Final Score: Devils 5, Hurricanes 2

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 5-2 on Friday night to move their record to 10-11-5 on the season.

- The Devils had an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Mark Fayne, by the Hurricanes stormed back in the second period on goals by Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal.

- Trailing 2-1 to start the 3rd, the Devils came out and played what may have been their most complete period of the season, scoring four goals against Cam Ward.

- Andrei Loktionov and Adam Henrique both broke scoreless streaks with their third period tallies and Dainius Zubrus added a goal on a deflection. Jaromir Jagr capped off the scoring by following up his own rebound and going five-hole on Ward to ice the victory.

- In total, 11 Devils skaters had at least a point.

Dave Turner

Staring a third straight defeat in the eyes heading into the third period, the New Jersey Devils responded in a big way, using four third period goals to skate to an easy victory in Carolina.

Completing the second end of a home-and-home with the Hurricanes, the Devils came out strong in the first period and though they were up by just one goal after the first twenty, it could have easily been more.

In what became very much a book-end effort, the Hurricanes pounced in the second and took a 2-1 lead and a power play opportunity into the third period.

After two tough losses, the Devils needed something, anything to get them going and they got what might have been their finest period to date. The goals came almost one after the other, as Andrei Loktionov, Adam Henrique and Dainius Zubrus all scored within a five-minute span to turn what was a close game into a blowout in favor of New Jersey.

Damien BrunnerThere was a lot to like from quite a few players tonight, as the line of Loktionov, Damien Brunner and Michael Ryder got progressively better as the night went on. They had an excellent shift midway through the third period and low and behold, Loktionov scored on their next shift. For a trio of players who have all seen their share of struggles, it was a positive step. The line seemed to get better even after they scored. The confidence seemed to go a long way. Brunner and Ryder both picked up assists on the goal by Loktionov.

Another positive to take away was the play of Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill. The two rookie blueliners looked poised and confident, while logging solid minutes. Gelinas finished with 19:32 of ice time and Merrill with 16:25.

Not to be lost in the deluge of goal scoring in the third was the fact that Cory Schneider bounced back after a sub-par second period to blank the Canes the rest of the way. The five goals were no doubt, a welcomed sight for Schneider, who has been plagued with very limited goal support throughout the season.

It was a game the Devils had to have and they answered the bell in a big way. It wasn’t pretty through the first forty, but it quickly turned into one of their more impressive wins of the season.

New Jersey will be right back at it, with a game against Buffalo on Saturday night. They’ll look to build on the win and re-insert themselves back into the Metropolitan Division playoff race.

As of Friday night, the Devils are just three points behind second place Washington, but also sit just two points ahead of seventh place Columbus.

Pregame Primer: Game Twenty Five – Devils vs. Hurricanes

New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes – 7:00 pm

Prudential Center – Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WCBS 880-AM

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The New Jersey Devils were outplayed quite a bit during the Western Conference road trip but came away with four of a possible six points.  On Monday night, they outplayed the Winnipeg Jets at home.  However, a slow start doomed them for a 3-1 defeat.

So it seems things have evened out a bit for NJ.  Now the Carolina Hurricanes are in town before the Thanksgiving holiday.  The Hurricanes got off to a hot start but have lost four of their last five games.  This is a stretch of games where the Devils are not facing a high quality of competition.  Over the next four days, they see these Hurricanes twice and get the Buffalo Sabres at home.  It sure would be a nice to have a holiday feast on a weaker schedule.

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. Offenses just about even.  Imagine this…there are three teams with worse offenses than the New Jersey Devils.  The Hurricanes are on of them.  They average two goals a game on the button, compared to the Devils’ mark of 2.08.  That needs to stay that way.  If the Devils defense and goaltending are on top of their game, a goal or two could win the game tonight.   

2. Several ways to solve Ward.  Devils fans are very familiar with Canes goaltender Cam Ward.  However, he’s been hit-or-miss of late.  In three of his last five games, he’s allowed three goals.  Also in those three games, opponents have pumped in a total of four power play goals.  Carolina has the fifth-worst penalty kill on the road this year.  The Devils need to get back to outworking their opponent and drawing a few more penalties.  

3. Brodeur again?  Yup, he’s back in the net again tonight.  I thought this was a good spot to give Cory Schneider a start.  Brodeur has been red hot, no doubt, but Schneider’s numbers have been even better minus the win column.  There’s no point in overworking Brodeur this early.  Hopefully, he stays hot but an off-game could be looming soon.

Prediction – Devils 2, Hurricanes 1

Both teams are inept offensively and it will show tonight.  It’s by no means a must-win, but it would be nice to avoid a three-game losing streak before they head into a back-to-back against mediocre teams.  I think the Devils will dominate the play and leave a lot of scoring chances on the table, but they’ll do just enough to win.  In November, doesn’t matter how you get them.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Metropolitan Division Picks

By Dave Turner and Jeff O’Connor

With the season upon us, it’s time to see how the Devils stack up with the rest of the Metropolitan Division. With plenty of talent across the board, the Metro division should be one of the most competitive in the league.

Dave’s Picks: 

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1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Goaltending/Defensive issues aside, this team is still the class of the division. The only way they won’t finish first is if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both miss a considerable amount of time. As long as Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t melt down, they’ll be just fine.

 2. Washington Capitals – The Caps struggled early on in 2013, but once they figured out Adam Oates’s system, they played excellent hockey down the stretch. Their X-factor is Braden Holtby. If he can take another step towards being a top-flight goalie, they’ll be fine. If not, they could easily slip.

3. New York Rangers – This team may struggle out of the gate with a new coach, but they’ll rebound in time to make a push for the top. With a better offensive system, look for Rick Nash and Derek Stepan to have an excellent season together. Things may get interesting if the team isn’t able to lock up Henrik Lundqvist during the season.

 4. New Jersey Devils – Picking the Devils to finish fourth almost seems sacrilegious, considering where they’re being picked everywhere else. They lack a big-time scorer, but they’re a much deeper team than they were last season. Cory Schneider will emerge as a top-ten caliber goalie.

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 5. New York Islanders – They took a huge step forward by making the playoffs last season, but over the course of an 82-game span, their goaltending and defensive deficiencies will show. That being said, they’ll score a lot of goals and be a fun team to watch. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if they finished in the top-four or even snuck in as the wildcard in the Atlantic Division.

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 6. Philadelphia Flyers – I’m still searching for the answer as to how this team got that much better from last season. They replaced Danny Briere with Vincent Lecavalier, which is a minor upgrade. In net, they didn’t improve much. Though Ilya Bryzgalov was wildly inconsistent, he actually had some good moments. Ray Emery and Steve Mason are not going to cut it.

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 7. Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets made a great run at the playoffs in 2013, but they’re still a year away. They can grind you and as long as Sergei Bobrovsky can put up somewhat similar numbers to the ones he posted last year, they’ll be competitive.

8. Carolina Hurricanes – If the Canes are able to get some consistent goalie play, they might finish a lot higher than the bottom. Cam Ward is coming off of a major injury, so it’s not out of the question to see a lot of Anton Khudobin. They won with the Alexander Semin gamble last season; can they win again with Mike Komisarek?

Jeff’s Picks: 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Even with the losses of guys like Iginla, Morrow and Cooke, the Penguins have plenty of youth ready to contribute on the third and fourth lines.  Bringing back Rob Scuderi should provide a huge left to their D?  Winning the division won’t be the issue…will Marc-Andre Fleury show up for the postseason?

2. New York Islanders – Bouchard and Clutterbuck will add a bit more grit to this young squad.  Their young forwards will only get better.  Nabokov is a known commodity in goal but the bottom two pairings for the Isles defense leaves a lot to be desired.  If they want to go further than last year, they’ll need to pick up a blueliner at the deadline.

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3. New York Rangers – Alain Vigneault’s system will certainly open things up offensively.  How will the defensive side of things go?  Well, they’ll have the same six back on defense so expect them to be just as sturdy as they were on John Tortorella.  Their forwards are mostly the same as well.  Expect the Rangers to have a better season, solely because Brad Richards cannot be worse than he was last year.

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4. Washington Capitals – The pickup of Mikhail Grabovski is going to make Caps fans quickly forget about Mike Ribeiro’s production.  Their roster mostly stayed intact and it appears their young goaltender is on the upward trend.  Braden Holtby showed flashes of being a top-notch goaltender.  One can only think he’ll take another step towards reaching that potential this year.

5. Philadelphia Flyers – Adding Mark Streit will immediately strengthen a weak Philly backline.  If Vincent Lecavalier can find the fountain of youth, the veteran absence Danny Briere won’t be felt as much.  As always for them…it comes down to goaltending.  Can Ray Emery come close to reproducing his magical start with the Blackhawks last season?  If so, they’re in good shape.

Martin Brodeur

6. New Jersey Devils – Given the hand GM Lou Lamoriello was dealt, he did a very solid job patching up the top few lines.  Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr won’t singularly be able to replace the productivity of Ilya Kovalchuk but that trio should make them a deeper squad.  Can Cory Schneider push Martin Brodeur to play at a high level?

7. Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets showed they are on the rise last year, but that was in a wide open West.  Welcome to the East.  Adding Nathan Horton will help, but he can’t carry a team.  They just don’t appear to have the depth right now at either end of the ice, and it’s highly likely that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky can’t repeat his 2013.

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8. Carolina Hurricanes – Their defense has a ton of question marks and their bottom two lines don’t appear reliable at this point.  Cam Ward will have to be much better than last year’s 2.84 GAA.

There’s no doubt that the first year of the new four-division format will make for some exciting playoff races. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if spots two through seven are separated by something like six to eight points. This division will be close and every game will be important.

This Date In Devils History– April 28

Even though the Devils’ playoff chances are finished for 2013, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On April 28…

2001- After losing game one, the Devils blow a 5-1 third-period lead in game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Randy McKay’s goal at 5:30 of the first overtime lifts New Jersey to a 6-5 win over the Leafs, evening their best-of-seven series at 1.

For those who don’t remember:

2003- New Jersey falls behind against the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 after one period but rallies to tie the game at three with three second-period goals.

But Dave Andreychuk’s third-period goal lifts the Lightning to a 4-3 win, cutting New Jersey’s series lead to 2-1. Game 3 is more memorable because Devils defenseman Scott Stevens was injured after being hit in the head by a Pavel Kubina slap shot. Stevens left the game but returned in game 4.

2007- Jamie Langenbrunner’s goal at 1:55 of the second overtime lifts New Jersey to a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, evening the series at 1.

That win was the Devils’ final victory at the Continental Airlines Arena.

2009- Despite clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third, New Jersey surrenders two goals in the final 1:20– just 48 seconds apart– as the Carolina Hurricanes claimed game 7 4-3, claiming the best-of-seven series by the same margin.

No clips necessary. I’m sure we all remember that one.

This Date in Devils History

Even though the Devils’ playoff chances are finished for 2013, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On April 24…

2003- Martin Brodeur records a playoff shutout, and Jamie Langenbrunner registers a goal and an assist in New Jersey’s win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

New Jersey went on to beat Tampa Bay in six games en route to its third Stanley Cup.

2006- John Madden records a hat trick in game two of the Devils’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers– a game the Devils won 4-1.

That game also offered this incredible two-minute stretch that those in attendance won’t soon forget.

The Devils went on to sweep the Rangers but fall to the eventual-Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in the next round.

2012- Travis Zajac’s goal 5:39 into the first-overtime period lifts the Devils to a season-saving 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in game six of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

New Jersey went on to win game seven in double overtime and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals before falling to the Los Angeles Kings.

Scoreboard Watching: Need More Help

0419standingsThe Devils helped themselves on Thursday night.

Unfortunately for them and their fans, that’s the only help they got.

New Jersey remains six back of eighth place now with only five games remaining. The Devils’ 3-0 win in Philadelphia kept them alive in the playoff hunt with five games left but did them no other good.

The New York Rangers pummeled Florida, 6-1. The Winnipeg Jets blew a two-goal third-period lead, beating the Carolina Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders each stayed hot, winning their games.

The Devils are in a  catch-22 tonight too. New Jersey simply must root for the Buffalo Sabres, who will host the Rangers tonight.

New Jersey roots for Buffalo tonight, because a Sabres win will keep the Devils six points behind the No. 8 seed with five games left. New Jersey will have one game in hand on the Rangers with two head-to-head meetings next week.

Meanwhile, the Devils would have two games in hand on Buffalo. Assuming New Jersey wins those two– no small assumption, but the Devils need to win out anyway– it would leap frog the Sabres.

Based on what is happening in Boston, it is unknown whether the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will meet tonight. However, they’re scheduled to go at 7. A Pittsburgh win would seal it the East’s top seed.

The Bruins and Penguins have been postponed due to the manhunt in Boston. That game’s been rescheduled for Tuesday.

Here’s the full slate of Eastern Conference games for tonight:

N.Y. Rangers at Buffalo, 7

Pittsburgh at Boston, 7

Around The Links: A Win

Scoreboard Watching: More Help Needed

0409standngsThe Toronto Maple Leafs, who seemingly doomed the Devils’ playoff hopes just three days ago, have renewed life into New Jersey’s postseason chances.

The Leafs’ 4-3 regulation win over the Rangers at Air Canada Centre kept New Jersey within two points of both seventh and eighth in the East with only 18 regular-season days remaining.

With New Jersey idle again tonight, the team and fans can root for the Flyers and Lightning. Philadelphia, still clinging to faint-playoff life, will be on Long Island for a date with the Isles. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, will try to deal the reeling Senators their fifth-straight loss.

Washington, not pictured, leads Winnipeg by only two points for the Southeast Division lead. Both are in action tonight, with the Capitals in Montreal. The Jets will host the Sabres tonight at 8 p.m. in a key affair for both teams.

A Montreal win, coupled with a Pittsburgh loss in Carolina, will leave Les Habitantes just one point back of the Pens for the East’s No. 1 seed.

Here are tonight’s Eastern Conference games. All times are p.m. and eastern:

Philadelphia at N.Y. Islanders, 7

Pittsburgh at Carolina, 7

Washington at Montreal, 7:30

Ottawa at Tampa Bay, 7:30

Buffalo at Winnipeg, 8

Scoreboard Watching: A HUGE Night Ahead

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Why is tonight so big, you ask?

Five of the six teams pictured play– two of which, Philadelphia and Winnipeg, will meet head-to-head. The Rangers’ shootout loss on Friday in Pittsburgh gained them a point, jumping them ahead of the Islanders and Devils and into the No. 7 spot.

The Devils, with a win tonight over Toronto and an Islanders loss, will return inside the East’s top eight.

Meanwhile, the Jets host the Flyers in a huge interdivisional game at 3 p.m. Winnipeg, with a win and a Washington loss, can retake first place in the Southeast Division. With a loss, the Jets will be all but out of playoff contention, considering they have played more games, 40, than any other team in the East.

Meanwhile, the Flyers can creep within one point of the playoffs– and drop the Devils into the Atlantic Division basement– with a win and a New Jersey loss.

The Capitals, not pictured but presently in third overall, will keep the Southeast lead– and home-ice advantage that comes with it– with a win in Sunrise over the Panthers or a Winnipeg loss.

The Rangers, playing for the second straight night, are in Carolina to meet the fading Hurricanes. The Islanders, meanwhile, will host the Lightning tonight. Both Carolina and Tampa Bay, not pictured, can move within four points of the playoffs with wins.

Meanwhile, at the East’s top, Boston can retake first in the Northeast Division with a win in Montreal tonight.

Here’s the full slate for Saturday of East games with playoff implications. All times are p.m. and eastern time.

Philadelphia at Winnipeg, 3

Boston at Montreal, 7

Toronto at DEVILS, 7

Tampa Bay at N.Y. Islanders, 7

N.Y. Rangers at Carolina, 7

Washington at Florida, 7:30

Scoreboard Watching: Big Days Ahead

0404standingsIt’s not hyperbole to call Thursday the NHL’s biggest day to date.

The trade deadline is behind us, and with only 11-13 games left, there are seven teams within five points of the East’s Nos. 7 and 8 seeds.

When you consider that five of those seven are in action tonight– plus the Southeast Division-leading Jets– it makes for a huge night on the ice.

The Rangers’ dominant 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday created a three-way tie for seventh and eighth. The Devils and/or Islanders can break that tie, and bounce out the Rangers, with wins tonight. The Devils are in Boston, the Isles are in Washington to take on the Capitals.

Ah yes, the Caps. They can move into a tie for first in the Southeast with a win and a Winnipeg loss. Or with a regulation win and a Devils loss, Washington can creep to within a point of eighth.

The Flyers, fresh off their come-from-behind win over Montreal on Wednesday, will meet the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Philadelphia, with a win, a Devils loss and Islanders loss, can move to within two points of eighth. But the Flyers are in a catch-22 with Washington and New York meeting tonight.

The fading Hurricanes need a win tonight, at home against Tampa Bay, to stay within striking distance. The Lightning, not pictured, also need a win to remain semi-close.

Here’s the full slate:

DEVILS at Boston, 7

Philadelphia at Toronto, 7

N.Y. Islanders at Washington, 7

Tampa Bay at Carolina, 7

Winnipeg at Montreal, 7:30