Final Score: Devils 4, Rangers 3

The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers for the third straight time, this one ending 4-3 in overtime from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.  The win pushes the Devils to 12-13-6 on the season.

Brad Richards scored on a 2 on 1 against Martin Brodeur in the first period continuing his recent string of good play.  He currently stands at 3 goals in his last 6 games.

- Mats Zuccarello started off the second period with a big goal off a rebound from a shot by Ryan Callahan to give his team a 2-0 lead.

- Cam Janssen stood up strong for his teammates and used his skates rather than his hands to make his biggest contribution with a big response goal for the Devils to bring the game 2-1.

- Travis Zajac tied up the game at 2 midway through the third going top-shelf off a rebound from Jaromir Jagr.

- Michael Ryder netted his third goal in his last four games beating Henrik Lundqvist through the 5-hole to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.

Chris Kreider got a chip-in goal on a 6 on 4 power play in the last minute of the game, after Travis Zajac took a terrible delay-of-game penalty.

Eric Gelinas scored his own power play goal on a bomb from beyond the top of the circle in overtime to secure the OT win for the Devils.

Ryan Jahnke

Coming off three consecutive losses to Eastern Conference foes, the Devils came into Madison Square Garden this Saturday night needing a win to help get things back on track.  In the end, the comeback kids came through, as another never-say-die third period effort and a timely power play in OT lead to a big win for Jersey’s team.

Special teams came through in a huge for New Jersey.  While their penalty kill was nearly lights out again, save for that nearly infamous 6 on 4, the Devils’ power play got to play the role of hero tonight.  Granted, it took an overtime 4 on 3 to set things right, but when they got the chance, they stepped up and Eric Gelinas sealed the deal.  Still, as good as the Devils’ kill was, you have to wonder if the PK crew has seen too much action recently with 15 penalties against the Devils in the last 4 games.  We’re going to have to pay attention to this going forward, as all that time shorthanded is bound to catch up to any team eventually.

There were plenty of good moments for the Red and Black, and so many of them came from fan favorite Cam Janssen.  Cam, well-known as bit of a fire-starter, was all over the ice with big hits and game-changing plays.  He skated over and stood up for Patrik Elias against Rangers’ defender Justin Faulk, before motoring down to the other end of the ice to slide feet first into the Devils’ opening goal.  While controversial to everyone wearing blue, new rules allow for redirection as long as there is still no distinct kicking motion.  So the goal was deemed clean, which was consistent with the way that similar situations have been ruled by the crew in Toronto thus far this year.  But, even beyond that first goal, Janssen made sure that his presence was felt, and his team fed off that energy turning a potential disaster, after the Zuccarello goal, into a very good second period and game for the Devils.  Simply put, the Devils don’t win tonight without #25 on the ice.

As has become the norm this season, the Devils also saw some pretty strong performances from the usual suspects.  Jaromir Jagr was as strong and prominent as anyone on the ice tonight.  Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, and Eric Gelinas played top-flight hockey throughout the game, holding their positions and creating strong chances and points for the offense.  Michael Ryder continued his hot-streak finding the net yet again, this time for the win and Adam Henrique was highly aggressive and was a constant threat to Henrik Lundqvist.  Some surprise contributions also came in from Cam Janssen, as well as Tim Sestito who provided a strong forecheck and the primary assist on Janssen’s and Ryder’s goals.

And, no Devils recap would be complete without mentioning a terrific effort by one of their two superstar goaltenders.  Tonight was Brodeur’s turn between the pipes, and the vet did not disappoint.  After letting in a goal on a rough 2 on 1 against Brad Richards where he dipped his shoulder a hair too low giving Richards the top corner, #30 was fantastic stopping all but the unreachable.  And, while tonight it was the offense who stepped up big, this was another big win in MSG for Martin Brodeur.

For those of you who are wondering, the points challenge between Marty and Cam is on, but because Marty got the secondary assist on the goal, neither player gained any ground tonight.

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.

20120130-152120.jpg

What a difference a month makes

Dave Turner

Not long ago, the New Jersey Devils were toiling at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, trying to do anything to stay afloat.

Now, the Devils find themselves in a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division if the season were to end today. There’s a long way to go, but we’re finally seeing some cohesion from this team, as they’ve gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games.

The turnaround is especially impressive considering some of the injuries that this team has suffered. Captain Bryce Salvador has been out for an extended period of time with a stress fracture in his foot, yet the defense hasn’t missed a beat. Patrik Elias missed time and Ryane Clowe has been out with a concussion and there’s no clear timetable as to when his return will be.

Yet, somehow this team is finding ways to win games. The once cliche I use often is that good teams will find ways to win and bad teams will find ways to lose. For every bad loss, or “moral victory” the Devils went through in October, now, their getting those bounces. Whether its Dainus Zubrus’s goal out of a scramble in front against the Rangers, or Wednesday night’s flukey game-winning goal in overtime that was credited to Travis Zajac, the red and black are beginning to create their own luck.20120130-152120.jpg

It’s almost poetic justice that Zajac got credited with the goal last night. No. 19 has been spectacular of late, doing so many of the unnoticed things that don’t necessarily show up on a score sheet. He’s winning face-offs, killing penalties, moving the puck and pushing play forward in the offensive zone. His play to keep the puck in the zone on Jaromir Jagr’s game tying goal last nightwas a subtle, yet crucial play. Zajac certainly took his share of criticism for his play in the wake of signing his big contract extension, but he’s living up to that large number with his all-around play.

Another perennial whipping boy, Marek Zidlicky, has been a catalyst all season. During the offseason, I actually predicted that the Devils power play would be better without the “retired” No.17 and that Zidlicky would be a big part of it. What we’re seeing from the Czech defenseman is an excellent ability to create offense out of the back end. As the power play quarterback, Zidlicky has excelled not only passing the puck, but shooting as well. His 12 points (3g, 9a) are second only to Jagr.

As for the defense, the depth that they built has paid off in a big way. Say what you’d like about Peter Harrold and Mark Fayne, but they’ve both been pressed into service with the injuries to Salvador and more recently, Anton Volchenkov and they’ve both held their own.

One of the biggest questions that is facing this team in the coming days will be what to do with Eric Gelinas. Though he’s had some “rookie moments” that are to be expected with a young defenseman, overall, he’s been a shot in the arm for this team. He shoots the puck well, to the point where he’s dangerous any time he winds up to fire the puck. His seven points (2g, 5a) in 12 games equates to roughly 48 points in an 82 game season. Yeah, that. Eric Gelinas

It hasn’t all been pretty. The team continues to struggle to score in front of Cory Schneider. I don’t really buy the whole idea that Brodeur’s playing of the puck makes THAT much of a difference in the team’s ability to score. A goal here and there? Sure, but not to the extent that the team has failed to score when No. 35 is in net. Despite that, both goaltenders have been excellent. Though it was shaky at first, the tandem has turned into exactly what they were hoped to be: a 1-2 punch that gives the Devils a strong goaltending performance every night.

Damien Brunner, who might have been the hottest Devil to start the season, has been struggling. He seems very much like the type of player that needs speed and space to make plays, something that isn’t exactly the norm in the Devils offense. He had a similar slump last season, as he started and finished hot, but struggled in the middle of the 48-game season.

Despite the deficiencies that still linger with this team, we’re beginning to see this squad come together. With so many games yet to play and a tough test on Thursday night in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a grind. This team is not built to blow people out. Every win is going to have to come by way of outworking the opponent and scoring some opportunistic goals. If the defense can continue to hold its own and if the offense begins to find it’s stride, then this team will begin to cement itself in the middle of the Metropolitan Division playoff picture.

Final Score: Kings 2, Devils 0

The Los Angeles Kings took down the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at the Prudential Center in the first meeting between the two teams since the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.  The loss drops the Devils to 6-8-5 on the season.

Dwight King scored on a deflection from a point shot by Jake Muzzin late in the 3rd period to give Los Angeles the lead that they would take to the end of the game.

- Patrik Elias’ return was a shot in the arm for the Devils on all fronts, but he failed to register a shot on goal and looked like he was at least one game away from getting his legs back under him.

- Corey Schneider put together a stellar effort despite another shortage of offensive support.  But, tonight belonged to Ben Scrivens, who recorded a 26-save shutout, his second shutout triumph this year.

Ryan Jahnke

The Devils have something good going right now, putting up a record of 3-0-1 in their last 4 games before facing LA.  Their defense has been suffocating and their goaltending has been among the league’s best, no matter who is between the pipes.  Their penalty kill is lights out, particularly at the Rock, where opponents have managed just one power play goal against the Devils (before tonight’s empty-netter).  So with all of this going so right for the team, their fans have just one question left… what is going on with the offense?

The Devils came into Friday night’s game against the Kings and strong backup goaltender Ben Scrivens as one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, and the first few periods did little to change that.  Great pressure and strong chances for New Jersey resulted in 18 shots and no goals through the first two.  Things were even worse for the red and black in the third.  Their legs were gone and their shots had dried up.  Los Angeles used this to their advantage and turned up the pressure on New Jersey, wearing the Devils down until finally recording what would be the game-winning goal on a strong screen and beautiful deflection by Dwight King.  A long empty-netter by Anze Kopitar sealed the deal and a regulation victory for the Kings.

The offense remains a problem for New Jersey.  The first period was one to be proud of as Jersey’s team thoroughly outplayed their opponents.  They worked especially hard in the L.A. zone, creating chances and crashing the net.  After that, things got ugly.  The Devils were outhit by a wide margin and gave the puck away more than three times as much as Los Angeles.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any bright spots from the New Jersey front men.  Jaromir Jagr, Adam Henrique and Danius Zubrus all put up strong efforts, and Andy Greene was a big playmaker tonight.  Unfortunately, the Devils always seemed a step behind the play as countless pucks slid through the crease without anyone in red there to bury them.

The defense and goaltending were dominant.  Cory Schneider did everything a goalie could do to win this game for his team, and the boys in front of him limited  opportunities.  One unfortunate stretch was their undoing, as the relentless Kings’ attack at the end of the game lured two Devils D-men to the side of the goal leaving Dwight King uncontested in front of Schneider.

This kind of game can take the wind out of a team’s sails.  The Devils came in talking about giving Schneider some goal support, and then get blanked at home.  With a lackluster third and an anemic power play to finish the game, the Devils left the ice with their heads hanging and the fans’ frustrations ringing in their ears.  It’ll be a tough test for the team tomorrow night as New Jersey looks to pick themselves up and rise to the challenge against Pittsburgh.  The Red and Black will need to play all three periods tomorrow like they did the first stanza tonight. Martin Brodeur will need to keep up his impressive streak of quality games, put the team back on track and make sure that they don’t lose the momentum that they had built up over the previous four games.

Pregame Primer: Game Nineteen – Devils vs Kings

New Jersey Devils vs Los Angeles Kings, 7 pm

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

linelong

These were the lines from today’s morning skate. According to The Record’s Tom Gulitti, both Patrik Elias and Stephen Gionta will be game-time decisions. Though it does seem like both are ready to go.

- Cory Schneider is in net tonight.

- Anton Volchenkov is out tonight with a leg injury, which leaves the Devils with six defensemen: Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Peter Harrold, Mark Fayne, Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson. Jon Merrill is on injured reserve while recovering from a face laceration.

- The lines may vary based on if Elias and Gionta play, so we’ll keep you updated as it gets closer to game time.

linelong

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1) No Quick, no Carter for the Kings. The Kings come in to tonight’s game without two of their best players, as Jonathan Quick and Jeff Carter are both out. In net for the Kings will most likely be Ben Scrivens, who came over from Toronto in the deal that sent Jonathan Bernier to the Maple Leafs. Though it seems like facing Scrivens may be an easy task, the former Cornell star has been very good in limited action this season. Scrivens is 2-1-1 with a  1.92 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. The loss of Carter hurts as well, because he brings a lot of dynamic offensive ability, but this is still a very good team.

2) The Devils have to keep the momentum going. After their rocky start, thing are starting to look up, as the team has taken seven of their last eight possible points. With tonight’s home tilt, followed by a home game against the Penguins, three or four points would thrust the Devils right back into the playoff picture in the Metropolitan Division. The Kings played last night and used a huge effort to come from behind and score three goals in the third period to beat the Islanders. They might not be as fresh, so the Devils need to jump on them from the opening faceoff.

3) Speaking of faceoffs, this is a tough matchup for the Devils in the dot. The Kings are the number one faceoff team in the league, winning 55.3% of their draws. The Devils, they’re toiling at a meager 45.3%, good for 27th in the league. They will struggle to win faceoffs against the Kings, so they must work the puck in deep and cycle the puck. Don’t expect much offense coming from faceoff wins in the offensive zone.

Prediction: Devils 3, Kings 2

The Devils will come out strong and they’ll get an early goal. The Kings might start a bit slow after their gutsy effort last night. The Kings will come back and score a pair of goals in the second before the Devils net a pair to come away with a hard fought win against a strong opponent.

New Jersey has points in all but one of its home games (1-0 loss to the Flyers) so another sterling effort from Prudential Center can be expected. This team has a lot of confidence after their 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden and it has to carry over tonight. If they’re able to get two points, it will set up a huge matchup with the Penguins that could put the Devils over .500 and right into the playoff mix.

Patrik Elias2

11/14 Notes: Elias back at practice, Jagr on WFAN at 12:30

Just some quick news and notes from early this morning.  Here are the Devils lines from today’s practice:

Zubrus-Zajac-Jagr

Brunner-Elias-Ryder

Henrique-Loktionov-Bernier

Carter-Gionta-Janssen

Greene-Zidlicky

Gelinas-Larsson

Harrold-Fayne

Goalies: Brodeur, Schneider

Tedenby, Josefson

Anton Volchenkov is not at practice due to a muscle pull in his leg.  Jon Merrill (facial lacerations), Bryce Salvador (fractured foot) and Ryane Clowe (head) are still out as well.

Cory Schneider will start against the Kings on Friday.

Programming Note:  Jaromir Jagr will be joining Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN at 12:30 p.m. today.  You can listen at 660-AM, 101.9-FM or online here:  http://betaplayer.radio.com/player/sports-radio-66-wfan-ny

Final Score: Devils 3, Flyers 0

The New Jersey Devils took down the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. with a well-earned bounce-back effort.  The win pushes the Devils to 4-7-4 on the season.

Adam Henrique scored on a deflection off of a blast from the point by Eric Gelinas in the first period.  This was the team’s first goal in six periods of hockey.

- Travis Zajac’s return was a big plus for a team in need of some offense and help on the forecheck.  Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov also returned to have a positive impact on the game.

- Cam Janssen used his hands for something other than fighting, as he registered his first goal since March 2011, and his second ever goal as a New Jersey Devil.

- Martin Brodeur recorded the 22 save shutout, extending his NHL record to 122 over his career and his 12th against the Flyers.

Ryan Jahnke

The Devils have been hurting recently, following up two big wins against Boston and Tampa with two debilitating, shut-out losses to the Flyers and the Wild.  What little swagger New Jersey gained was ripped away as injuries to key starters, including top two forwards Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, left the team snake-bit and unable to manufacture goals for over 151 minutes.  Maybe it’s a little too dramatic to call the 15th game of the season a must-win, but it’s hard to deny that the team’s confidence moving forward hung on the outcome of the game in Philadelphia.

New Jersey didn’t disappoint, as the red and black put together strong efforts at both ends of the ice.  The Devils took the game to Philly by out-working and out-hustling their rivals for 60 straight minutes.  Despite being out-hit 30 – 22, it seemed like New Jersey played the better physical game winning the battles in the corners and along the boards.

Their penalty kill was dominant, their forecheck was overwhelming and their overall defensive effort was as impressive as it’s been this season, from both the forwards and the D-Men.  Andy Greene and Travis Zajac really stood-out as the workhorses of New Jersey’s defensive effort accounting for the most minutes on the ice at their respective positions. The strong defense never allowed the Flyers to get a their game going. The Devils held the Philadelphia power play to an 0 – 3 night.  Returning defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold also deserve credit for logging some important minutes and playing a big part in the Devils’ gritty win.

Offensively, there was more in this game to be excited about than the scoresheet might lead you to believe.  In a night that was all about hustle and pressure, the Devils’ offense did their part and got some contributions from some very, very unlikely sources.  Mattias Tedenby and Andrei Loktionov created some wonderful chances, and defensemen Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson continue to prove why they’re near the top of a very promising young group of blue-line threats.

The team showed a greater commitment to driving the net, and it paid-off in spades as New Jersey netted two deflection goals up high on Ray Emery.  Adam Henrique netted the first one for his fifth of the season and Cam Janssen was elated to nab the second off of a shot from Larsson and a great tandem effort from Janssen himself and Ryan Carter.  After being brought up for this game to the dismay of many who wanted to hear that a goal-scorer was coming into the lineup, it was a great to see the look of joy on the face of New Jersey’s enforcer as Cam lit that lamp.  Then, to cap off a solid offensive night for Jersey’s team, Jaromir Jagr recorded the empty-netter. A nice reward for a man who was once again, arguably, New Jersey’s top forward.

It wasn’t a perfect effort.  It would have been nice to see the Devils throw a few more shots at Emery, and maybe take advantage of one of their three power plays, but really that’s just nit-picking.  Tonight was a good game offensively, especially for a team that is still without Patrik Elias and Ryan Clowe.

Of course this night wouldn’t be complete without discussing the play of no.30.  It was a big night for Martin Brodeur, as he recorded his 122nd career shutout, and his 12th against the Flyers.  To be fair, a combination of solid D and a struggling Flyer lineup meant that this wasn’t Brodeur’s toughest test.  But, when the team needed him, Marty stepped up, made some big saves, and stopped all 22 tries by his opponents.  Tonight, Marty wasn’t just better, he was perfect.

By the numbers – Elias, Zajac losses have been key

Dave Turner

The eye test surely tells the story of the Devils struggles without Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac in the lineup.

To no surprise, the Corsi numbers back up that claim, as Elias and Zajac are one and two respectively on the team in on ice-Corsi rating.

Zajac worried

In case you’re not familiar with what Corsi rating is, it’s basically a metric that rates players based on the amount of shots directed towards the net in the offensive zone, versus shots towards the net in the defensive zone.

For Zajac, his 17.10 CorsiOn rating is almost four points higher than the next forward, which is Jaromir Jagr at 13.32. The value of No. 19 in the lineup is so big not just because of his play, but his ability to win faceoffs.

Zajac has won 51 percent of his draws on the season. Though that’s nothing astronomical, compared to the rest of the team, he’s easily the best man in the dot. Andrei Loktionov’s 41.1 percent and Adam Henrique’s 40.2 percent are among the lowest in the league for any player who has taken a consistent amount of draws.

You can also make the case that Zajac is a vital cog on the power play, as he’s won 20 power play face offs to 16 losses on the man advantage. Corsi numbers will always reflect well on a centerman that can win draws. If you’re controlling the puck off the faceoff, chances are you’re either not giving up shots in your own end, or at least getting opportunities in the offensive end.

Zajac’s offensive numbers are far from spectacular, as he only has one goal and three assists on the season, but he means more to this team than just point production. Being the only center on the roster above 50 percent in the faceoff dot is huge, as his absence hurts in all three zones in that regard. As the Corsi numbers dictate though, when he’s on the ice, the team is creating more shots than they’re giving up.

As for Elias, his presence is felt in many ways as well. Playing on the top line with Loktionov and Jagr for most of the season, he has three goals and four assists in ten games. As Patrik has done so well throughout his long career, he creates offense. The first line had been very good before he left the lineup and his team-leading 18.13 Corsi rating reflects that. There’s a large discrepancy between the amount of shots for and against when Elias is on the ice.Patrik Elias

Sidney Crosby has an 18.94 Corsi rating, which puts into perspective just how valuable Elias has been to this club.

Though the recent struggles aren’t just about the losses of these two players, it’s clear that the Devils are a much better team with both Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac in the lineup. The numbers point to the fact that both of those players generate the most offense for this team.

What’s up with Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner?

Jeff OConnor

Michael Ryder has no goals in his last five games.

We know he’s a streaky guy but outside of a post he hit on Saturday night against Philadelphia, he’s been relatively quiet.  For one, he’s not shooting nearly enough.  He has six shots in the team’s last five games.  Even with these last five contests, he’s shooting at an 18 percent clip.  That’s great.

What’s concerning is that he hasn’t scored an even-strength goal since October 7 at Edmonton.  The two even-strength tallies he does have came when he was on a line with Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac.  Of course, Zajac was the center and Henrique was the winger.  Zajac has been out the last few games so Pete DeBoer has had to juggle lines, leaving Ryder without a cemented spot amongst the top three lines.Michael Ryder

Even still, on his two even-strength goals, no one has assisted on Ryder’s markers.  Perhaps Ryder hasn’t found his correct complementary parts yet.  Newcomer Jaromir Jagr found his a few games ago, really connecting with Andrei Loktionov and Patrik Elias.  Compared to other teammates he’s played with on his line for significant minutes, Henrique and Zajac remain his best options in terms of metrics.  When Zajac gets healthy, he needs to consider going with two centers on that line with Ryder.  Ryder was brought here to do one thing; score goals.  If he’s not producing with other linemates, it might be worth sacrificing in other areas if it means No. 17 is on a line where he’ll get lots of great looks.

Where has Damien Brunner been?  He has failed to record a point in seven of his last eight games.  Unlike Ryder, Brunner is firing the puck a lot.  In the last five games, he’s let the puck fly 15 times.  After a hot start, he’s now hitting the back of the net at a 10.8 percent rate.  Unfortunately for the Devils, they are still figuring out what he is.  Despite playing many seasons overseas, Brunner only has one NHL season under his belt.  He had 12 goals in 44 games with Detroit last year but shot 9.8 percent.  Oof.

I think everyone, coaches and management, need to take more time to evaluate Brunner to better identify where he fits with this team.  It should be said that one of the linemates he should be playing with is currently out with an injury, Ryane Clowe.  Clowe and Brunner have been on the ice 5-on-5 for nearly a full game’s worth of ice time.  They’ve created points together and have been on the plus side of the Corsi chart.  He’s played away from Clowe for about half a game and the Corsi mark average during that time is a minus-16.  So while Brunner is still finding his game and role, perhaps the answer is waiting in a man who will hopefully be back with the club soon.

Ryder and Brunner carried the team early in the season when they struggled to get points.  They started to take a backseat to other performers when the team got on a bit of a roll.  Recently, they’ve been nowhere to be found as the team may be heading towards another slide. Damien Brunner

These numbers are of a small sample size, no question, but these guys are only going to play with a select few players all year long.  These two won’t be playing with the CBGB line, so in essence, there are seven other guys to choose from that they’ll match up with and hopefully at some point, click.

So, while others like Jagr have found some chemistry and are getting more comfortable, these two guys are still in search for their security blankets.  Once they have some more time and find that level of trust in others, Pete DeBoer will finally have a well-rounded stable of forwards on the ice, instead of just on paper like most thought he had in August.

No Elias or Zajac tonight in Minnesota, no starting goaltender announced yet

No pressure, Travis.

After dropping a 1-0 contest to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Devils quickly turned their focus to the Minnesota Wild.

They’ll be shorthanded once again, as Patrik Elias (upper body) and Travis Zajac (ankle) will not make the flight over to St. Paul.

There is no timetable for the return of either.

The Devils goaltending situation for tonight is still not known. Last night, Martin Brodeur responded with a “no” when asked if he was going to start.

Pete DeBoer was also committal as to the return of Cory Schneider, but it’s likely that he is going to get the start tonight if in fact Brodeur is not playing.

We’ll keep you updated on that situation.