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Game 74: Crucial Run Begins In Long Island

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Match-up - New Jersey Devils (31-28-14) @ New York Islanders (28-35-10)
TV - MSG, MSG Plus
Puck drop - 7:00 p.m. ET
Season series - Devils lead 2-1
Last 10: Devils 4-5-1 | Islanders 5-3-2 
Projected starting goalies - Cory Schneider vs Anders Nilsson

Projected lines for the Islanders:
Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
John Persson - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Mike Halmo - Casey Cizikas - Johan Sundstrom

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Kevin Czuczman - Thomas Hickey
Matt Donavon - Matt Carkner

Projected lines for the Devils:
Tuomo Ruutu - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe - Dainius Zubrus - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier 

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Pete Harrold

Pre-Game Thoughts

The Devils need to capitalize on the losses by the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. The Devils remained 4 points behind the Wild Card race and need to win tonight in order to keep from possibly falling further back, especially since Detroit and the Leafs, two teams NJ is battling for a Wild Card play each other tonight so a Wild Card team will have 82 points at the end of the night. Washington and Columbus are also in action today.

NJ needs more out of Eric Gelinas. He’s got a rocket of a shot but hasn’t been taking a lot of them over the last few games. He’s also a big body that needs to throw it around and get physical but at times he seems to back off from doing that. Word from TG yesterday was that coaches were working with him during practice.

Treat this game for what it is, a trap game. The Islanders are out and the Devils are fighting for a Wild Card spot but the Devils can’t go into this game thinking the Islanders aren’t going to show up. The Islanders are 5-3-2 in their last 10 which is slightly better than NJ has been playing. On top of that, this is the Islanders and they always give NJ a tough time.

Shoot the damn puck. If the outlook on Brodeur is that he’s had a terrible year, then the same is said about Nabokov as he had numbers pretty close to Broduer. The bonus tonight is that Nabokov has had a better season than his backups and its not Nabokov getting the call tonight. 

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Coyotes Hand Devils 9th Shootout Loss

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The Devils continue to frustrate their fans in my opinion. Truth is, last night could have been worse and the Devils could have walked away from that game without any points. The Devils played a pretty poor first period and I didn’t think they improved much until the 2nd half of the 2nd period where the Devils seem to stop chasing the Coyotes, stopped taking unnecessary penalties and started to generate some scoring chances.

The 2nd period ended on what could be the most bizarre goal of the season. Clowe was crossed checked from behind as Merrill threw the puck towards the goal mouth. As Clowe fell, the puck ricocheted off his shoulder and into the back of the net with .2 on the clock. In the 3rd, the Devils appeared to apply a little more offensive pressure which finally paid off with the tying goal in the back of the net. Henrique took the puck from Elias below the net, made a nifty little move and was able to find enough room between the post and Greiss’s skate to sneak it in the net. It did look like Greiss expected Henrique to take the puck around the other side as he moved that way a bit, opening up the hole Henrique would find.

During the 5 minutes of OT, I thought the Devils played a really hard game. They had their chances but Greiss was there to answer every one of them. Unfortunately the Devils couldn’t get it done in the extra period which meant going to a shootout which every Devils fan knew what was coming.

For the 9th time this season the Devils went to a shootout and for the 9th time this season the Devils  came away without the 2nd point. For the 8th time this season, the Devils failed to put a puck in the net during the shootout. In fact, Reid Boucher has the only goal scored this season for NJ in a shootout and he’s currently in Albany. The shootout results have been frustrating this season. If the Devils barely miss the playoffs, we can point to that road trip to Florida a few weeks ago and the fact that the Devils have let 9 points slip away in shootout losses. Now I don’t expect a team to go 9-0 in the shootout (just like I don’t expect 0-9) but if the Devils were slightly better than .500 in the shootout, they’d be in the WildCard playoff spot heading into the final handful of games. Absolutely frustrating that the thing I hate most in the NHL might be a huge reason why the Devils miss the playoffs.

I don’t understand the selection that DeBoer made for the shootout last night. Brunner really hasn’t had a hot stick at any point this season, although he did make a nice move on his attempt. The Clowe selection was just mind baffling unless DeBoer went with him because of his Western Conference which might explain Brunner as well. Elias is a no-brainer that DeBoer got correct. Other than Elias getting a chance in every shootout, I would go with whatever Devil is hot at the moment and Jagr. So last night, my shootout list would have looked like Henrique, Jagr and Elias and probably in that order.

The Devils head to Long Island tomorrow which is always a tough game. Tonight I’ll be paying attention to Toronto and Philly as well as Pittsburgh and Columbus. We need some big wins from the state of Pennsylvania tonight in order to keep the Wild Card in our realm of possibility. 

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Game 73: Phoenix Visits NJ

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Quick Need to Knows:

Match-up - Phoenix Coyotes (35-26-12) @ New Jersey Devils (31-28-13)
TV - MSG
Puck drop - 7:00 p.m. ET
Season series - Coyotes lead 1-0
Last 10: Phoenix 6-3-1 | New Jersey 5-5-0
Projected starting goalies - Thomas Greiss vs Martin Brodeur

Projected lines for the Coyotes:

Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Brandon McMillan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Martin Erat - Jeff Halpern - David Moss
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Chipchura - Paul Bissonnette 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zybnek Michalek 
Keith Yandle - Michael Stone
Chris Summers - Brandon Gormley 

Projected lines for the Devils:

Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu
Eric Gelinas - Ryan Carter - Michael Ryder 

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Jon Merrill - Pete Harrold

Quick Thoughts Heading Into Tonight:

First thought that comes about the Phoenix Coyotes is that of injured goaltender Mike Smith. Don’t be fooled when you hear that Smith’s injury is a crushing blow to the ‘Yotes playoff hopes. While it’s never good to lose your starting goaltender, I don’t think Mike Smith is having a year that is setting the league on fire. While Greiss has only a handful of starts, he’s put up decent numbers this season and more than capable than carrying Phoenix through Smith’s injury.

Phoenix has a poor penalty kill so NJ needs to draw penalties and capitalize on the man advantage as much as they can tonight.

NJ is 5 points behind that pack of 4 80 point teams that have a shot at the Wild Card. The Devils schedule eases up after tonight but they need 2 points out of this game tonight if they are going to have any shot at trying to challenge Toronto, Detroit, Columbus or Washington.

The Coyotes defense always scares me. They are young, quick and talented and I’ve seen Yandle be the difference maker in quite a few games.  

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Devils Top Leafs, Hope Still Alive

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When you get to the final weeks of the season and you are staring at the possibility of packing up your locker and waiting until September to play another game once you’ve finished game #82, all that matters between now and then are wins. And in the case of the NJ Devils, wins in regulation matter the most. The Leafs are slumping and the Devils need to put something together in order to have a shot at capturing a wild card.

While chances appear slim for NJ, their upcoming schedule might actually benefit their chances at putting together a run. They play Pheonix on Thursday, who is currently holding on to a WildCard spot in the West and then Boston in the regular season finale. All the teams they play in between those two are non-playoff teams. Not only are they not playoff teams, they are teams not even battling at this point.

Enough can’t be said about Jon Merrill last night. That was the Jon Merrill I’ve been expecting for quite some time. He made a great heads up pass to Patrik Elias to start the 2nd period (huge props to Elias for that finish!!) and then made another heads up play 30 seconds later that ended up with him putting the puck in the back of the net. While that was all the scoring he would do, I thought he played the rest of the game in fantastic fashion.

As I mentioned weeks ago, Henrique needed to up his game if NJ was going to have a shot at the playoffs and he has certainly done that. It’s been a while since a Devils player made me feel that anything could happen if the puck was on his stick but Henrique has certainly been doing that. Wait, I should backtrack because Jagr has made me feel that way a majority of the year but it’s Jagr, that goes without being said.

I didn’t think the Leafs tested Schneider much until the end of the game which in true Devils fashion this season, made the fans sweat out the win.

Phoenix Thursday….Let’s keep it going!!

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Devils Acquire Ruutu

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The Devils have acquired forward Tuomo Ruutu from the Carolina Hurricane for center Andrei Loktionov. and a conditional third-round pick in 2017.

Loktionov had 4 goals for NJ while Ruutu has 5 goals but carrys a hefty contract of 2 years at 4.75 per with him. 

Don't like this deal AT ALL

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Game 63 Recap: Late Tip Equals Devils Win

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Today is the day we find out whether or not Martin Brodeur will finish out his contract with the New Jersey Devils or get moved to another team to finish out that contract and if he ends up moving to a different team, then we watched Brodeur play his last game as a Devil against the team he got his first cup against. Marty played a decent game but he was lucky to get the win in regulation. After the Devils took a 3-2 lead on a gorgeous no-look backhand from Travis Zajac, Detroit found the equalizer a few minutes later off a deflection from Todd Bertuzzi. From that point on, it felt as if Detroit was playing keep away hockey because they knew how important getting 1 point out of the game was for them.

Enter Stephen Gionta…

Ok, I’ll be honest, when I saw Stephen Gionta on the ice with less than a minute to go, I was a little annoyed at DeBoer for his choice of players on the ice but he proved me wrong. Mark Fayne took a shot from the point that after watching replay after replay looked more like a shot taken with the purpose of getting a tip/redirection on it.

I can’t write this recap without saying the Red Wings certainly helped the Devils out last night. While spinning around to try and make the save, Howard kicked in the first goal of the night with his blocker before the whistle blew. Then, with the Wings leading 2-1, Zidlicky took a shot from the point that briefly ended up in Jimmy Howard’s glove but with Patrik Elias crashing the net, defenseman Johnathon Ericsson tried to use his stick to slow down Elias and managed to get the tip of his blade to know the puck out of Howard’s glove and into the net. The Devils needed the win and the fans are certainly grateful for the help that the Wings gave to NJ during the game.

So now we wait and see what happens with the Devils at the deadline. We’d all like to see them make a move that would improve this team but I don’t think the Devils have a lot to offer other teams in order to make that move. I also don’t think moving Brodeur would be a move that would improve the Devils. I understand he wants to play more and maybe feels that a change of scenery will get him that but at the end of the day, he’s a better option to have as a backup than currently exists in the NHL. It shouldn’t be about what Marty wants but rather about what the team needs to keep playing once the 82 regular season games have been completed.  

 

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Game 63: Detroit Visits New Jersey

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Match-up - Detroit Red Wings (28-20-12) @ New Jersey Devils (26-23-13)
TV - MSG
Puck drop - 7:00 p.m. ET
Season series - Detroit leads 1-0
Last 10: Red Wings 6-2-2 | Devils 4-4-2 
Projected starting goalies - Jimmy Howard vs Martin Brodeur

 

Projected lines for the Devils:

Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov/Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Projected lines for the Red Wings:

Johan Franzen - Joakim Andersson - Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Todd Bertuzzi

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith - Brian Lashoff


Noteworthy Pre-Game Talk:

Let’s get it out of the way so that we can move on. Marty Brodeur is expected to start in net tonight and tomorrow is the NHL Trading Deadline. Lots of speculation out there as to whether or not this will be the last we see of Marty in a Devils uniform. I truly believe he won’t be moved because I don’t see the benefit in it for the Devils. The Devils play 20 games/40 days with six back-to-backs meaning that Schneider cannot play all of them. If you trade Marty and Corey gets hurt then the Devils are up shits creek. If the Devils were currently where the Islanders are, then maybe you could convince me that dealing him away doesn’t matter. Despite whether or not you feel Marty’s game is in decline, the truth is Marty Brodeur acting as a backup goaltender to Cory Schnieder is a better option for NJ than having any other NHL/AHL goalie fill that role.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how important these two games against Detroit are. The Wings hold a 3 point lead in the standings for the final Wild Card spot. The Devils have been great at giving points away this season but anything less than a win in regulation tonight has to be considered a step in the wrong direction.

The players I will be watching closely tonight are Adam Henrique, Patrick Elias and Johan Franzen. Elias and Henrique have really elevated their game since being placed on the same line. In the 3 games since the Olympic break, both players have six points in those three games. Franzen for the Wings is just as hot with 5 points in the two games that Detroit has played in the games in Sochi came to an end. Much like ex-teammate Damien Brunner, Franzen is known to be a streaky point scorer but when he’s on, he’s on. There are a list of others you could watch, like Brunner and Gelinas but those are the few I am going with tonight. 

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Despite Win NJ Still Needs To Address Issues

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The Devils were excellent in their 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. Henrique stepped up his game last night, much like I wrote about wanting him to prior to the game and much like I hope to see him do in this stretch run. Enough can’t be said about Jagr’s goal in the 1st and his determination not to give up on that play. Would love that work ethic translate throughout the team and sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t. That hail mary/alley-oop pass Elias made to Henrique on the PK is beyond words.

Yes, EVERYTHING seemed to be clicking for the Devils last night but it is 1 game and we know the Devils have things that need to be addressed hopefully by next Wednesday. The main thing that the Devils need is consistency in scoring. Here is what I would like to see.

The Edmonton Oilers are said to be looking to move Sam Ganger (6 goals, 18 assists) and might be looking at defense as the price. I’m not a huge fan of a number of Devils defensemen. Salvador, Fayne and Volchenkov so if any or all three can be packaged with something to make Ganger a Devil, I might do it. All 3 would be a hefty price to pay but you see where I am going with that.

If Ganger doesn’t work out, David Legwand (10 goals, 30 assists) is another possible addition to this team. He’s a big body and knows how to get his line mates the puck. The main thing here is Legwand would be a rental as he’s a UFA in July whereas Ganger has a couple years left on his contract.

The Devils need to figure out Larsson and whether or not he fits in with the New Jersey Devils and not the Albany Devils. I’d like to see him on the ice in the NHL but for some reason he’s been a consistent scratch throughout his tenure in NJ and now has been down with Albany since early January. At first it seemed like a rehab stint in the AHL because he missed so much time with a knee injury but he’s been there for quite some time at this point which makes me wonder how the Devils view this kid. Yes, Gelinas and Merril seem to be paying off more for NJ than having Larsson in their place but then may I present to you Mark Fayne??

As for Marty, I honestly don’t think he goes anywhere. It’s not fun getting old and it’s not fun watching another goalie move you to the bench but it had to happen at some point. I just don’t see any deal that makes sense for either NJ or Martin Brodeur. He’s not going to go to a team that is in playoff contention where he would be the #1. Teams in playoff contention seem good with the guys they consider their #1. I don’t think Marty would want to be traded just to be a #2 either, he has that here. Minnesota has come up but I think that is where Ryan Miller ends up next Wednesday so I think that won’t happen. I guess one could think of Washington as a possible destination but I don’t see Lou dealing him to a team in the East. Also, Marty is loved in NJ and trading him would be a real jolt to the Devils fan base which isn’t something Lou is going to want to do, especially since the return isn’t going to be very high.

Sounds like the Brunner injury suffered last night isn’t too severe which is good because losing him for a lengthy period would certainly change what the Devils need to do before next Wednesday. Haven’t heard about Salvador but that’s a bad place to take a puck. Time will tell…

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Is Henrique A Key To Winning?

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Adam Henrique currently ranks 3rd on the team with 14 goals, 7th on the team with 13 assists and 6th on the team in overall points with 27. Not exactly a player that has been putting the Devils on his shoulders and carrying them this season. Especially when you consider that Henrique he has only 2 games with multiple points this season and neither of those being multiple goal games. Yet I believe he could play a key role into getting the Devils into the playoffs over the course of the next 23 games. Why is that you ask?

The Devils are 10-1-3 when Henrique scores a goal.

If he can start scoring more often, the Devils could find a way to go from 7th to 3rd in the Metroterrible division over the course of the 23 remaining games. The Devils need someone to step up and start scoring goals on a nightly basis, so why not Henrique? If you look at the standings, you will see that Philadelphia, the current 3rd place team is only 5 points ahead.

Even is Henrique continues to have trouble finding the back of the net, he could still prove to be a key role in the Devils push to the playoffs. Currently he has 13 assists on the season which isn’t a great stat, especially when look at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins numbers, who is a guy that Henrique battled it out with for the Calder Trophy back in 2012. Now to be fair, Nugent-Hopkins is a 1st line center where as Henrique hasn’t been that but Henrique does have Elias, Brunner and at times Ryder on his line and all three of those can be excellent finishers.

Hopefully Henrique has used the Olympic break to work on the one glaring issue in his game, his work in the faceoff circle. He’s taken a total 761 faceoffs and has 341 wins and 420 losses. Unfortunately the stats aren’t broken up into how many are won and lost in their own zone but everyone knows that winning the faceoff is a key point in most hockey games. The Devils don’t do well at it with the exception of Travis Zajac.

So if I am right and Henrique is a key to getting the Devils into the playoffs, it has to start right away by winning some more battles in the faceoff circle and either finding the back of the net or helping Elias, Brunner or Ryder find the back of the net.

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Devils Tinker Lines In Order To Spark Offense

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A lot of attention has been paid to the Devils lack of ability to get the puck in the net. Of course this issue has hit full stride after back to back loses where the Devils blew a 1 goal lead late in the game only to watch that all important 2nd point get away from them in OT. On Friday it was a 3-2 loss in Nashville which was followed by a 2-1 loss at home to Colorado on Monday night and if the Devils had managed to skate away with wins in OT, I have a feeling no one would be talking about the Devils lack of scoring.

A quick glance at the stats sheet and you will find that the Devils sit in 26th place when it comes to Goals-For. Only Florida, Calgary, Buffalo and surprisingly the LA Kings sit below them. In the last 5 years, the Devils have finished 28th, 15th (Cup Appearance year), 30th, 19th and 15th. I think it’s safe to say that the years the Devils don’t crack the top 20 in Goals-For, it usually means tee-times instead of Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Peter DeBoer recognizes the importance to having a well balanced team and did split up the top 2 lines in practice yesterday. Travis Zajac was moved off the line with Jaromir Jagr and centered for Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner. Andrei Loktionov was shifted into the center spot between Dainius Zubrus and Jagr. I certainly don’t like to question a coach but how a player goes from being a healthy scratch in 6 straight games prior to the game in Nashville to suddenly finding himself centering the Devils top line does need to be asked. If I’m not mistaken, we saw Josefson do this recently as well. Word also came out yesterday that Jagr wasn’t happy with the constant tinkering of his line. Its hockey and sometimes you have to tinker with your lines when you aren’t getting what you expect. I don’t question the tinkering but question what was put in place this time. I’m not a huge fan of replacing Zajac with a left handed shooter and ending up with 3 lefties on the top line which causes issues with cycling the puck but if that is something that doesn’t bother DeBoer, then why not move Henrique up who most believe is a better finisher than Loktionov? There has also been a lot of internet hatred towards DeBoer as he seems to be pissing off both Brodeur and Jagr in recent weeks but I do support what DeBoer is doing. If Schneider is playing better than Marty is, than that is who you want in the net. And if tinkering turns the 3 posts the Devils hit on Monday into 3 goals, then so be it.

There is also a rumor out there that Lou might be looking at Mike Cammalleri, a player that Calgary appears to be willing to part with given his upcoming UFA status but only Lou knows what he wants to do and if this is a valid rumor. He wouldn’t be a bad addition but he’s certainly not going to come in and light the world on fire and fix all of the Devils scoring problems.

The Devils have 2 remaining games before the Olympic break so why not just throw shit against the wall and see what sticks? Post-Olympics is going to be a hectic time and it would be nice to go into this break on a 2 game winning streak as well as a streak that finds NJ getting 8 out of 10 possible points in their last 5 games.

Hey, we can dream can’t we?

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