NEWS

Devils strengthen status as Cup contenders

Friday, 02.5.2010 / 1:50 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Devils strengthen status as Cup contenders
The speedy Kovalchuk was often just a blur during Friday's skate.
The acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk makes one thing clear: the Devils and President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello want to win now.

An unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, Kovalchuk adds an Alex Ovechkin-like presence to both the Devils' power-play and five-on-five attack. New Jersey shipped Johnny Oduya, two youngsters: rookie Niclas Bergfors and prospect Patrice Cormier, and a first-round pick to Atlanta on Thursday in order to reel in their big fish.

The clubs also exchanged second-rounders.

After a consecutive first-round exits in the postseason, the stakes this year have been raised even higher. Kovalchuk might have spoken for the entire team at his press conference when he talked about, "the opportunity to do some damage in the playoffs."

With Kovalchuk, the Devils (35-18-2) hope to contend for what would be their fourth Stanley Cup and first since 2003. For right now, though, they'd like to shake off the recent slump that has seen them lose eight of 11 coming into Friday's game versus the visiting Maple Leafs.

"The message has been sent of what management thinks this team is capable of," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "You don't go get a player like that unless you feel that expectations should be high. It gives us that excitement, it gives us that ability to really go for it. You're adding a guy that can change games and does change games quite often."

Langenbrunner added, "By that, Lou is saying he believes we did a lot of good things in the first half. This recent skid aside, we're still a good team. This is a piece that you can't add every day. These players don't become available every day, and he feels we have a team that has earned that right to go for it and give it the best shot it can. Putting a guy like him in your lineup definitely helps."

Martin Brodeur agreed.

"We're there for the long haul," he said. "We're not there to be a flash. We want to make sure we play well as a team and dominate. Just that extra cushion of the offense that he will bring is, especially right now, what we need. Something that in the long run, is going to be a big luxury for us."

Langenbrunner had no idea that the Devils would add a player of Kovalchuk's profile. He first learned of the deal after receiving a call from Brodeur, who found out in a text message.

"You heard rumors, you heard New Jersey in the rumor mix, but for the most part, when you hear New Jersey's name in rumors, it's definitely not true," Langenbrunner said. "We were definitely surprised."

And very excited.

"You're adding a world-class player," he said. "It gives us a new dimension and something that going forward, puts that much higher focus on what we're trying to accomplish."

Still, the Devils are taking nothing for granted. Six games remain before the two-week Olympic break. After that, the playoff contenders will continue to battle for seeding during the regular season's home stretch.

Jersey's Team hasn't won anything yet, but they know they're well-positioned for the hunt.

"Washington's making a statement now, but we're going to do our thing," Brodeur said. "Regardless of where we finish up, we want to get into the playoffs playing well. We have to get into the playoffs first. The competition will be hard. We're definitely happy about the addition."

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 69 16 24 -3 40
M. Cammalleri 62 25 13 3 38
P. Elias 63 11 21 -16 32
S. Gomez 52 7 24 -7 31
S. Bernier 61 13 14 3 27
T. Zajac 68 11 12 -4 23
A. Larsson 58 3 19 3 22
A. Greene 76 3 18 3 21
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
E. Gelinas 56 6 11 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 28 8 .928 2.19
K. Kinkaid 5 5 3 .918 2.47