The week ahead
NJD NOTES: Brodeur eyes more history; Kovy welcomes new addition
|Kovalchuk is looking to crank up the offense for the stretch run.|
Six of those are slated for the Rock, where the Devils wrap up a homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, and the New York Rangers on Thursday. Jersey’s Team visits Montreal on Saturday, and Philadelphia on Sunday.
Tuesday’s matchup will be the Devils’ (42-25-4) only meeting of the season with the Blue Jackets (29-31-12) who have gone 4-1-1 in their last six. Columbus is coming off a 1-0 overtime loss in Nashville on Saturday.
New Jersey began the week trailing Pittsburgh (42-24-6) by two points for the division lead. They hold a game in hand on the Penguins, who visited Detroit on Monday.
“That will be a very important stretch of games for us,” said Ilya Kovalchuk. “We definitely want to win the division to see ourselves in a better position.”
The Devils are 5-2-2 all-time against Columbus and undefeated against them at home (2-0-1). They took a 2-1 win in their last meeting at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 16, 2009. The last time the Blue Jackets visited New Jersey, Martin Brodeur made 22 saves to pitch a 1-0 shutout on Oct. 28, 2006.
Two straight losses (0-1-1) have the Devils looking to rebound. They have scored once in their last two games, and were blanked, 1-0, by the visiting St. Louis Blues on Saturday, which snapped a five-game winning streak at Prudential Center.
All five losses since the Olympic break – to Calgary, Edmonton, Islanders, Toronto, and St. Louis – have come against teams trying to keep playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Devils have made short work of top contenders such as San Jose and Pittsburgh, and heated rivals such as the Rangers.
“It’s the effort,” Brodeur said Monday. “When we play against good teams, it’s the effort of 60 minutes. It’s not a question of not working hard, but just working with a purpose for 60 minutes. I think (Tuesday’s game), we’ve talked about it. Hopefully, we’ll be a little more ready than we were against St. Louis. I thought the last two periods we were good, we just didn’t play well in the first. In Toronto it was the same way, and when we lost on Long Island (on March 13) it was the same way. We started slow. We have to make them play to our level and not play to their level. We’re a good enough team that people should be worried about us, and not us worried about them.”
The power play hasn’t converted in the last six games (0-for-17), but Jacques Lemaire saw a big improvement on Saturday.
“We started to move the puck, and when we had shots, we had guys going to net,” Lemaire said. “We did pretty much what any power plays that work – that looks good – does. We can’t be different than other power plays with guys that move the puck well and gets chances. You have to get chances with the players that we have.”
The speedy Kovalchuk is one of those Devils coming tantalizingly close on the offensive end. His wraparound in the second period against St. Louis would have put the Devils on the board if not for a timely defensive play by Brad Boyes. Kovalchuk has five goals and seven assists since arriving in New Jersey, but has been held without a point in his last four games.
“It’s too bad he didn’t score,” said Lemaire. “He’s getting chances to at least score two goals a game, it’s just not going for him. But he’s playing hard, he’s very determined. To me, he had one game that didn’t start well and it bothered him, but he kept working and that’s the big thing. I like him because of that. He wants to do well and he’s trying every day, every practice, every game, he’s trying to score and do something.”
Kovalchuk welcomes new addition
Kovalchuk went home to Florida this weekend to welcome his newborn son, Artem, on Sunday.
“It’s all done. Everybody’s healthy and the baby’s good,” Kovalchuk said Monday.
The Devils’ forward said his wife, Nicole, was due to leave the hospital on Tuesday. They also have a daughter, Karolina, and a son, Philipp.
Brodeur closing in on more history
With his next win, Brodeur will record his eighth season with 40 or more, extending his own record – no goaltender in NHL history has had more than three. The future Hall of Famer might have been gunning for his ninth 40-win campaign this year had it not been for the left elbow injury that limited him to 31 appearances last season.
“I don’t really look at all these things as closely as maybe other people; people around me, people that are following us,” Brodeur said. “It’s always, you look at the things I’m able to achieve. For me, at this stage of my career, it’s just great having the fun of playing the game and winning and trying to be a part of something big before I close up shop.”
Brodeur has returned to form a season after the worst injury of his NHL career. Entering Monday’s action, he was tied for the League wins lead (39) with Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. Brodeur stands four wins shy of becoming the first goalie ever to reach 600 career victories.
“It’s nice that my surgery went well and I was able to come back and felt really good last year,” he said. “I wanted to have another solid season and keep up with the rest of the League as far as goalies are concerned.”
Brodeur set a new NHL mark with his 104th career shutout on Dec. 21 at Pittsburgh. He became the all-time winningest netminder on March 17, 2009, eclipsing Patrick Roy.