Final Score: Capitals 3 Devils 0

The New Jersey Devils fell 3-0 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at Verizon Center, dropping their record to 24-22-13.

The Devils were shut out for the sixth time while Cory Schneider has been in net.  He’s held opponents to two-goals-or-less in 13 of his last 14 starts.

Dainius Zubrus led the Devils will five shots on goal tonight.

Julien Brouillette scored his first NHL goal for Washington midway through the third period, as the Caps added a pair of empty netters late in the game to ice the victory.

With the Olympic break ahead, the Devils are off until February 27 when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center.

 

As 2013 ends, the Devils look to make a splash in 2014

Dave Turner

2013 may go down as one of the most challenging years in the history of the New Jersey Devils. To recap some of the events:

- There was the season that started not in late 2012, but 2013, after the NHL lockout.  The Devils did so without their captain from the previous season, after Zach Parise departed for Minnesota. The 48-game slate was none to kind to the Devils, as they failed to reach the playoffs just one season after making the Stanley Cup Finals.

- Then, the shocking “retirement” of Ilya Kovalchuk shook the franchise as they were tasked with quickly rebuilding in the wake of losing their best player.

- David Clarkson also left, signing a big contact with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

- While hosting the draft, the Devils made a major trade that may shape the franchise for years to come, when they acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks in front of a shocked Prudential Center crowd.

- In the wake of those major departures, Lou Lamoriello was tasked with rebuilding the roster. In came Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr. All three have proven to be integral aspects of the team. Jagr has been an ageless wonder so far and his leadership on and off the ice has been a valuable asset. While Brunner hit a lull after starting fast, up until his knee injury, he was playing some of his best hockey. Michael Ryder had his struggles as well, but as the calender turns, he sits only one goal behind Jagr for the team lead in goals scored. As for Clowe, he’s finally starting to find his way after missing substantial time with a concussion.

- 2013 also saw the introduction of some promising rookies. Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill look like they may be a big part of the future on the blue line. Reid Boucher has shown glimpses of what he may become as well. Not to be forgotten is the stellar season that Keith Kinkaid is having for Albany, giving the Devils another option in goal for the future, or a trade asset.

To read more of this story, click here

Damien Brunner

Pregame Primer: Game Thirty Five – Devils vs. Senators

New Jersey Devils vs. Ottawa Senators – 7:30 pm

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 660-AM, 101.9-FM

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In their first meeting of the season, the Ottawa Senators hung a five-spot on the New Jersey Devils up in Ottawa back in October.  Their second matchup will be at The Rock this evening.  The Sens come in having split their last six games while the Devils have lost five of their last seven.

Dainius Zubrus – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique – Patrik Elias – Damien Brunner
Reid Boucher – Andrei Loktionov – Michael Ryder
Steve Bernier – Stephen Gionta – Cam Janssen

Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Eric Gelinas – Marek Zidlicky 
Anton Volchenkov – Jon Merrill

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur

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Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1.  Different team, different result.  Please don’t take any stock into the last matchup between these two teams.  If you remember, that was rock bottom for the Devils the first few weeks into the season.  That was their seventh straight loss before they came home to beat the Rangers for their first triumph of the season.  That loss came in a game where the Devils were still learning to play with each other.  Now, does this mean an automatic win for the Devils?  Of course not.  However, it should be a much, much tighter contest.

2.  Much like Tampa’s D, Ottawa’s is bad.  We saw firsthand how bad Tampa’s defense was this past weekend.  This Ottawa D-corps is awful too.  They allow the third-most shots in the league as well as allowing the fourth-most amount of goals.  Their penalty kill is under 80 percent.  Their goaltender tonight, Robin Lehner, has been pretty strong.  He’s stopped 93 percent of pucks shot his way this year.  If the effort is there from the Devils, they should be able to slip a few by him.

3. Will secondary scoring continue?  It has been an absolute delight to watch players like Dainius Zubrus, Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner play big roles in the scoring department of late.  Without superstars, the Devils need to be able to get scoring from all parts.  Now, is this streak sustainable?  Probably not.  But as long they don’t go on big point droughts, that will go a long way in getting the Devils back to the postseason.

Prediction: Devils 3, Senators 2 

I hope you all enjoyed that “kick back and relax” third period against Tampa on Saturday because I don’t think we are going to see one of those again for a long while.  We all know the Devils aren’t really cut out for easy victories, so that’s what it will be tonight; a grind.  Also, bold prediction: Reid Boucher gets his first NHL goal tonight.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Final Score: Devils 3, Lightning 0

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 3-0. The two teams skated in front of a sparse crowd at Prudential Center due to the snowstorm that has been dumping snow across the tri-state area. The win brings New Jersey’s record to 13-15-6 on the season, good for 32 points.

- Martin Brodeur notched his third shutout of the season by stopping all 33 Tampa Bay shots. The shutout is the 124th of Brodeur’s career.

- Damien Brunner stayed hot by opening the scoring the second period. Unlike last night, when Marc-Andre Fleury stoned him on a breakaway, on Saturday, Brunner was able to beat Anders Lindback for the goal.

- Dainius Zubrus had a fantastic third period, scoring twice to help seal the deal for the Devils.

- Jaromir Jagr assisted on both third period goals.

Dave Turner

For a while, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Lightning scored a goal.

That goal never came.

Martin Brodeur stopped 33 shots en-route to a shutout, in what may be his finest performance of the season. With the Lightning buzzing in the second period, Brodeur shut the door to keep New Jersey in the game.

Enter Damien Brunner.

Damien BrunnerBrunner, who hadn’t scored in ages, prior to his two-goal game against Columbus, stayed hot, as he beat Anders Lindback for a goal, which turned out to be all they needed.

The resurgence of the young Swiss forward is a huge lift for the Devils. He started the season with three goals in his first three games, but after a lengthy slump, he found himself as a healthy scratch for a few games.

For Brunner, consistency seems to be the issue. There’s no doubt that he has the skating and shooting ability to be a 20-plus goal scorer in the NHL, but month-long slumps can’t happen. Perhaps the benching, coupled by his strong play of late will keep him focused. If he’s able to be a more reliable contributor, it makes the Devils a much more dangerous team.

Not to be lost in the fray is the play of the first line of Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus. With two goals tonight, after scoring against Pittsburgh on Friday, Zubrus now has seven tallies on the season. For Jagr, his two assists give him 11 goals and 17 helpers on the season, a team leading 28 points.

“I don’t think it was our best game, but we’ll take it. Of course Marty played great, so we’ll take a few days off and go back at it,” said Zubrus.

With the first line clicking, along with Brunner and Michael Ryder finding the back of the net again, it’s a good sign.

Considering the effort that they had during the second and third periods against Pittsburgh, this was almost a must-win. Despite their recent struggles, they’re now just five points behind second place Washington.

As they forge on into the middle-portion of the 2013-2014 season, it’s all about finding a way to be on the positive end of that deciding goal. The Devils have played 19 one-goal games this season, with five of those being shootout losses.

With a close game almost to to be expected, it’s all about finding a way to keep teams off the board late, or get that big late-game goal. The Devils have displayed all of those lately. They surrendered late leads to Montreal and New York, failed to score when in control against Pittsburgh and scored a big goal in overtime like they did against the Rangers.

The win over Tampa Bay was a strong response to last night’s loss, but they have to build on this performance heading into next week. The Devils will take on Ottawa on Wednesday and Anaheim on Friday from Prudential Center before heading to Washington on Saturday for the second half of a back-to-back.

By the numbers – Where has all the scoring gone?

Dave Turner

Not so long ago, the Devils put together a string of games that saw them post 20 goals in a seven game span, which was an average of 2.86 goals per game. Now, this team has struggled to score, tallying just four goals over their last three games, two of which have been losses.

Aside from Jaromir Jagr and more recently, Patrik Elias, and to some extent Ryan Carter, the Devils have struggled to score. With the goaltending turning in a strong performance almost every night, it’s almost safe to say that two goals may get this team at least a point in more games than not. Scoring that second and even a third goal, has been a major struggle as of late.

Here are some offensive numbers for the Devils notable forwards over each of their own last ten games played:

Jaromir Jagr - 6 goals, 2 assists – plus-4 rating, 28 shots on goal

Patrik Elias - 3 goals, 6 assists – plus-1 rating, 16 shots on goal

Dainius Zubrus - 1 goal, 5 assists – plus-5 rating, 17 shots on goal

Including Elias, who missed a few games in November, these three have been producing. They don’t exactly have jaw-dropping numbers, but Elias is scoring almost a point a game over his last ten games played. Patrik Elias

Jagr has lead the team in shots over that span and it has payed off, his six goals on 28 shots is good for 21.4% which means that just over one in every five shots he’s taken has found the back of the net.

After those three, that’s where things get a little dicey, after that, the scoring numbers drop off drastically:

Travis Zajac - 2 goals, 2 assists – plus-2 rating, 15 shots on goal

Adam Henrique - 1 goal, 2 assists – plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal

Michael Ryder - 1 goal, 2 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Andrei Loktionov - 0 goals, 1 assist – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Damien Brunner - 0 goals, 0 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Travis Zajac has been playing an excellent two way game, so though his numbers are far from stellar, he’s at least contributing to the club in other ways. Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder were expected to be big parts of the offense this year and their numbers just don’t cut it. Henrique has the fewest shots of anyone who was listed here. Furthermore, he’s had some good chances, but just can’t seem to bury them.

As for Loktionov and Brunner, it has been very much a downhill struggle since the beginning of the season. Andrei Loktionov started strong and looked like he was poised for a breakout season of sorts. Now, he’s struggling, with only one point in his last ten games played. There might not be any bigger disappointment so far this season than Damien Brunner. He got off to such a good start, with five points in his first five games in New Jersey. Since then, he has been held off of the score sheet in 16 of his last 17 games played. That has has to change.

To put this in perspective, Eric Gelinas’s six points over his last ten games are more than Henrique, Ryder and Brunner COMBINED. In that same span, Marek Zidlicky has four points. Combine the two defensemen’s points totals and they have just one fewer point than Zajac, Henrique, Brunner, Ryder and Loktionov combined.

Clearly, the offense has struggled. It almost seems as if players such as Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner have struggled to fit into the Devils system, that requires players to forecheck, win pucks in the corners and grind their way into goals. Damien BrunnerRyder and Brunner are above-average shooters, but both need space to work with. A lot of times you’ll see Ryder with a little room and he tries to make a move. That’s just who he is, an open ice player. For both of them, the best bet would be to put them in a situation that allows them to just shoot the puck. Whether it’s keeping Elias at center to help distribute, or some sort of different line combination that will allow for more shots, something has to be done to help get those players out of their current slumps.

The goaltending has been there. This team is in every game they play because of the strong play of the defense and both Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. The difference right now is that this team has been unable to give enough support to either to capitalize on enough of their chances to gain points.

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Pregame Preview – Game Three: Devils at Oilers

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New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers, 9:30 pm
Rexall Place – Edmonton, Alberta
TV: MSG+ Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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The Devils head out west to begin their five-game road trip. Up first is the 0-0-2 Edmonton Oilers. Both teams are in search of their first win of the season, so something has to give tonight. While the Oilers are not a great defensive team, they have a tremendous amount of speed on offense. Give them space through the neutral zone and they will make you pay.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns for the Oilers tonight and Jason LaBarbera will be in goal, after Devan Dubnyk played the first two games of the season.

Here are the Devils lines for tonight, as reported by Tom Gulitti of the Record.

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

Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov – Peter Harrold

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur

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Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. Scoring first is key - The Oilers have given up a ton of goals in their first two games. The fact is, they’re not a great defensive team. Throw in the fact that their backup goalie, Jason LaBarbera is making his first start of the season and it should be a recipe for success. Scoring first would go a long way towards the confidence of the Devils as they continue to feel out these lines. Couple in the fact that the crowd in Edmonton can get pretty rowdy, an early tally by New Jersey would do a lot to silence the crowd as well.

2. Stronger play in the neutral zone is paramount - When the Devils have been beaten for goals this year, they have come as a result of breakdowns in neutral ice. Certainly, working in all of the new players has something to do with it, but at some point the team needs to backcheck more efficiently and limit chances. The Islanders torched the Devils with their speed through neutral ice on Friday and the Oilers are a team with similar amounts of speed.

3. Play Eastern Conference hockey. These two clubs haven’t met since January 11th 2012. The contrast in styles is stark. The Oilers are content to push play forward and use their speed to create turnovers and odd-man rushes. As for the Devils, it’s still about working the puck in deep and using their forecheck to their advantage. The Oilers are not a very physical team, so if the Devils are able to establish their forecheck early and possess the puck, they should find some success. Though New Jersey has some weapons, the last thing they want to do is get caught up in an end-to-end game that would play into Edmonton’s favor.

4. How will the new lines work for New Jersey? Patrik Elias is centering Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr to start the night. Putting Jagr on this line seems like an attempt to get him going. A goal for #68 would go a long way towards getting his confidence up after struggling on Friday night. The line of Clowe, Loktionov and Brunner should be a nice mix of speed and size.

Prediction: Devils 4, Oilers 2

The pressure is mounting for the Devils to get their first win. Another loss, with a showdown tomorrow night against the Canucks, would force New Jersey into what would almost be a must-win situation in Vancouver. A big W tonight would alleviate some of the pressure and also help to lessen much of the burden on Cory Schneider’s start in his return to British Columbia.

As long as the Devils are able to establish their forecheck, they should be able to work the puck around and find some holes in the Oilers defense. Look for the Oilers to come out strong at first, with the return of Nugent-Hopkins to the lineup. In the end, the Devils physical style will be too much and they’ll skate to their first win of the season.

 We’ll have our Instant Insight article up after the conclusion of tonight’s game. 

 

Buzz: Lamoriello Has Been ‘Talking To’ Agents

Lou Lamoriello is making the rounds today. Earlier Wednesday, he spoke to Rich Chere about some of the Devils’ lower-level free agents. Now, Tom Gulitti has some updates on some of the more high-priority free agents.

Corey Griffin

That second tweet is far more important than the first one. It’s no surprise Lou is talking to their agents. Hell, he BETTER be talking to their agents with free agent less than six weeks away. The question is how many, if any, of them are willing to sign before free agency opens. For someone like Elias, who has spent his whole career with N.J., it makes sense for that to get done in advance. A guy like Zubrus that likes Pete DeBoer and knows where he fits on the team and in the system also might be willing to sign before the market opens.

However, for Clarkson and Zidlicky, this could mean they’ve played their last game in a Devils uniform. Clarkson is HIGHLY unlikely to strike any sort of deal before allowing a bidding war to start on the open market. Also, Zidlicky is likely to fetch more in free agency in terms of dollars than the Devils would likely be willing to pay him. That said, this is a wise move for Lou in my opinion. There’s no reason to get sucked into any sort of bidding war for any of these players, regardless of how much Clarkson means to the team and the franchise. I thought that Clarkson would eventually re-sign with the only team he’s ever known, but it sounds like I was wrong.