Devils eager to open six-game homestand
The Devils are happy to be back home, even happier to have taken two of three on last week’s swing through western Canada.
Saturday’s 2-1 win in Winnipeg capped an impressive 3-1 road trip that included victories in Pittsburgh and Edmonton. Martin Brodeur posted 22 saves against the Jets as the Devils won for the fourth time in their last five outings.
“We’re good, we’re feeling good about ourselves,” Brodeur said Monday. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. We have some big tests this week. Winnipeg is a team that needs to win every game to try and jump back in, and we’re going to play Boston and Philly. It’s going to be tough, and a Buffalo team that’s in a similar position as Winnipeg. All four games [before the All-Star break] I think are a big test for us.”
Brodeur is expected to get the start Tuesday, when the Jets visit to close out the home-and-home. It's the beginning of a six-game homestand that will see Boston, Philadelphia and Buffalo come to town before the All-Star Weekend begins next Thursday in Ottawa.
The Rangers and Canadiens make stops at the Rock after the break.
“We just need to keep winning games,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “You see this League, and you take your foot off the gas for a weekend, never mind a six-game homestand, and you can be on the bottom looking up pretty quickly. We’re doing some good things, we’re putting points in the bank on a regular basis and we need to continue to do that.”
DeBoer took plenty of positives from the trip.
“I think it was a real good bonding trip for us,” he said. “It was the first trip in a while that we’ve had some real time off between games in a city. We’ve been on the road for an extended period, five or six days, so I thought the guys got to really spend some time together and I thought it was a real good bonding trip away from the rink.”
Entering Monday’s games, the Devils (25-17-2) sat sixth in the East, two points ahead of eighth-place Pittsburgh and three ahead of ninth-place Toronto. They’re right in the middle of the postseason hunt with 38 games to go.
“We don’t pay much attention, but again, we need to be in that pack,” Brodeur said. “Slowly you put some teams down, and Winnipeg is a team that’s below us, so the two points we got from them was important and the ones from tomorrow will be even more important.”
Adam Henrique (groin), who missed Saturday's game, skated on his own before Monday's practice. Petr Sykora had a rest day.
“It felt pretty good,” Henrique said. “It’s more just day-to-day. We’ll see how it feels [Tuesday] and just go from there.”
Henrique is tied with Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the rookie goal lead (13), and trails Nugent-Hopkins by one for the lead in rookie assists and points.
“I think with anything, obviously you don’t want to rush back,” Henrique said. “Obviously you want to play, but I think you have to take the right measures and right precautions at this time.”
Dainius Zubrus once again centered Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk as the Devils adjust to another injury at pivot. Jacob Josefson, sidelined since Oct. 21, is nearing a return after making two appearances with the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany. Travis Zajac (soreness) will not return until after the All-Star break.
“It’s been hard,” Parise said. “Ten games into the season, we’re down with two of the guys you had pencilled in as your one and two centermen. Those guys were gone right away. Now with Adam being hurt, too, it makes the hill even more of a challenge, but I thought we did OK in Winnipeg. Zubie’s played center before, so he’s got a little bit of experience there. Hopefully he can fill in there until Adam’s ready to go again.”