames last season, and has spent this season in the AHL.
Flames coach Bob Hartley is looking for his game to level out, and stressed the importance of keeping it in check.
"It’s pretty tough, I’ll have a better gauge on Mark’s game at the final buzzer [tonight], Hartley said. "Here is a young man that came in last year with zero NHL experience, he wanted to prove to himself, wanted to prove to us that we did the right thing by acquiring his rights but I think that he may have tried to do too much.
"There’s a fine line between being under control and doing too much. I sat with him over the last few days I said to him ‘just play your game—we’re not going to rate your game if you score a goal or two, it’s a matter of playing to win."
The blueliner has had an interesting season to say the least. After spending the first few months in Abbotsford, he was loaned to the Chicago Wolves. Although Cundari felt like his shot was over, he later realized it was what he needed to regain his form to give him another opportunity.
"I went down to Abbotsford and had a tough start to the year," Cundari recalled. "Basically the lineup was against me in a sense—it just didn’t work out for me. Then I ended up getting loaded out to Chicago—which at first, to me, seemed like this could be the end this could be my nightmare.
"It ended up being the best thing to happen to me. It was a way to clean my slate, start fresh and just go back to playing the way I did when I initially got called up to the NHL—that was pretty much a god send for me."
"That would have been really cool, but playing against an NHL goalie, I don’t really care. But that would have been really special, obviously..."
- Kenny Agostino was asked if he was upset that he wasn't facing Devils legend Martin Brodeur tonight in New Jersey.
MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
Kris Russell is 6 assists from 100.
Mark Giordano is 5 points away from 200.
All-time vs. the Devils: 30-15-7-1-1
All-time vs. the Devils in New Jersey: 16-10-1-0-1
Last 10 games vs. the Devils: 6-2-1-1
Last 10 games vs. the Devils in New Jersey: 4-5-0-1
Tonight's battle with the Devils will be broadcast on Sportsnet West (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio). Puck drop is 5:00 MST.
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