|New Jersey Returns To The Prudential Center After Vital Win Over The Blackhawks|
|November 4, 2010 by Sean Hartnett, JL15.com contributor|
|During their six-game road trip, the New Jersey Devils experienced their share of highs and lows but now look toward continuing their climb up the Eastern Conference ladder. The Devils will hope to improve upon their 4-9-1 record Friday night when they host rival foes the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey returns home after enduring a difficult test against some of the toughest teams in the Western Conference. They opened their west coast swing against the high-powered San Jose Sharks and the dominant line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley, each of which were able to light the lamp in the Devils' 5-2 defeat. Joe Thornton had a tremendous night as he completed a hat-trick before the end of the second period and went on to tally 5 points that evening.
Martin Brodeur was under heavy fire all game as the Sharks put 39 shots on net. David Clarkson was able to score his first goal of the season early in the second period. It had given the Devils hope for a comeback but Thornton's reply put the game out of reach. Andy Greene later opened his goal-scoring account on the power play with Dainius Zubrus picking up his 6th assist of the season.
New Jersey then traveled to Anaheim where defenseman Tyler Eckford made his season debut for the Devils. The Ducks' Jason Blake scored the opener on the power play but Jamie Langenbrunner answered back with a crafty wrap-around goal minutes later. It was the first goal of the season for New Jersey's captain.
Alexander Vasyunov picked up his first NHL point early in the third period as he assisted on Patrik Elias' perfectly placed one-timer that made its way past Jonas Hiller. Head coach John MacLean highlighted the Russian winger's contribution, "He played a great game. I thought that line played really well and he deserved to be out there. He contributed all night. He had a lot of speed in our lineup and he's a big kid who competes hard and if he keeps doing that, he'll be fine."
The Devils held on as they edged out the Ducks for the 2-1 victory and Jason Arnott shared his thoughts post-game, "It's a huge win for us -- hopefully it will get us on the right track. Everybody played solid, from Marty on out. Everybody contributed in one way or another. We've got to keep it going. We can't just sit on one good game and have four bad games. We've got to keep it rolling."
Los Angeles was the next destination for the Devils who took on the Western Conference leading Kings. The Staples Center crowd were all over Ilya Kovalchuk throughout the game as he turned down Los Angeles' approaches to remain a Devil during the off-season. Every time Kovalchuk touched the puck, he was followed by boos from the jilted Kings fans.
New Jersey heavily out shot the Kings that night 40-23 but Los Angles came out the victors 3-1. Justin Williams opened the scoring for Los Angeles in the first period before Michal Handzus added a goal on the power play in the second period. Matt Taormina was able to get the Devils on the scoreboard later that period as he notched his 3rd goal of the season. Despite registering 20 shots on net in the third period, New Jersey was unable to cut the deficit as Jonathan Quick proved to be a brick wall in net. 27-year old center Bradley Mills made his NHL debut for the Devils that evening.
The Devils then crossed the Canadian border to face the Vancouver Canucks. Again, New Jersey was able to record more shots on net at 30-23 but was unable to get any past Roberto Luongo as they were shutout 3-0.
The loss on the score sheet was overshadowed by the revelation that the Devils would be without star Zach Parise for 3 months. He skated off the ice during the second period against in Los Angeles and it was later revealed that he required surgery to repair a partial torn meniscus in his right knee. Parise had never missed more than one game in a season in his previous 5 years as a Devil.
"It's something I hurt skating this summer and it hasn't gotten better. Every game I feel like I'd hurt it more. It would just keep happening and I feel like I've been ineffective on the ice," he explained.
It wasn't the only bad news New Jersey received on the injury front as Parise was joined by rookie center Jacob Josefson who will miss 6-8 weeks after having surgery to reattach a ligament in his thumb. Lady lucky hadn't been smiling on the Devils as they were already without Brian Rolston, Anton Volchenkov, Bryce Salvador, Mark Fraser, Matt Corrente and Anssi Salmela. Coach MacLean will be looking for some of the promising youngsters called up from Albany to step up immediately to fill the void left by the numerous injuries to the Devils' roster.
The road trip came to an end as the Devils soldiered on into Chicago to square off against the Blackhawks. The team refused to listen to the naysayers and read the headlines as they continued to put in the effort needed to get the result they were hoping for.
Undaunted by the laundry list of team injuries or the prospect of facing off against the defending Stanley Cup champions in their own building, New Jersey fought hard for a deserved 5-3 victory. Jason Arnott got the Devils out to the lead late in the first period as he tipped in his 4th goal of the season with Patrik Elias recording his 4th assist of the year. Travis Zajac then found the net early in the second period as New Jersey began the contest two unanswered goals.
Martin Brodeur was forced leave the game after a puck struck his right elbow as Johan Hedberg entered the Devils' net. No worries, as he will be available to start against the Rangers on Friday. Brian Campbell and Fernando Pisani were then able to level with the latter scoring on the power play. Bradley Mills regained the Devils' lead as the rookie recorded his first career NHL goal. Jamie Langenbrunner then put away an empty net goal and his second of the season as New Jersey's captain completed a 3-point night.
The Blackhawks didn't give up easy as Viktor Stalberg quickly replied to give Chicago some late hope. Andy Greene sealed the victory for the Devils as his empty netter was the last of the evening.
Langenbrunner gave his thoughts on the performance, "Finally we showed a little bit of resiliency and battled back. It's real important for us. It hasn't been a perfect start for us by any means. It's not an easy building to come in and get two points out of, especially on your sixth game in nine nights or whatever's it's been -- and with all the guys we've had go down. So, it was a big win."
The Devils will now look to continue their winning ways as they return for a three game homestand as they will entertain the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers and will soon see powerhouse defenseman Anton Volchenkov return to the lineup. New Jersey will hope to use their home ice advantage to string together a few wins before they hit the road again and travel to Boston.
With 14 games completed, Jamie Langenbrunner and Ilya Kovalchuk share the team lead in points with 8. Jason Arnott is ahead in the Devils' goal-scoring race with 4 though Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Matt Taormina have all netted 3 apiece. Langenbrunner and Dainius Zubrus are joint team assist leaders at 6. Travis Zajac is New Jersey's highest in plus/minus at +3. Martin Brodeur has won 3 games while Johan Hedberg has 1 victory in net. Brodeur's save percentage is currently at 90.4% and carries a goals against average of 2.70.
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