Final Score: Avalanche 2, Devils 1 (SO)

The New Jersey Devils dropped their record to 20-18-11 on Thursday night as they fell to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

The Devils fell to 0-8 in the shootout and 1-for-25 in shootout attempts as Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias were denied, as Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly beat Cory Schneider.

The Devils have earned points in their last six games.  They are 3-0-3 during that time.

Reid Boucher scored the lone goal for the Devils, his second career tally.

Jeff OConnor

Put it on both sides.  Yes, the Devils can’t score in the shootout, but the Devils goaltenders are getting burned just as equally.  It’s not even worth going over at this point.

As far as the game, the first 40 minutes were tough to watch.  Colorado’s speed was very apparent and when the Devils did have possession of the puck, the Avalanche defensemen did not hesitate and sit back at all.  They beat up and bruised any Devil forward that had the puck below the harsh marks.  It took the Devils a while to adjust but they finally found their game in the third period.  20 strong minutes earned them a point.  That’s the sign of a team that’s coming along.

Devils fans shouldn’t sweat this that much.  Colorado plays a West Conference style of offense that is tough to keep up with.  They struggled with Chicago.  They couldn’t keep pace in Los Angeles, despite a victory.  They’ve played really well against the East this year and that’s the important note to keep in mind.

This team needs to still look at the bigger picture.  If the Devils win on Saturday, they’ll take 6 out of 8 points for the road trip.  That’s a darn good swing across the country.  Elias will regain his old form and Damien Brunner is on the way back.  Keep collecting points and avoid the long stretches of losses.

Pregame Primer: Game Forty Four – Devils vs. Flyers

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers – 7:30 pm

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: NBCSN  Radio: WFAN 101.9-FM, 660-AM

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Dainius Zubrus – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier
Reid Boucher – Andrei Loktionov – Mike Sislo

Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill – Marek Zidlicky
Bryce Salvador – Anton Volchenkov

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  New Jersey Devils v Philadelphia Flyers - Game One

1. Watch out for Giroux.  The last time Devils fans saw Claude Giroux, they were making fun of his goal total because, well, Cam Janssen had more goals than him.  He’s turned the corner, though, and now has eight goals and 20 points in his last 16 games.  As Devils broadcaster Sherry Ross astutely noted, let’s hope Giroux doesn’t “Okposo” the Devils tonight.  That refers to Islanders forward Kyle Okposo scoring an OT goal against Chicago, a day after he was snubbed from the U.S. Olympics men’s hockey team.  Giroux received a similar fate earlier today when he was left off Team Canada’s roster.  Tread lightly, Devils fans.

2. Pretty darn close to a must-win.  As much of a must-win as you can have early in January.  The Devils have sunk to sixth in the Metro Division.  Although they are only four points out of third, Columbus has the same point total as them and the red-hot Isles are only five points behind NJ.  If the Devils fall into a funk, they may find themselves snowballing down the mountain.  A win tonight and they are two points behind the Flyers.  A regulation loss and they’ll be seventh in the division and potentially five points back before they are back on the ice on Thursday. 

3. Marty bounce back?   For two periods against Chicago, Martin Brodeur was in vintage form.  He looked as though he could steal a win from the defending champs on home ice.  Then the third period happened, as he got rung up for four goals.  Now he’ll face a team that he’s dominated in two matchups this season.  He’s stopped nearly 98 percent of pucks sent at him by Flyers skaters.  He’s allowed one goal in two games.  This is certainly a different Flyer team than we saw in October but the Devils know their style and should be negate some of the momentum they come in on, having won seven of their last 10.

Prediction – Devils 3 Flyers 2 OT

The Devils really need this game in the worst way and I think they’ll get it done.  It won’t be pretty and they won’t gain full ground on the Flyers, but it’ll be enough for a victory and for the team to feel good about themselves again.  

We called Reid Boucher’s first goal a few games ago.  It’s time for another prediction: I think Ryane Clowe gets his first marker as a Devil tonight.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

The Kids Are All Right: Devils youth movement on display

Jeff OConnor

In recent years, the New Jersey Devils have struggled to draft and cultivate talent. You have to scroll all the way Eric Gelinasback to the 2004 NHL Draft to see the last time the Devils drafted what turned out to be an impact player.   That was Travis Zajac in the first round.

Since then, the Devils have essentially drafted no impact talents. Before freaking out, let’s preface with this: some draftees of the last few years were flipped for guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Marek Zidlicky. So, give props to GM Lou Lamoriello for turning marginal talent (at best) into a Top-5 player and the puck-moving defenseman Devils fans craved for the longest time.

However, in terms of drafting players that become core pieces of the franchise, it simply hasn’t been there over the last decade. As much as everyone loves Adam Henrique, he’s only showed flashes of being consistently solid. Let’s not forget he’s a third-round pick, so he’s certainly not a sure thing to be a top-flight player.

For all the Jacob Josefsons and Mattias Tedenbys, there have been just as many misses in the middle and later rounds as well. However, if they connect on three rookies who are on the team currently, they may have the start of a young, homegrown core. They were all on display last night in the form of Eric Gelinas, Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill.

Gelinas jumped into the play many times last night, hammering a shot wide off the end boards that was slammed home for a goal. Then, he put the game away in the third when things got a little bit closer, finishing the game with a two-point night and the game’s No. 1 star. I’ve said it since the summer, Gelinas is built like a mini-Zdeno Chara. If he blossoms into the player fans think he can be, he will be close to a mirror image of the bruising blueliner from Boston. He may never get to the physical play that Scott Stevens exhibited, but he is the perfect style of No. 1 defenseman in today’s NHL; size, solid speed and a rip of a shot. He has the chance to be special.

Boucher got his first NHL goal off the miss from Gelinas. So far, he has been everything fans hoped Josefson and Tedenby would be: speed, enough physical presence, great hands and vision. He has a long way to go, but in terms of raw talent and how it translates to the NHL, it looks like he will stick. He’ll crash the crease but can also dangle through the slot. In terms of impact, there’s hope and reason to believe he could have the learning curve of a Zach Parise.

As for Merrill, he looked a little out of place to start. He got a concussion on his first NHL shift, missed a fair amount of time and only recently got back to the ice. From the eye test, one could tell he certainly didn’t look as ready as Gelinas did when he played his first few games. In the beginning, Merrill looked stiff and never displayed his skating ability. For me, that all changed last night. He looked poised, confident and smooth. He’s not a physical guy right now, but that’s OK if he can contribute in other areas. He might need a little more time to mature, but last night showed he can stick in this league.

In a year of transition, these three have shown there is hope to believe that a youth movement is on the way. For all the Devils misses in the draft over the last 10 years, these guys could cover up a lot of holes in the farm system and help Devils fans forget about mistakes made in years past.

Final Score: Devils 5, Senators 2

The Devils scored early and often, en-route to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators from Prudential Center. The win moves their record to 14-15-6 on the season.

- With his second period goal, Jaromir Jagr passed Steve Yzerman, scoring the 693rd goal of his NHL career. He now sits just one behind Mark Messier for seventh all time.

- Reid Boucher notched the first goal of his NHL career, after he scored off of a bounce off the boards on a shot by Eric Gelinas. Boucher has three points since being called up to New Jersey.

- Speaking of Gelinas, he had a two point night, as the rookie defenseman scored in the third period on a great glove side top-shelf shot from in close.

- In his first game back from injury, Stephen Gionta scored a shorthanded goal that got things going on a strong night for the offense.

Dave Turner

It was a big night for the Devils promising young players.

Those old guys weren’t so bad either.

The Devils got out to a 3-0 lead and never really looked back, notching their second-straight home win in what was on of their best all-around offensive performances of the season.

It was a night for records and firsts, as well. With his second period goal, Jaromir Jagr became not only the stand-alone eighth highest scorer in NHL history, but he also grabbed sole possession of another great record. His goal, which was the eventual game winning goal, gave him 122 game winning goals for his career, as he passed Gordie Howe for that honor. Jagr moved beyond Steve Yzerman with his 693rd goal and stands just one behind Mark Messier for seventh all time.

On one end, it was another milestone for a decorated career and a great beginning for another.

Reid Boucher notched his first NHL goal after he followed up a miss off the boards by Eric Gelinas. For Boucher, his first NHL tally was the result of his hard work and solid play since he was called up. Reid Boucher

“I like a lot of things about him, he wins a lot of battles, he’s stronger and faster than he looks and he creates offense for himself and other people on the ice. He has instincts you can’t teach,” said Pete DeBoer of the 20-year-old winger.

Aside from the goals and records, the biggest takeaway from tonight’s game was the Devils ability to answer. When Ottawa made it 3-1, Damien Brunner answered. When the Senators fought back to 4-2, it was Gelinas lighting the lamp for the fourth time this season. The Devils did well to eliminate any chance of a comeback from the Sens by keeping the distance.

There was a lot to like from their performance and they’re playing strong hockey at an opportune time. The Devils play a back-to-back that features a home game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, followed by their first tilt against the division rival Washington Capitals, who currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

It was their second dominating win in as many games, but there is still a lot of work to do. Despite the two wins, the Devils are still a game under NHL .500 at 14-15-6. With a couple of strong performances this weekend, New Jersey can re-insert themselves right back into the mix in the Metropolitan Division.

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.

Cory Schneider

Pregame Primer: Game Twenty Nine – Devils vs. Canadiens

New Jersey Devils vs. Montreal Canadiens  – 7:00 pm

Prudential Center – Newark, New Jersey

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

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

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

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. The beginning of Reid.  Another prized youngster in the Devils’ system makes his way to Newark tonight.  Reid Boucher will not only be in uniform; he’ll be on the second line with Patrik Elias and Steve Bernier.  As we detailed earlier, Reid has a great balance in linemates; the skill with Elias and the grit and toughness of Bernier.  It be silly to expect him to rack up a few points tonight, but seeing his skills and speed displayed first-hand would be a nice start.  It’s hard to believe he’ll be a long-term player on the big roster this year but it’s always exciting when Devils fans get to open a new toy during the course of the season.

2. Honestly, don’t change much from Monday.  The only thing the Devils didn’t do in Monday’s contest was finish their chances.  Everything else they did right.  They played an extremely strong road period with an 11-5 shot margin.  It continued in the second with an 11-4 mark, making it 22-9 for the first 40 minutes.  Also, the Devils had 22 shots blocked in a game where they put 30 on net.  If they can find the right angles, they can definitely pot a few more goals.

3. Third line juggled again.  We finally saw strong games from both Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner on Monday.  Now they have a new center man with Adam Henrique.  It’s very possible Henrique deepens and makes that line more dangerous.  It’s also plausible that it could take them a few games to get on the same page.  We’ll find out pretty early on which of the two it is.

Prediction: Devils 3, Canadiens 1

Let’s completely flip the script.  I’ll say the Canadiens dictate the tempo early on and have the better chances through the first 40 or so, but this time the Devils get the bounces and cash in on the few chances they have.  We’ve said it time and time again, Cory Schneider simply does not give up soft goals.  He dominates again tonight and the Devils get back to .500 again.

Pregame Preview: Preseason Game 1 – Devils vs. Rangers

Dave Turner

It might not count in the standings, but tonight we’re finally treated to some Devils hockey for the first time since their April 27th loss at Madison Square Garden.

For some players, this is their first major chance to prove that they belong on the roster. For others, it’s a chance to get some live game action and work towards being ready for the season.

The lineup for today features a range of players, from some who are locks to make the club, to some who will most certainly be in Albany to start the year.

Here are some points for today’s game:

The first look at Cory Schneider

Tonight, number 35 will be between the pipes for his first-ever game in New Jersey. Schneider will most likely play the first two periods before giving way to backup Keith Kinkaid. Normally, a backup goalie starting a preseason game wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the battle for the number-one spot in net begins tonight.Cory Schneider

There’s no doubt that the team will be evaluating Schneider and Martin Brodeur with every chance that they get. It would most likely take an injury to Brodeur to keep him from starting opening night, but after that, those minutes are up for the taking. If the former Canuck can get off to a great start, he will put a lot of pressure on Brodeur to match him.

That being said, it’ll be a great chance to get a look at Schneider for the first time as a Devil. Preseason games always have the chance of being sloppy, and he could be tested early and often. He’s known for his excellent rebound control, and he might need it tonight.

I’m sure there will be some nerves for Schneider early on. Though the game means nothing in the standings, he’ll be looking to prove to the coaches that he is as good as advertised.

Three players with a lot to prove tonight

1. Mattias Tedenby- Another year, and another chance for the Swedish winger. He’s not a lock to make the roster and now is the chance for him to prove that he deserves some ice time during the regular season. Tedenby is basically at the end of the line in terms of his Devils career. He’ll be looked at with a microscope in the preseason. A point or two, or even some solid offensive play will go a long way for Tedenby in the eyes of the coaches.

2. Reid Boucher- Yes, that Reid Boucher. As i’ve said before, the young winger is not expected to make the opening night roster. Nothing is written in stone though, and there’s no way that the team wouldn’t take notice if Boucher finishes with a few points and plays well. If he wants to at least get himself into the conversation for a roster spot, now’s the chance. Reid Boucher

3. Eric Gelinas- I believe that Gelinas still has the best shot of any defensive prospect to make the team out of camp. Tonight will be a big first step towards that, if he’s able to play well. He’s paired with Alexander Urbom,  so the two young defensemen will be looking to make a splash. Sure, Gelinas needs to be strong in his own end, but he’ll most likely get some power play minutes tonight, and that is where he can start to set himself apart. Shoot Eric, Shoot!

Is this the year Adam Larsson takes the next step?

Adam Larsson was pretty good last year for the Devils, but pretty good wasn’t exactly what the Devils had in mind when they drafted Larsson fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The Swedish d-man needs to take a step towards becoming a legitimate top-pairing defenseman. With another offseason to bulk up and soak in what he’s learned, this third NHL season for Larsson should be one where he begins to mature into a big-time player, capable of logging major minutes.

He hasn’t show much offensive upside yet, and with a different power play this year, he might get some power play time. Larsson was envisioned as a two-way player capable of being a power play quarterback. We haven’t seen that yet. He’ll most likely get some power play time tonight, so there will be a chance for him to impress in the offensive zone.

What can we expect tonight?

It’s the first preseason game, so the players are getting their first taste of full-contact play. Conditioning is still a work in progress for many, but it’s the young players that will have the most to prove tonight. For anyone that is a lock to make the team, it’s just another chance to get up to game speed. For anyone on the fringe, this is a do or die opportunity to show the coaches that they belong.

No prediction for this one, other than that we will see a hard-fought game from those who have a lot to prove tonight.

 

 

Five burning questions for Devils training camp

Dave Turner

As camp begins, the team is starting to take shape. Still, many questions remain about the roster and who will be a contributor this year. Here are five of the biggest questions coming into the season.

1. Can the defense begin to rebound?

Bryce SalvadorLast season was a tough campaign for the Devils defense.  Players like Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov struggled mightily at times. There’s no doubt that this is going to be an offensively-challenged team this season, so the impetus will be on the defense to step up their game. Salvador, who is 37, must be better this season. He’s going to be expected to log major minutes, and he has to carry the load. As the captain, there’s even more pressure on him to play well. Number 24 was so good in the 2011-2012 playoffs, that maybe the frantic 2102-2013 season was just a blip on the radar for him.

As far as Volchenkov goes, the Russian d-man had a challenging 2012-13 campaign. For a player that has made a career of blocking vulcanized rubber with all parts of his body, it seems like the rigors of his physical play have finally caught up to him. Volchenkov looked extremely slow, and that lack of speed resulted in poor positioning and many bad penalties.

It’s certainly not out of the question that one, or both of these defensemen can turn back the clock and provide a steady presence on the blue line this season. For both, there will be pressure to perform or else they’ll both end up sitting. With seven defensemen on the roster, and the glut of young, talented prospects, Salvador and Volchenkov will be under pressure to perform right away.

2. Speaking of defensive prospects, which young blueliner has the best chance of making the club out of camp?

To read more of this story, click here

NEWS: Albany Devils Sign Reid Boucher To ATO

Corey Griffin

This on the heels of Jon Merrill’s ATO becoming official earlier Friday, meaning the Devils’ farm system will have a pair of top prospects on their roster for the rest of the season. It should be a good test of what both can do against professional competition, although I wouldn’t expect what happens over the final month to be anything other than a brief glimpse into the two players’ talent. Boucher, in particular, will likely need some time to adjust from the pro game after spending his career in junior. While Merrill’s college experience should help him transition better, Boucher could struggle at first when faced with a bigger, faster game. It’ll be fascinating to see how his high-scoring potential translates to the AHL, though

NEWS: Devils Sign Reid Boucher To ELC

In “news that will make everyone happy,” the Devils signed high-scoring prospect Reid Boucher to an entry-level contract Wednesday.

Boucher, a member of the Sarnia Sting, broke Steven Stamkos’ club record for most goals in a season this year. He cannot join the Devils or their AHL affiliate until his junior club’s season is over. The Sting have three regular-season games left and then the OHL playoffs.

UPDATE: An important note here from Tom Gulitti on the specifics of Boucher’s contract: