By Trevor Jahnke
What’s on Tap: New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers.
Matchup to Watch: Tonight against the New York Rangers at 7:00 in Newark, NJ
What’s at Stake: The Devils seem to have regained their confidence and started to play like the Devils of January. They’re 2nd in the division and they are 8th in the conference but they are only 2 points ahead of their number #1 rival, the New York Rangers. They are two points out of 6th place, but also a regulation loss to the Rangers from being out of the top eight.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 22 Wins, 8 Losses, 0 Overtime Losses, 44 Points
New Jersey Devils – 13 Wins, 10 Losses, 6 Overtime Losses, 32 Points
New York Rangers – 14 Wins, 12 Losses, 2 Overtime Losses, 30 Points
New York Islanders – 13 Wins, 12 Losses, 3 Overtime Losses, 29 Points
Philadelphia Flyers – 13 Wins, 15 Losses, 1 Overtime Loss, 27 Points
This week starts off with a very important game when the Hudson River Rivalry heats up on home ice for the second time this season as the Red and Black get a visit from the Rangers.
Last time the Devils faced off against their “friendly” rivals, New Jersey was victorious with a 3-1 win. It was a great game for both David Clarkson; who scored twice and assisted once, and Patrik Elias; who assisted on all 3 goals. The Rags only goal came from Chris Kreider, who has only played 12 games this season.
The Rangers are currently in a slump with three losses this past week and their only victory coming in a shootout over the Carolina Hurricanes last night. Before that they lost 3-1 to Buffalo, 3-1 to Winnipeg, and 3-0 to Pittsburgh. Although their center Derek Stepan has been on fire lately with 2 goals and an assist within the past week, he basically provided the only goals that New York has managed to put in the net.
But that also means a lot of their players, such as Rick Nash (9 goals and 14 assists), Marian Gaborik (8 goals and 9 assists), and Brad Richards (4 goals and 11 assists), are hungry and probably tired of John Tortorella yelling at them.
Even with this rough patch, the Rangers are still ranked 5th in the league in goals against and their penalty kill is currently 10th. The Devils are going to have to raise their scoring total above the paltry one that they’ve registered in the past two games, since a low scoring game might not be to their advantage.
After the matchup with New York, the Devils head down to Raleigh to take on a team that seems to have their number, the Hurricanes. The Devils have played them twice so far this season and they lost both games, 4-2 and 6-3.
Surprisingly, their biggest threat surprisingly isn’t either of the Staal brothers (Erik 13 goals and 20 assists / Jordan 6 goals and 12 assists), nor is it Alexander Semin (8 goals and 21 assists). It is in fact Jiri Tlusty who has scored four goals and one assist against the Devils this season. In comparison, Ilya Kovalchuk has been theirr biggest threat to them with 3 goals against the Hurricanes this season.
E. Staal (21), Semin (20), and Tlusty (18) are still among the leaders of the entire league in terms of plus/minus rating. The Devil with the highest plus- rating is Elias at plus-7.
With any luck, this may be Martin Brodeur’s first game back from injury which is more than can be said for Cam Ward, who is still injured. Which means Jersey’s team will be going up against Dan Ellis for the second time.
After the rumble in Raleigh, the Devils head back up to Newark on Saturday to host the Florida Panthers for the first time this season.
Last time these two teams met, Adam Henrique scored his first series-winning goal of the 2012 playoffs in the second overtime of Game 7. Much time has past since then but the Panthers are currently in the middle of a six-game losing streak, which has landed them in last place in the NHL.
Last season the Devils and Panthers split the season series 2-2 with one of the Red and Black’s victories coming in the shootout. Kris Versteeg scored five goals against the Devils last season (with 2 multiple goal games) but he’s out for the rest of this season with a knee injury so that is one less thing they have to worry about.
The last place Panthers are 25th in the league in Goals Per Game (2.4), 30th in the league in Goals Against (3.7), 18th in the league in Power Play Percentage (16.7%), and they’re 30th ranked in the league in Penalty Kill Percentage (73.0%). They also only have one regular player, Shawn Matthias, who has a positive plus/minus rating.
But this doesn’t mean that the Panthers don’t have any threats at all. They have Tomas Kopecky (11 goals and 7 assists), Tomas Fleischmann (5 goals and 13 assists), and Brian Campbell (6 goals and 11 assists).
The scoring leader for Florida is their rookie superstar Jonathan Huberdeau. Most of the Devils fanbase knows Huberdeau from the 2011 NHL Draft as the player that was picked right before the Devils picked Adam Larrson. Huberdeau currently has 12 goals and 6 assists, which is very impressive considering this shortened season.
The Devils need to start stacking up points again and if they manage to get at least four points this week, then the Devils are in pretty good shape (all things considered), especially with a three-game road trip coming up next week.
Have a great week people and let’s get ready for the return of Marty.