|Langenbrunner and the Devils Hope To Find Top Form As They Begin Western Trip|
|October 25, 2010 by Sean Hartnett, JL15.com contributor|
|The New Jersey Devils embark upon a five-game West Coast trip that will begin Wednesday night in San Jose. The Devils have come out of the gates slowly starting the season with a record of 2-6-1 but will attempt to improve upon their place in the Atlantic Division before they return home on November 5th against fierce rivals New York Rangers.
In their opener at the Prudential Center, the Devils were unlucky not to take away all two points from the Dallas Stars. The early signs were encouraging as New Jersey jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the first eight minutes of play as Travis Zajac and Zach Parise both found themselves on the score sheet with Ilya Kovalchuk the provider on both goals.
The Stars answered back with two unanswered goals of their own until Jason Arnott blasted a shot from the point which went past Kari Lehtonen for a power-play goal with captain Jamie Langenbrunner picking up his first point of the season. Despite the Devils recording 13 shots on goal in the 3rd period, neither team could gain a go-ahead goal as the game went into overtime. Loui Eriksson scored shortly into the overtime period to deny New Jersey of a perfect start to the 2010-11 season, spoiling John MacLean's coaching debut. Young defensive pair 24 year-old American Matt Taormina and 19 year-old Swede Alexander Urbom made their NHL debuts that evening.
Martin Broduer was excited by the atmosphere generated by the home crowd, "It's disappointing for them for us not to get a win, because they supported us real well. It was playoff hockey out there. First game, there was a lot of excitement building up to this game."
A day later, the Devils traveled to Washington and were able to put rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth under pressure with 33 shots including 17 in the second period but lost 7-2. The Caps' net-minder stood up to the pressure only letting in 2 goals while Broduer struggled as he was replaced by Johan Hedberg before the third period.
Arnott scored his second goal in two games since returning to New Jersey and Henrik Tallinder grabbed his first goal as a Devil on the penalty kill. Langenbrunner, Zajac and Patrik Elias were able to make it two points in two appearances as they each picked up assists. It was Alexander Ovechkin's night as he put away 2 goals in a typically tremendous performance in Washington's victory.
The Devils arrived back at the Prudential Center to face the Pittsburgh Penguins but were shorthanded to 15 skaters with Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston both suffering long-term injuries against the Capitals. Fellow defensemen Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela have missed action since the preseason. Pierre Luc Letourneau-Leblond was suspended and was eventually sent to AHL affiliate Albany after clearing waivers.
Elias ripped a shot off the draw to score New Jersey's lone goal with Arnott continuing his hot start adding an assist. Penguins' defenseman Paul Martin made his return to his former home and received a chorus of boos with every touch of the puck. His hostile reception became louder after scoring an empty-netter just before final siren blew as Pittsburgh were winners 3-1.
Langenbrunner was pleased by the signs his team was showing, "For the most part we did a lot of good things tonight. Obviously, we're fighting it a little bit right now trying to get that first win. It's getting frustrating, but I think the third period is an indication of how we can play. Now we just have to find a way to do that for 60 minutes."
New Jersey then made the trip up north to Buffalo and were able to gain two points in an overtime 1-0 win. Forward Adam Mair made his Devils' debut as he and along with Tallinder faced their former Sabres' teammates for the first time at the HSBC Arena. It was a closely-contested affair until Kovalchuk netted a one-timer within a minute into overtime as Langenbrunner and Taormina picked up assists with the latter gaining his first career point.
Brodeur won the battle with fellow top NHL goalie Ryan Miller, recording 24 saves in his 111th career shutout and offered his view, "We've had a lot of changes, we've had injuries, and we've played with 15 players, and now 16 players. It's been chaotic a little bit. So for us to finally get one under our belt, now we can start playing our season."
Back at home, the Devils tangled with the Colorado Avalanche and in a re-occurring theme, lost out 3-2 despite heavily out-shooting the Avs 43-22. Although Mark Fraser faced a layoff with a broken hand, John MacLean could finally dress a full lineup with 18 skaters. Top prospects, 19 year-old Swedish center Jacob Josefson and Canadian defenseman Matt Corrente made their NHL debuts. New Jersey spent significant time on the power play including a 5-minute major penalty but Colorado was able to score two unanswered goals to begin the game.
Taormina finally grabbed a goal for the Devils late in the second period and the first of his career with Elias and Kovalchuk assisting. The scorer then turned provider for Kovalchuk recording an assist along with Corrente who recorded his first NHL point in his debut but it wasn't enough to beat the Avalanche. Arnott showed his belief when interviewed post-game, "We have to stay with that, stay positive, keep playing our game, and things will turn around."
Boston was next to arrive at the Prudential Center and it was a night to forget for the Devils who lost 4-1. Dainius Zubrus got New Jersey out to the lead early in the second period before the Bruins racked up four unanswered goals. Brodeur was peppered with shots all game and did he best to keep Jersey in the game, turning away 31.
MacLean was hoping for a positive reaction after he shuffled the lines and was disappointed with the effort put forth by his team, "It's pretty simple that we had a couple lines that battled the whole game, and we had some passengers." Langenbrunner echoed his coach's statement, "He expects more of us. A lot of what I said is what he said there. You can yell and scream and get all upset or you can take a deep look within and figure it out. I think all of us feel that same way."
New Jersey then departed to Montreal to face the Canadiens and former Devils Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. Broduer has a history of playing terrifically in his hometown and registered his 9th career shutout against the Habs. He was able to make 29 saves that night as New Jersey won in convincing fashion 3-0. It was also a Devils debut for defenseman and Quebec native Oliver Magnan-Grenier. Parise opened the scoring early into the first period with his first goal of the season. Arnott scored his 100th goal as a Devil and Taormina was also able to beat Canadiens' net-minder Carey Price and Langenbrunner found his 4th assist of the season.
Jamie downplayed the victory and called for a better effort on a nightly basis, "It's a start. That's all it is. This team hasn't played a few good games in a row for a while. You have to be consistent. You're not going to win every night but you have to play well consistently. Play full games. We've probably played half the games so far and you can't do that. You've got to be pretty good every night. I would hope we don't think we're home free, far from it. We won one game."
Before their home clash with the Sabres, Kovalchuk was held out of action by MacLean who offered little explanation for the star's absence in the Devils' 6-1 defeat, "That's between him and I. That was my decision. I take responsibility for all the decisions that I make, that's including that decision, that's including responsibility for games."
Hedberg made his full debut for the Devils but was replaced Brodeur halfway through the second period. New Jersey prospect, Russian winger Alexander Vasyunov took part in his first NHL game and Buffalo's Rob Niedermayer recorded an assist in his return to the Prudential Center. It was a dismal evening for the Devils who trailed 4-0 before Parise scored the lone New Jersey goal before Tomas Vanek added his second of the night for the Sabres.
With Kovalchuk back in the lineup, the Devils made the trip across the Hudson to Madison Square Garden to face off against bitter adversaries, the New York Rangers. Rod Pelley showed his toughness by not missing out after suffering a broken nose against Buffalo. Kovalchuk's second period goal wasn't enough to rally the Devils back as they lost 3-1 this past Sunday.
Langenbrunner offered words of support after the game, "We played hard, we did a lot of things we've been trying to get back into our game. We battled hard. We created some opportunities, we just didn't finish. An effort like this is a good start, but we have to start getting results."
The Devils need to follow the directions given out by their captain Langenbrunner and head coach MacLean preach in fighting hard for the right result. It's only a matter of time before all of their pistons begin to fire in unison. The talent is spread throughout New Jersey's lineup and MacLean will be further boosted when Rolston, Volchenkov and Salvador return from injury.
Nine games into the new season, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Arnott and Zach Parise share the team goal-scoring lead with all netting 3. Kovalchuk and Zubrus are New Jersey's leading point-getters with 6 apiece. Zubrus is also ahead of all Devils in assists at 5 with Jamie Langenbrunner just behind him at 4 and Travis Zajac is atop Jersey's plus/minus standings at +2. Martin Broduer's save percentage currently stands at 90.6% and carries a goals against average of 2.69.
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