Moose set loose vs. Sabres
|Hedberg to start Saturday.|
“Over the years when I haven’t been playing regularly, every game that you had to play is a huge game,” said Hedberg, who signed as a free agent on July 1. “You never know when the next chance is going to be, and I want to make sure I’m on top of my game and give my best effort so I can be trusted. Every game is a big game.”
Hedberg, making his first start as a Devil, has had great success against the Sabres. He’s 12-2-2 against them with a 2.60 goals-against average and one shutout. The 12 wins are his most against any opponent.
The 37-year-old made three preseason starts this year and relieved Martin Brodeur to start the third period at Washington on Oct. 9.
No one expects more of Hedberg than he does of himself.
“You’re never better than your last game, so I want to come in and I want to have a great game,” he said. “I want to feel good about my game. I want to make sure the guys feel that no matter who’s playing, they have faith in the guy in there. That’s what I try to provide.”
Head coach John MacLean feels this is the right time to get his backup some action.
“I think he’s ready, and we’re confident to have him in there,” MacLean said.
Brodeur started the first seven games, and will be back between the pipes for the second half of the back-to-back Sunday at Madison Square Garden. He picked up his 112th career shutout, second of the season, with Thursday’s 3-0 whitewash of Montreal.
Despite limited playing time, Hedberg has impressed with his work ethic.
“We have him here for a reason: to get some opportunities in games to play,” MacLean noted. “We’re looking forward to playing him.”
Ilya Kovalchuk was Hedberg’s teammate for four seasons with the Thrashers, and knows what to expect from the man they call “Moose.”
“He’s going to give us 110 percent,” Kovalchuk said. “Every practice, every game, he gives it his all. He’s a great competitor and he’s going to battle hard. He’s going to give us a great game. He won a lot of games for us in Atlanta. I’m sure he’s going to do the same thing here.”
Langenbrunner: It’s a start
The Devils (2-4-1) hope that Thursday’s win gets them going in the right direction, but they know they still have work to do.
“It’s a start, yes. That’s all it is,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “You have to sustain it for a while and play lots of good games in a row. That’s when you’ve turned the page. Until then, it’s just a start.”
Both Devils victories have been shutouts. Langenbrunner said the team needs to show it can keep its focus after giving up a goal.
“I think the thing that’s been our issue is when something negative happens in a game where we seem to take a while to rebound from it,” he said. “In our two wins, there hasn’t been anything negative, it’s been shutouts, so it’s all positive. We have to respond when we do get scored on and continue to play the right way and play the way we need to.”
Langenbrunner had an assist Thursday, while linemate Jason Arnott had a goal and an assist. Both finished a plus-2.
“We were a positive and that’s what you want to be every night,” said Langenbrunner. “You want to do something that’s helping the team and I think we did that. I think as veteran guys we put it on ourselves maybe even more than necessary sometimes, but I guess we’ll take responsibility when things don’t go well and move forward.”
After facing the Rangers, the Devils head out on a five-game Western swing beginning Wednesday in San Jose.
“No more difficult than any other stretches, really,” said the captain. “We’ve got two games this weekend, then two days off again. We go on a road trip which sometimes can be good. The key is, we need to be playing well. We made a step in the right direction, hopefully it can continue this weekend.”
Taormina raising eyebrows
Seven games into his NHL career, defenseman Matt Taormina continues to deliver. He notched his second goal of the year in Montreal, and ranks third on the Devils with four points behind Kovalchuk and Arnott (5).
Colin White, Taormina’s defensive partner, has been pleasantly surprised by the Providence College product.
“I think he’s handing it great, especially for a first year guy,” White said. “He had a great year last year and built his confidence that way, and played in every situation. I think he’s just carried it on. It’s great to see a younger guy come into the League with that confidence and poise.”
Taormina, who turned 24 on Wednesday, has logged an average of 20:53 of ice time, sixth best on the squad. He’s earned it with steady play and offensive smarts on the power play, something that reminds White of a former mainstay on the Devils’ blueline.
“He’s got a great mindset,” White said. “I think that’s the thing I’m most surprised with. If he makes a mistake, he doesn’t get rattled. That’s something I’ve seen in the past from a guy like Scott Niedermayer, who played his game, no matter what, shift after shift. For a young guy to come in and do that is great to see.”
The Devils have received key contributions from several rookies this season, including defenseman Olivier Magnan, who made his NHL debut in Montreal.
"I think the rookies have come up and done a nice job," MacLean said. "The guys on the back end there keep stressing to them, keep it simple. They’ve done that and that’s something they have to continue to do to keep playing. The guys up front brought some good energy and they were playing hard."