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Shanahan confident of a Devils turnaround

Thursday, 04.02.2009 / 5:05 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Shanahan confident of a Devils turnaround
Shanahan said Devils will try to simplify their game. – Brendan Shanahan has seen late-season struggles turn into the happiest of endings.

Back in 2002, the veteran Devils forward was an important part of the Detroit Red Wings, who won 51 games in the regular season before going on to beat Carolina for their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

But the run to the championship didn’t come without some bumps in the road.

After clinching the President’s Trophy for the most points, the Wings stumbled as the playoffs approached. They went winless in the final seven games of the regular season, losing five times and tying twice.

“I remember us being very upset about it – it wasn’t like we didn’t care,” Shanahan said. “But the same way that you can get on a roll with wins, you can get on a roll with losses. It’s why you have to eliminate bad habits right away.”

The slump continued into the postseason with Detroit dropping the first two games of their first-round matchup with Vancouver on home ice.

“We were making uncharacteristic mistakes,” said Shanahan, who won three times in Detroit. “It was the same group, the same attitude, but it just goes to show that regardless of how talented or how experienced you are, your game dips a little bit. That can sometimes be enough to have a crack in the confidence of the psyche of a team, but I don’t think it’s unusual to go through things like that. The difference between the champion teams and the teams that don’t win is how you deal with it.”

Down 2-0 in the series, the Red Wings responded on the road. Tied, 1-1, in Game 3, Nicklas Lidstrom’s slapshot from the red line beat Dan Cloutier in the dying moments of the second period. Shanahan was on the ice to celebrate a goal he said “destroyed the psyche” of the Vancouver goaltender.

Dominik Hasek stopped Todd Bertuzzi's penalty shot late in regulation, and the Wings were on their way.

“We went on to win the game and really didn’t have a close game with them after that,” Shanahan said.

With the Devils mired in a six-game winless streak, Shanahan notices some similarities between his current team and the ‘02 Detroit squad that hiccuped down the homestretch.

"Every winning team that I’ve ever been on went through moments during the season of total adversity,” he said. “That’s why I feel confident about this group. When I look across the room all I see are warriors and gamers. If we handle this the right way, we’ll be a better team for it.”

New Jersey hopes to snap out of its funk Friday against visiting Tampa Bay. The Devils have clinched a playoff berth, but look for a strong finish to secure the highest conference seed possible.

Wednesday’s 6-1 loss at Pittsburgh moved the Penguins into a tie with Philadelphia for second place in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the Devils. New Jersey trails Washington by three points for second in the Eastern Conference with five games to play.

Winless since Martin Brodeur recorded his 553rd career victory against Minnesota on March 20, the Devils have been outscored 22-7 during their current swoon and have allowed 164 shots in the last four games.

“Regardless of what your stature is in the League – whether you’re one of the best players or a role player – as individuals and as a team you go back to basics and simplify your game,” Shanahan said. “You go back to basics: take care of your own net. If you take care of the basics of your game, it’s funny how the other things come. I believe we’ll do that. We’re flailing a little bit here, I think, though, as a group we’ll settle down and get back to what our identity is.”

The Devils’ dressing room is loaded with seasoned veterans who have excelled in pressure situations. Brodeur, himself a three-time Cup winner, is complemented by Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta, Bobby Holik, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Rolston, Mike Rupp, Colin White and captain Jamie Langenbrunner, each of whom has won in New Jersey.

To Shanahan, that’s what gives the Devils a solid foundation for quickly moving back into the wins column.

“It’s invaluable to have gone through situations like that and to know what to do and know the difference between urgency and panic – but you still have to do it,” Shanahan said. “Having done it in the past doesn’t mean anything unless you do it in the present.”

Patrik Elias, who missed Wednesday's game with lower body soreness, did not practice Thursday and is not expected play Friday versus Tampa. ... Head coach Brent Sutter said Kevin Weekes will get the nod in goal against the Lightning, and Brodeur will start Saturday in Buffalo.




1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52


J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51