Devils hope to break on high note
|Arnott and the Devils battle Detroit on Wednesday.|
When they visit the Red Wings on Wednesday, they’ll be looking to accomplish something no Devils team has done at Joe Louis Arena since Nov. 6, 1996 – win.
A rare Motown “W” would help preserve the momentum the Devils have built by taking 13 of 14 points to start the second half.
“It’s very important,” Jason Arnott said. “We’ve been playing very well as of late, but we have to keep it going, keep this ride going, and keep playing the same way. It would give us a good feeling over the break, something to look forward to come back to. One game isn’t actually going to break us, but to have that good feeling of winning, especially against Detroit, would be great.”
They also want to head into this weekend’s All-Star break on a high note. After Wednesday, they won’t play another game until hosting Ottawa next Tuesday.
“It’s always better to end on a win,” Travis Zajac said. “Things are always a lot more fun when you’re winning.”
With 34 games remaining, the Devils (16-29-3) sit 20 points out of the final playoff spot in the East. That leaves precious little margin for error the rest of the way.
Arnott hasn’t glanced much at the Eastern standings. Not yet. But entering Monday's games, New Jersey had closed within two points of the Islanders, who sit 14th in the conference.
“Me personally, I haven’t really thought about it,” Arnott said. “It’s just a nice feeling winning again, playing well as a team, and having that good feeling in the room, that positivity and excitement coming back slowly. That’s what we’ve been missing. It’d be nice just to focus in on one game at a time and just keep it rolling like that and try not to look too far into the future until we get really close. If not, we can’t really worry about that.”
The Devils will be facing a shorthanded Red Wings roster. Up front, the Central Division leaders are still without Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom. Those three combined for six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in Detroit’s 4-1 victory at Prudential Center on Dec. 11.
“And they still have an extremely dangerous team, which is crazy,” Arnott said. “Crazy.”
The injuries might have slowed the Wings, but they haven’t derailed them. They’re 2-3-1 in their last six yet still hold a four-point lead over second-place Nashville.
Detroit is second in goals per game (3.4) and has the League's fifth-best power play (21.8 percent).
“They’ve got one of the best teams in the League, so they’re always going to be dangerous,” Zajac said. “Their D can move the puck and it makes it a lot easier on their forwards. They’re always going to be a good team; they always have good puck possession. They make it hard on teams.”
-- Jacques Lemaire wasn’t sure whether Nick Palmieri and Vladimir Zharkov will be in Wednesday’s lineup. Both Palmieri (upper body) and Zharkov (ill) have missed the last two games.
“I don’t know,” Lemaire said after practice. “With what I saw this morning, I don’t know if I’m going to play them.”
What did he see from them at practice?
“Nothing,” he said.
In Palmieri’s case, it could be the effect of missing a couple of days of practice, though.
“Could be,” Lemaire said. “It’s gotta be. He was playing well before.”
There’s better news on defense. In that department, Lemaire said he feels his team is improving. They’ve allowed five goals in the last four games.
“I mentioned I didn’t like the whole game last game [against Florida], but I’m very pleased in the last couple of weeks what the guys have been doing,” the coach said. “They’ve been focusing on what we’re asking and they’ve been doing the job.”
Lemaire said Martin Brodeur will “probably” start. It would be Brodeur’s second straight start and seventh in the last eight games. He’s won three in a row.
“He’s been practicing hard,” Lemaire said. “Our defensemen are playing better than they were, so that helps him too. So a combination of defensemen playing better and him working harder got him better.”
-- Colin White (lower body) will miss his second straight game.