Devils set to embrace the comforts of home
Monday, 11.26.2007 / 11:24 AM / News
By Eric Marin
After missing 17 games with a groin injury, Jamie Langenbrunner has eight points in his first six games back.
newjerseydevils.com – Finally on the winning side of .500, the Devils have returned to New Jersey victorious in a season-high four straight.
On Saturday, the Devils' road trip hit a high note with a 3-2 decision over the Lightning in Tampa.
Brian Gionta scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season, including one on the power play, while team points leader Zach Parise added two assists.
Martin Brodeur registered 34 saves to extend his personal win streak to four and improve to 9-10-1 this season with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
In his last four games, the three-time Vezina Trophy winner has allowed only five goals, and posted his first shutout of the season last Friday in Atlanta.
The Devils now hope to embrace the comforts of home, where head coach Brent Sutter's group is 3-4-0, having played the fewest games on home ice of any team in the league. Last season the club notched a 25-10-6 mark in New Jersey, good for fourth best in the Eastern Conference.
The first of the Devils' two season-high five-game homestands begins Wednesday night, when the Dallas Stars visit Prudential Center for a 7 p.m. tilt.
Opening with nine games on the road was one of the Devils' first hurdles of the season, and the team responded by going 3-5-1. Without power-play point man Jamie Langenbrunner (groin) or defensive specialist Colin White (injury to eye area) available to start the campaign, New Jersey's special teams stumbled early.
The club scored eight power-play goals in 47 opportunities (17%) over its first nine games. The penalty kill struggled, allowing 12 goals in 39 shorthanded chances (30.7%).
But as the Devils have gotten healthier, their special teams have started to jell – and the wins have followed.
The Devils' power play appears to have hit its stride, striking for four goals in its last 13 chances and scoring at least once in three straight games for the first time this season. It's a step up from the 1-for-34 drought that lasted nine games from Nov. 2 to Nov. 17.
Paul Martin, who missed three games with lower body soreness, came back against the Thrashers last Friday night to score his first power-play goal of the season in a 3-0 New Jersey victory.
Langenbrunner made his return on Nov. 14 against the Rangers, and has two goals and six assists over his first six games of the season. Four of Langenbrunner's eight points have come on the power play (4 PPA).
Getting back a reliable defender can boost PK efficiency, and that was the case when White hit the ice last Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
Wearing a visor, the 6-4, 220-lb. rearguard was on the ice for half of Pittsburgh's 7:31 with the man advantage. The Devils' penalty killers finished 4-for-4 against the Penguins, who had entered the game with the seventh-best power play in the league.
That effort came in the midst of four straight games against the Islanders, Flyers, Penguins and Thrashers in which the Devils did not allow a power-play goal (15-for-15). Jason Ward's third-period marker on Saturday night was the only blemish on a PK that has shutdown opponents in 17 of its last 18 opportunities.
With Langenbrunner, White and Martin healthy, the injury outlook for the Devils is as rosy as it has been all year, and that can only bode well for the club's fortunes.
The Devils also stand to benefit from the return of Patrik Elias, who was scratched from the last two games with flu-like symptoms. Elias skated in Monday's practice and is listed as day-to-day.
After Wednesday, New Jersey hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, Nov. 28; the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday, Dec. 2; and the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The stand concludes with Scott Stevens Hall of Fame Night on Friday, Dec. 7, when the Devils collide with the Washington Capitals.
Brodeur has started 20 of New Jersey's 23 games, delivering 25 or more saves in five of his nine wins... Parise has erupted for three goals and four assists in his last four games, with two power-play goals, a power-play assist and a game-winning goal... The club's longest homestand to date was a three-game stretch from the Oct. 27 home opener to Nov. 2... Dallas opened a six-game road trip with its fifth win in a row – a 3-2 victory over the Rangers on Sunday. The Stars added a sixth straight victory with a 3-2 OT win over the Islanders on Monday night. Dallas has outscored opponents 20-7 during their winning streak and have earned points in eight straight games (6-0-2).