Where we stand:
Pittsburgh Penguins – 25 Wins, 8 Losses, 0 Overtime Losses, 50 Points
New Jersey Devils – 15 Wins, 11 Losses, 6 Overtime Losses, 36 Points
New York Rangers – 15 Wins, 13 Losses, 3 Overtime Losses, 33 Points
New York Islanders – 14 Wins, 15 Losses, 3 Overtime Loss, 31 Points
Philadelphia Flyers – 13 Wins, 16 Losses, 2 Overtime Loss, 28 Points
Who’s on tap: Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers
Matchup to Watch: Tonight against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa at 7:30
Just when things were looking to get back to normal thanks to the return of Martin Brodeur, the Devils are now without Ilya Kovalchuk for the next two to four weeks. Not the news fans wanted to hear, but at least he’ll be back before the season ends. The Devils always have great depth to their lineup and this week that depth will be tested against the best defense in the league when they start this three game road trip heading into Bytown to play against the Ottawa Senators.
If the Devils are going to move on without their superstar, they might get a good idea about how to do that by watching the Ottawa Senators. The Sens have been playing without Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson for most of the season, yet they’ve battled and scrapped every night, which was resulted in their current fifth place standing in the Eastern Conference.
The last time the Devils played the Senators, they lost 2-1 in the shootout with the game’s only goals coming from Stephen Gionta and Daniel Alfredsson. But this time, Jersey’s Team isn’t going up against their backup Ben Bishop, they’re facing Craig Anderson who is the league leader in Goals Against Average (1.49) and Save Percentage (.952).
Defense has been the key for Ottawa, as they’ve struggled to score. The Sens do not have anyone in their lineup who has scored more than eight goals. As a matter of fact, their team leaders in this category are Alfredsson and Kyle Turris.
Besides having the Vezina front-runner, the strength of this team seems to be in their team defense, the Senators currently rank 1st in the league in Goals Against (2.1) and 2nd in the league in Penalty kill (89%). This game will be a test to see how New Jersey’s offense will handle the loss of Kovalchuk.
After the game in Ottawa, Jersey’s team heads down to Cigar City to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have recently fired Coach Guy Boucher and currently have not named his replacement.
The Lightning are in the middle of a three game losing streak, but they still have Steven Stamkos who’s the league leader in goals (22) and Martin St. Louis who ranks 2nd in the league in assists (33).
The season series between the Devs and the Bolts is tied 1-1. The Devils won the first game 4-2 and the Lightning won the second game, 5-2. Goals for the Devils came from Adam Henrique, Kovalchuk, Andy Greene, and Patrik Elias (2). Meanwhile the Lightning got their goals from Nate Thompson, Matt Carle, Alex Killorn, and BJ Crombeen.
Besides Stamkos, St. Louis, and Thompson, the Red and Black need to keep an eye out for Cory Conacher who has scored a goal in two of their last three games.
While the first game against the Lightning was a good showing for the Devils, the 5-2 loss amidst their losing streak was a tough one to take. They were blown out of the water. This is a team that can score, but they’re suspect defensively. New Jersey will most likely need to score three-plus goals to win.
The day after the game against Tampa Bay ,the Brick City Brotherhood heads further south to Sunshine, Florida to take on the Panthers just a week after the Devils beat them 2-1.
That game was a victorious nightmare for Jersey’s Team. Having only two shots in the first period, Marty’s giveaway goal, and game injuries to Kovalchuk, Tim Sestito, and Bryce Salvador (thankfully Sestito and Captain Sal are better). The Devs still pulled out the win thanks to goals from Elias and David Clarkson.
The Panthers are in a funk right now. After beating the Hurricanes and the Rangers they lost to the Devils and were shutout by the Islanders. They’re ranked last in terms of Goals Against (3.5) and Penalty Kill (74.5%).
The Red and Black still need to keep an eye out for Tomas Kopecky (12 goals 8 assists), Tomas Fleischmann (6 goals and 14 assists) and Jonathan Huberdeau (12 goals and 8 assists).
It’ll be tough week but it’s certainly a winnable week. Remember the aim is to win two out of three which can be done this week. They’ll need to continue to play strong defense in front of Martin Brodeur, especially in the wake of losing their best offensive weapon.
Luckily, they’ll most likely have Dainius Zubrus back sometime soon after the road trip this week, which will be a big boost.