This is a series of posts on the Devils’ pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted). We’ll cover their strengths and weaknesses and end up with a final verdict on whether we think the Devils should re-sign the player. There will also be a poll at the end of each post so you guys can weigh in with your thoughts.
2013 statistics: 28 games with Devils/8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points/minus-2 rating, 4 PIMs
Free-agent status: Restricted
2012-13 salary/cap hit: $$575,000 (NHL) /$816,666 (NHL) (via Cap Geek)
Team history: Acquired for 2012 fifth-round pick in February
What he brings: Loktionov has very good vision, which allows him to sometimes see plays develop a step or two ahead of the other team. It’s part of the reason why he was such an excellent compliment to Ilya Kovalchuk, whose own ability to completely manipulate the ice like a chess board in truly remarkable. Loktionov is also a strong passer and has a good enough idea of timing to thread the puck through traffic. The part of Loktionov’s game that Pete DeBoer probably likes is the Russian’s two-way ability. Loktionov is far from an offense-only centerman, which is a big part of why he received such a key role on the Devils’ top line. Well, that and the fact that Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique were basically invisible offensively for long stretches this season.
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Even though the New Jersey Devils are no longer playing as team, some Devils are still playing competitive hockey.
The IIHF World Championships are happening abroad– in Finland and Sweden, in fact. There are two Devils apiece on Teams USA and Russia and one on Team Sweden.
Ilya Kovalchuk posted three shots on goal in 23:19 of ice time in Team Russia’s stunning 2-1 loss to France on Wednesday.
Neither Kovalchuk, nor Andrei Loktionov gained points in Russia’s first tournament loss. Loktionov finished 6-for-11 on faceoffs.
In Sweden’s 3-0 loss to Canada, Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder had two shots in 20:30.
Even though the Devils’ 2013 season is over, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.
On May 8…
1988- Officials boycott game 4 of the Wales Conference finals between the Devils and Boston Bruins, after the NHL did not suspend New Jersey coach Jim Schoenfeld for his postgame outburst at referee Don Koharski.
Schoenfeld subsequently was suspended, replacement officials were used and Lou Lamoriello coached New Jersey to a 3-1 win in game 4 at Brendan Byrne Arena. David Maley, Pat Verbeek and Tom Kurvers each scored goals, as the Devils even the best-of-seven series at 2.
1995- Just a day removed from his second-career playoff shutout, Martin Brodeur shuts out the Boston Bruins again, 3-0, in game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Boston Garden.
2000- Brodeur stops all six shots he faces– yes six, that’s not a typo– in New Jersey’s 3-0 Eastern Conference semifinal-clinching game 6 win at Continental Airlines Arena.
Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott each register a goal and an assist, as New Jersey wins the series 4-2.
2012- Ilya Kovalchuk records a goal and an assist, and David Clarkson scores the eventual game-winning goal, as the Devils polish off the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-1 win in game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Wells Fargo Center.
The Devils claim the series 4-1 and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Clarkson’s odd game winner:
Even though the New Jersey Devils are no longer playing as team, some Devils are still playing competitive hockey.
The IIHF World Championships are happening abroad– in Finland and Sweden, in fact. There are two Devils apiece on Teams USA and Russia.
Those squads happened to square off Tuesday, with Ilya Kovalchuk gaining a goal and an assist in Russia’s 5-3 win over the Americans at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
Kovalchuk now has five goals in only three games and leads the entire tournament with seven points. Kovalchuk’s linemate– on the Devils and Team Russia– Andrei Loktionov was a plus-1 in 12:18.
Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter were each a minus-2 for Team USA.
With the Devils not being part of the playoffs this year, it’s time for everyone second-rate tournament — the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS! So which Devils will be carrying the flag on their backs this month?
Via Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger:
Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter will both play for Team USA in the world championships in Finland and Sweden.
Ilya Kovalchuk will play for Russia, in the same group as the U.S.
“It will be fun chasing his (sic) around the big ice surface,” Gionta said sarcastically.
Henrik Tallinder will play for Sweden.
All of those additions make sense, but this omission seems perplexing to me.
I’m not sure I understand that one. He should’ve at least gotten a call, right? Greene was the Devils’ best defenseman all year and definitely could’ve helped Team USA. Maybe he let the people in charge know beforehand he wasn’t going to play and they didn’t contact him out of courtesy. I’m not sure if that’s the answer, but not even contacting him makes no sense.
The New York Rangers looked like they had something to play for on Saturday afternoon.
The Devils did not.
New Jersey ended its disappointing campaign with a flat, uninspired effort in a 4-0 loss to New York at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan each recorded a goal and an assist, Rick Nash scored twice, and Brad Richards had two assists as New York finished its regular season 26-18-4.
The Rangers locked up at least the No. 7 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs and can finish sixth if the Ottawa Senators lose their remaining two games– or if Ottawa finishes 1-1.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 20 shots he faced.
Johan Hedberg stopped 17 shots. The Devils finished their lockout-shortened 48-game campaign with 48 points– a perfectly-mediocre 19-19-10.
While the whole team looked disinterested, the Devils defense looked downright egregious.
Peter Harrold and Andy Greene were the Devils’ only two Even ‘D’ and both took penalties.
Adam Larsson and Marek Zidlicky were both minus-2 — Larsson could’ve gotten a secondary assist on Nash’s first goal. Meanwhile, Zidlicky was caught flatfooted on several occasions and made a weak pass that Stepan easily stole and dished to Callahan on his shorthanded goal late in the first.
Zidlicky will be an unrestricted-free agent at season’s end, and I’d be stunned if he returns. He was minus-10 and was essentially the posterchild for New Jersey’s defensive woes this year.
Ilya Kovalchuk wasn’t much better, finishing a minus-2 and only earning two shots. Kovalchuk was caught watching on Nash’s second goal, failing to backcheck or do anything more than stare as Nash beat Hedberg.
Hedberg’s left pad was Nash’s top foil.
The dynamic winger could’ve had at least four goals– even five– but Hedberg’s pad stymied five of Nash’s game-high seven shots.
Hedberg’s left pad was good in New Jersey’s win Thursday, and he performed admirably in place of Martin Brodeur.
Still, Brodeur was still not immune from MSG ridicule. The Garden’s fans peppered him with “We want Marty” and “Mar-ty” song chants.
Brodeur hadn’t sat an entire game on the bench at MSG in almost 20 years.
New Jersey’s penalty kill was about its only bright spot Saturday.
The Devils held the Rangers shotless in six man-advantages, including a pair of two-man advantages.
The Devils’ penalty kill was a major Achilles’ heel at points this year but closed the campaign killing their last seven, finishing 16th in the NHL in penalty killing.
Anton Volchenkov led the Devils on Saturday with three shots.
That pretty much tells the story, doesn’t it?
Who: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
When: 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Media: TV - NBC; (Channel listings); Radio – Bloomberg (1130 AM)
Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)
- The Devils enter tonight’s game 15-11-3 in their previous 29 season-closing games. The team is 7-0-1 in its past seven season-closers, and has not lost since April 4, 2004 vs. Boston (3-1). New Jersey is closing a season on the road for the first time since April 18, 2006 at Montreal (4-3 win).
- New Jersey closed-out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule Thursday with a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. The Devils are now 19-8-3 in their previous 30 home finales. New Jersey is 7-0-1 in its last seven home-closers (last loss, April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, 3-1).
- The Devils finished with a 13-9-2=28pts mark at Prudential Center.
- New Jersey finished with a season-high (tie) three consecutive home victories.
- Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, the Devils improved to 5-17-6 on the year when allowing the first goal. New Jersey is 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.
- Johan Hedberg (16 saves) earned the win Thursday in his first start since March 19 vs. the New York Rangers. He is expected to start this afternoon, as well.
- Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winning goal and added an assist Thursday and now has points in three straight games (1g-3a-4pts). He is one assist shy of the 400-mark in his NHL career.
- David Clarkson scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season Thursday. It was his sixth on the power play, which also leads New Jersey.
Inactives: Barch, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Urbom, D’Agostini, Gelinas, Pesonen, Sislo
Sidelined: Salvador (wrist), Fayne (nagging injury)
The End: Today is New Jersey’s 48th and final game of 2013. New Jersey’s won four of its last five games and, though it won’t make the playoffs, nor will it be able to keep the Rangers out of the playoffs, the Devils can resign New York to the East’s No. 8 seed if they can win in regulation.
The Rangers will clinch at least the No. 7 seed with a point.
Moose: Hedberg will start in net in Saturday afternoon’s game at Madison Square Garden. The 40-year-old goalie stopped 16 shots in Thursday night’s win over Pittsburgh and is 0-1 against the Rangers this year.
On the flipside, Martin Brodeur will not start on Saturday, sitting out his first game at MSG while healthy since 1993. Apparently it was Brodeur’s call.
I got a lot of postgame info last night. Most of it I used in Postgame Thoughts, yet some spilled over into today.
Here are some leftovers from the Devils’ 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For whatever reason, the arena seemed exceedingly quiet until Travis Zajac’s second-period goal.
Maybe the Pens were playing a perfect road game. Maybe the 16,122 were tense and sad about the Devils’ final home game. But whatever the reason, the crowd was very quiet.
Even as the Devils mounted their comeback it seemed quiet. I guess that’s what happens when you’re unaccustomed to missing the postseason.
Still, Devils coach Peter DeBoer credited the team’s supporters.
“Fans have been amazing,” DeBoer said. “I can’t thank them enough. I really feel badly that we’re not giving them playoff hockey this year.”
Pittsburgh’s much-heralded trade-deadline additions have been outstanding.
Jarome Iginla has nine points in 12 games. Jussi Jokinen scored on Thursday– his fifth goal in nine games as a Penguin– and Brenden Morrow’s assist last night gave him 12 points in 14 games.
I nearly tweeted during the second period Thursday that if the Penguins were going to play defense like they had been, and Sidney Crosby and James Neal return, no one would beat them.
Then Pittsburgh gagged a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2.
Pittsburgh has an embarrassment of riches offensively, and the Pens are pretty strong on ‘D’ as well. Marc-Andre Fleury is a Stanley Cup champion. Still, there’s something lingering I don’t like about this team.
Patrik Elias told reporters last night “They’re good at making plays, and they turn the puck over quite a bit to. You can get some opportunities. “
Teams like that don’t typically win the Stanley Cup these days.
After falling behind 2-0, against the east’s best team, the Devils could’ve packed up the tent but didn’t.
“We played well against them all year,” Devils goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I can’t say that we’ve had very many off-nights the whole season.”
The first two periods seemed like a microcosm of the Devils’ season: outplay and outshoot the competition but trail.
“We’ve outplayed teams, we’ve outshot teams, we’ve done everything right,” Devils forward David Clarkson said, “and we’ve had bounces go against us.”
Still, the Devils caught some breaks. The puck appeared to hop on Evgeni Malkin as he was all alone in front of Hedberg. That brief miscue allowed Ryan Carter to backcheck and deflect Malkin’s shot into the protective netting over the glass.
On Ilya Kovalchuk’s third-period game-winning goal, the Devils’ winger attempted a pass to Andrei Loktionov, which found Brandon’s Sutter’s stick instead. Pittsburgh’s forward redirected the pass into an open net, putting the Devils ahead.
The Devils obviously will not be playing postseason hockey this year.
Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference’s top team.
New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
“We played well against them all year,” New Jersey’s starting goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I think tonight we got a couple of bounces … and it was enough.”
Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a goal and an assist, and Patrik Elias recorded two assists, as the Devils won for just the fifth time this year when they did not score first. New Jersey improved to 19-18-10 and 3-1 against the Penguins.
“When you play against the best players in the league, it always fires you up,” Kovalchuk said. “They have a few of them out there.”
New Jersey will close its regular season Saturday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
“This is a big rivalry,” Devils forward David Clarkson said. “We’re going to come out and play hard.”
Matt Cooke and Jussi Jokinen each scored for Pittsburgh, as the Penguins fell to 35-12-0.
Making his NHL debut on Thursday, Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas admitted he was nervous.
Gelinas was a minus-1 in 15:59. He started the game on defense along with Peter Harrold.
“I was surprised to be on the starting five,” Gelinas said. “That made me more nervous. After the first shift, I think I felt better out there and just realized it was another hockey game.”
Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted he liked what he saw from the 21-year-old defenseman.
“He was solid,” DeBoer said. “He moved the puck well. He gave us an element that you can never have enough of: a big, solid puck-moving defenseman.”
“I thought he played very well,” the netminder said. “You couldn’t tell it was his first game … he looked great.”
DeBoer told the media Thursday morning he’d try to keep his young defender away from Pittsburgh’s superstar-forward Evgeni Malkin, though Gelinas did meet Malkin for a few shifts.
“[Devils defense coach] Scotty [Stevens] believes on throwing them into the fire,” DeBoer said. “He did a good job.”
New Jersey’s defense as a whole was great, limiting Pittsburgh to just 18 shots on goal.
“This is a team that’s averaging 30-plus [shots] per night,” DeBoer said.
Hedberg, making his first start since March 19, stopped 16 shots to earn his first win since March 13.
“It was nice,” Hedberg said. “You want to finish strong, you want to finish with a strong feeling to walk away with … that was good for us.”
Hedberg’s best save came early on the second period when he stoned Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla with his left pad. Hedberg also stopped Kris Letang’s point shot with about four minutes left on what was Pittsburgh’s last real chance.
“He played unbelievable,” Kovalchuk said of Hedberg.
Clarkson was happy the 40-year-old backup could earn a victory in what likely was his final start of 2013.
“Moose is one of the best teammates you’ll play with,” Clarkson said. “It was great to get that win for him.”
Kovalchuk’s goal at 13:50 of the third turned out to be the game winner.
Kovalchuk received a pass from Steve Sullivan and cruised in on right wing. He sent a pass towards Andrei Loktionov that hit a Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter and beat Marc-Andre Fleury, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Kovalchuk admitted he was trying to pass but caught some luck.
“I was passing,” he said. “[Loktionov] was wide open. It doesn’t really matter.”
Kovalchuk also admitted that he and Loktionov would join Team Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland.
“We’ll play together there,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s an honor to play there for your home country … they’re the reason why I am where I am right now.”
Kovalchuk also admitted how difficult 2013 has been on him. The superstar winger missed 12 games with a shoulder injury and has registered just 11 goals and 20 assists in 36 games.
“I think, overall with the injuries, this was the worst season of my career,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s not easy.”
Prorate Kovalchuk’s stats for a full season– including the 12 missed games– and he’d have 60 points, which would be a career low.
With his two assists, Elias boosted his team-high point total to 36.
Elias, who will be an unrestricted-free agent at season’s end, received chants of “Pat-ty” from the crowd throughout the night, including at the end when he was being interviewed by MSG’s Deb Placey.
“It’s great,” he said. “They showed their appreciation. I was trying to do my best job out there, and the fans recognized that out there. It feels great.”
The Devils were happy to send their fans out with a win in the team’s final home game.
New Jersey posted 18 sellouts in 24 home games this year. Thursday night’s attendance was 16,122.
“We owe it to our fans,” Clarkson said. “Our fans have been fantastic. They’ve been supportive, so we came out and we played hard there tonight.”
DeBoer admitted the team’s last home game was “bittersweet.”