Measured approach key for rested Devils
Every game important in playoff quest
|Arnott says every game is important from now on.|
They host Carolina on Wednesday to start a stretch of three games in four nights. After entertaining the Rangers at the Rock on Friday, the Devils head south Saturday to battle the Hurricanes in Raleigh.
A 12-1-2 second-half run has New Jersey trailing the eighth-place ‘Canes by 14 points with 26 games to go.
Is it too soon to start scoreboard watching?
“It’s been a long time since I think a lot of us looked at the standings,” Brian Rolston said. “I don’t think we really looked at them. What we can do is win hockey games and continue to win hockey games, and whatever happens, happens. We can’t control what happened at the beginning of the season, we can control our next game and the way we’re playing.”
They have points in all seven games since the All-Game break, going 6-0-1, including their current four-game winning streak. Rolston notched the tying goal in Friday’s come-from-behind win against San Jose.
“We want to continue doing that and get better,” he said. “If we keep winning hockey games the end result may be there, it may not be there, I’m not sure. I’m not sitting at home calculating points and what other teams have to do and what we have to do. I know if we keep winning and playing good hockey, that’s what’s important.”
Jason Arnott didn’t put any added importance on Wednesday’s contest, though it represents a potential four-point swing for New Jersey’s playoff hopes.
Rolston would agree.
“I think most of our game are against Eastern Conference teams right now, and we have to beat the teams that are ahead of us – it’s pretty simple,” he said. “There’s not many secrets about that. We have to beat every team to get back in. You have to beat the teams ahead of you in order to move up."
Jacques Lemaire gave his team a couple of rest days before coming back with two solid practices. He hopes to have them refreshed and ready. Saturday’s game in Carolina opens a four-game road trip with stops in Dallas, Tampa Bay and Florida.
“I think we’ll have more energy with these two days off,” Lemaire said. “We should. You can tell, there were a lot of guys who wanted to stay on; they stayed on for a half an hour more in the practice. You get back into practicing and you’re having fun, you want to stay on, so it works.”
Rolston has been one of the few Devils to concede that making the playoffs has even been considered to this point.
“Is it in the back of our minds to get in the playoffs, absolutely it is,” Rolston said. “But I don’t think we’re putting the cart before the horse. We have a lot of ground to make up, a lot of ground. We dug ourselves in a huge hole, and we’re not out of that hole. It’s game by game, the old clichés.”
The playoff deficit was 27 points back on Jan. 8. It has taken a tremendous effort to trim it to 14. The Devils are just looking for a win Wednesday, then another, and another. No one’s saying it will be easy.
“It’s still big, but we can’t think about that, just keep playing the way we are and try and come out with as many points as we can every game, and hope for the best,” Arnott said. “That’s all we can do right now. We can’t think because we’ve cut down [the deficit] so much, it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be hard.”
Martin Brodeur has been placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Feb. 6, when he sprained his knee at Montreal.
“He was on the ice today for a little while and came off,” Lemaire said. “He should go back on tomorrow.”
Lemaire indicated that Brodeur made it through Tuesday’s session without having to cut it short.
“He feels better,” he said.
Johan Hedberg has started the last three games in Brodeur’s absence. Lemaire couldn’t say if Mike McKenna would get the nod in any of the next three.
“Let’s start with one [game],” the coach said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Lemaire on his favorite part of coaching:
"When you see the guys are happy because of success, because they learned something, which I’m a little involved in, because they’re the guys that are doing it, it’s not me. I’m just the guy that tells them, ‘Try this, try that, let’s do this. If it works, good, if it doesn’t work we’ll find something else until it works.’ But when the guy has success and he has fun, that’s what I get."
On how this year’s run compares to his past coaching accomplishments:
"I’ve got a lot of great moments in ‘95. Great moments in Minnesota that you see that same thing. Guys are playing good and they’re beating a team or going into the playoffs. You get the reward. But the biggest reward is the Cup. It’s got to be the top, the Cup here. You see all the guys, how happy they are, how they got there and the effort they put in. It’s something you nearly can’t describe."
Arnott on Lemaire’s coaching style:
"He’s more energetic behind the bench than I remember him. He gets right into the game. He’s almost a little bit of a play by play guy behind the bench."