Devils seek turnaround in Toronto
Momentum from Friday’s spirited OT victory over Edmonton fizzled in Boston, where the Devils were blanked by Tim Thomas and the Bruins. They couldn’t have asked for a better start, getting a 2-on-1 scoring chance with Patrik Elias and Mattias Tedenby in the game’s opening minute.
But consistency has been difficult to establish for the Devils (5-11-2). Martin Brodeur feels the team needs to find a higher gear.
“We have to be a little more intense,” said Brodeur, who will start Thursday against the Maple Leafs. “I think we had a great chance to score early in [Boston] and after that we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. They took over the game and we never got back that drive that we had in the last two games. I think it’s something we’re going to have to have tomorrow, just to get that intensity up.”
Toronto (6-8-3) has struggled, but snapped an eight-game losing streak in impressive fashion on Tuesday. Trailing Nashville, 4-1, the Leafs struck for four straight power-play goals in the second period of a 5-4 win.
The dramatic Leafs rally had Brodeur expecting an especially charged atmosphere at Air Canada Centre.
“I’m sure that crowd will be pretty excited," he said. “I think that could help us get that emotion up to play that high-tempo game, and hopefully continue what we’ve been trying to build. It’s a little setback losing 3-0 to Boston. They’ve been playing good hockey themselves, too. Now it’s all about us. We can’t worry about who we’re going to play. We have to take advantage of our situation going on the road, and get a good, solid game with emotion.”
Head coach John MacLean wants a ‘W’ before closing out the three-game road trip in St. Louis on Saturday.
“It has nothing to do with the Leafs, it has more to do with where we are in our situation,” MacLean said. “That’s what we have to focus on. Yeah, we need a win and that’s what we’re focusing on, ourselves.”
Few imagined the Devils would have five wins through their first 18 games. MacLean is staying bullish on a turnaround.
“As simple as it sounds, you have to stay with it,” he said. “We have to get through this. Is it OK, is it acceptable to lose? No it’s not. We do need wins and we need to have an urgency. But we have to stay with the program, stay positive on it and keep moving forward.”
While the Devils have gotten their power play clicking at home, it has been less effective on the road, going 1-for-34 (2.9%) this season. MacLean hopes an improvement is imminent.
“The composure hasn’t been what it should be on the road,” MacLean said. “That’s what we need to get is a little bit more composure with the puck on the road. Sometimes we shoot when we should hold it, pass when we should shoot it, so those are things that we have to fight against and work through.”
• Toronto native David Clarkson will host six children from his Clarky’s Kids charity and their parents at Thursday’s game. Clarkson established the program with his former junior club, the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, which hosts children battling cancer for games and introduces them to players and coaches.
On Thursday, they’ll get the same experience at a Devils-Leafs game.
“These kids get to come out, they’ll see me after the game and get to meet some of the guys. I think it’ll be pretty exciting,” Clarkson said.
• Matt Corrente, also a Toronto native, was excited to make his hometown NHL debut. The 22-year-old was preparing to buy 20 tickets to the game for friends and family, and talked about rooting for the Leafs fan while growing up in nearby Mississauga.
“Yeah I did when I was a kid,” Corrente said. “How can you not? They’re everywhere there.”
What’s he looking forward to the most?
“I think just the feeling of being in the arena I grew up watching the NHL level at,” he said. “Getting the first feeling of wanting to do that in my life, making that my dream. It’s going to be pretty cool to be in that arena.”
Corrente was too young to remember Toronto’s run to the Western Conference finals in 1993, and drew a blank on the Leafs being ousted by the Devils in consecutive semifinals (2000, 2001). But it’s the hockey-mad environment he’s most excited to experience.
“Everything about the Leafs is huge in that city. They eat, sleep and breathe hockey. It’s cool to come back and get that feeling,” he said.
MacLean hails from Oshawa and had some not so great memories of his first game at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.
“I think I got benched, I’m not sure,” MacLean said. “Toronto was always a tough building for me to play in, for whatever reason. Early in the career, you just hope to keep your emotions in check. First time in there, you get excited, so you have to realize that you’re out there to do your job and not there to see your buddies. You have to go out and play the game.”
• Jason Arnott was excused from practice to attend the memorial service for Luke Richardson's daughter in Ottawa. Arnott and Richardson were teammates in Edmonton. Richardson is currently an assistant coach with the Senators.
• Jamie Langenbrunner (neck) and Matt Taormina (lower body) remain sidelined, and did not travel to Toronto.
• Brodeur practiced wearing padded sleeves the Devils' trainers found for him before Monday's morning skate in Boston. It's the same style worn by the Celtics' Paul Pierce and gives Brodeur a little bit of extra protection on the bruised elbow that kept him out of two games.
"We just asked them what these guys are wearing," Brodeur said, noting that Sidney Crosby wears similar padding built into the shirt he wears under his equipment.
Ilya Kovalchuk - Dainius Zubrus - Alexander Vasyunov
Patrik Elias - Mattias Tedenby
Brian Rolston - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Rod Pelley - Adam Mair - Stephen Gionta
Defensemen: Anton Volchenkov-Andy Greene, Colin White-Henrik Tallinder, Olivier Magnan-Matt Corrente, Anssi Salmela
Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg