New Jersey began hot battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and obtaining it from the Pittsburg Penguins. In recent days, the Devils have fallen from glory and sit in the 7th seed trying to keep in the playoff race. Currently the Devils are only 1 point from the New York Rangers who maintain control of the 8th spot. With the first half of the season gone this is the time for New Jersey to right the ship and secure their place in the post season.
The Devils busiest part of the schedule is now behind them. In the next couple of weeks, they will play 8 games within the division against their strongest rivals. New Jersey has fared well against divisional opponents to this point winning 6 of 8 games within the division. Unfortunately injuries and a downward spiral have begun to wear on New Jersey’s team.
This week will mark the three weeks that the Devils have not seen veteran goaltender Marty Brodeur. The future Hall of Famer has now missed eight straight games and has no timeline for return as reported by Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. Johan Hedberg has started in place of Brodeur and has struggled, but has not been in the boat alone. With a defense led by captain Bryce Salvador that has not been playing well and an offense that has only come alive when in desperation the team has suffered 7 losses in the last 9 games.
The Devils are still missing Lithuanian right winger Dainus Zubrus who is going on his 4th week on IR but is expected to begin skating soon. Zubrus underwent surgery to his left wrist on February 14th and was placed on IR the day prior. Also recently added to IR is defensemen Henrik Tallinder who has played exceptionally well on the Andy Greene line. Tallinder has been listed as having a lower body injury which occurred during last Thursday’s warm-ups against Buffalo and is day to day. Being recalled in his place is Albany left winger Harri Pesonen who has 11 goals on the season in the AHL.
The Devils will play back to back games starting tomorrow against divisional rival Philadelphia. New Jersey has not seen Philly since February 15th when the Devils were able to rally past the Flyers in the 2nd period and get a 5-3 win. New Jersey will be playing a team hungry for a win as Philadelphia sits on the outside looking in the in the 11th spot tied for points with the Islanders. This week could very well mark the turnaround of the season or the destruction. We will find out beginning tomorrow at The Rock in Newark.
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