|Langenbrunner Works To Get Back as Devils Continue To Fight On Without Their Captain|
|November 17, 2010 by Sean Hartnett, JL15.com contributor|
|The New Jersey Devils returned home to the comforts of the Prudential Center on November 5th but bitter foes in the New York Rangers were determined to spoil their homecoming. Fans were expecting to see a match-up between top NHL goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist but it wasn't on the cards as Brodeur was out recovering from an elbow injury sustained against the Blackhawks.
Instead a battle between Swedish goalies developed as Johan Hedberg started in net for New Jersey. It was Lundqvist who starred that evening as he beat out his countryman as he withstood the Devils' pressure, making 33 saves en route to a shutout. Brandon Dubinsky continued his hot start for the Blueshirts as he scored the opening and closing goals of the contest as the Rangers won 3-0.
On a positive note, Anton Volchenkov was able to return to the Devils' lineup for the first time since he suffered a broken nose on October 9th against the Capitals. Colin White though missed out due to the flu. Winger Stephen Gionta made his NHL debut against the Rangers, wearing the same number 14 that his brother Brian wore during his 7 seasons with New Jersey.
It was a big night for 27-year old Stephen who spent years working hard in the minors to get his chance in the NHL, "It's a dream come true. It's your first game, it's something that you've been working for your whole life. You can't help but get a little bit jittery and a little bit anxious. I was anxious to get out there and get it going and get on the ice. It was awesome."
New Jersey head coach John MacLean refused to use the long-term absence of Zach Parise or the team's slow start for an excuse and demanded a team effort, "We need more from everybody. It's not just him. There's other guys that aren't scoring also that have to put the puck in the net."
Brodeur again missed out on facing the Devils' next opponent, the Buffalo Sabres who were also without their number one net-minder Ryan Miller. The inexperienced Jhonas Enroth stood in for Buffalo as fans were gearing up for a high-scoring affair. White returned to the lineup after missing the Rangers' clash.
In a back-and-forth game, Jason Arnott opened the scoring in the first period and later in the third chipped in on the power play to take his goal mark to 6 on the season. David Clarkson was able find the net with his second goal of the season and Patrik Elias contributed 2 assists on the night. 20 year-old winger Mattias Tedendy recorded his first career assist as he made his NHL debut.
Captain Jamie Langenbrunner was on the receiving end of an awkward collision into boards during the second period. Langenbrunner showed tremendous grit by returning to the game and shortly after stepping back onto the ice grabbed the go-ahead goal, his 3rd of the season. Tyler Ennis cancelled out New Jersey's lead by scoring the lone goal of the third period, forcing overtime.
A shootout became necessary after neither team were able to find a winner in the overtime period. Buffalo's Tomas Vanek beat Hedberg putting the Sabres in the early lead. Langenbrunner evened the shootout as he put on a fancy move to elude Enroth but Derek Roy answered immediately, putting fate in the hands of Kovalchuk.
As Kovalchuk approached Enroth, he went to make a move but lost control of the puck as the Devils could only scrape was a single point in their 5-4 loss. Immediately, his teammates skated over to console the Russian who was beginning to notice the disappointment projected by the fans. Hedberg offered his sympathy, "Some guys just have that extra dynamic to their game. Maybe sometimes they play on an edge. You can tell Kovy, he wants it so bad. He wants to help out so bad. He has a great heart, there's not a lot of guys that care more than he does. He will get there."
The Edmonton Oilers were next to visit "The Rock" as it was a must-win game for both teams who were sitting in last place in each of their conferences. The Devils were boosted by the return of Brian Rolston and Brodeur recovered to return to his usual place in net. The status Langenbrunner was still unclear as he underwent some tests on his sore upper body.
Colin Fraser scored the two opening goals of the game for the Oilers before Alexander Vasyunov scored his first career NHL goal. Elias had another two assist night bringing his season total to 9. Rolston was able to mark his return by tallying his first goal of the season. Midway through the third period, Tedenby found the net for a crucial game-tying goal and his first of his NHL career.
The Devils found themselves on the power play deep into overtime and this time Kovlachuk emerged the hero as powered the 4-3 game winner past Devan Dubnyk. It was a change of fortune for both the player and the team who each needed a lift. New Jersey previously hadn't won on home ice at the Prudential Center this season.
"They scored the first two goals, but we never gave up. That's a great team effort and a great comeback. We're definitely going to build on it," Kovalchuk declared.
Brodeur was relived by the win, "It's about time. What is it, the middle of November now? It's definitely overdue for us to get a win in this building. Our fans have been supporting us with decent crowds, and had nothing to show for it. For them, definitely an exciting game, a comeback game like today. I think it's going to please a lot of people."
The Devils then headed up the "Mass Pike" to the TD Banknorth Garden where the Boston Bruins and hot goalie Tim Thomas awaited their arrival. Thomas made a flurry of terrific saves early in the game, coming away with 28 by game's end as he kept the Devils at bay recording a shutout.
Michael Ryder was the first to score for Boston as they went on to a complete a 3-0 victory. Veteran Mark Recchi picked up two assists that evening for the Bruins.
Matt Corrente re-entered the New Jersey lineup after recovering from a broken hand. His previous appearance for the Devils was on October 15th against San Jose. Both Matt Matt Taormina and Langenbrunner missed the Boston loss and will not take part when the Devils travel to Toronto.
Taormina's MRI showed no structural damage to his left ankle and Langenbrunner continues to be sidelined by neck soreness but his MRI results were also encouraging. Despite suggestions by some media outlets, Jamie has not suffered a concussion and is still listed as "day-to-day." Zach Parise, Bryce Salvador, Mark Fraser, Jacob Josefson and Anssi Salmela remain listed on the injured reserve.
18 games deep into the season, the Devils sit 4th place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 5-11-2. Patrik Elias has picked up 11 points thus far, leading the team. Jason Arnott is close behind with 10 points and is ahead of all Devils in goals at 6. Elias is the Devils' top assist-getter with 9 and rookie Alexander Vasyunov holds the team high in plus/minus at +2. Martin Brodeur leads the team with 4 wins while Johan Hedberg has recorded one victory in net. Brodeur's goals against average stands at 2.73 and his save percentage is 90.1%.
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