New Jersey Devils right wing David Clarkson had plenty to prove this season.
The right wing scored 30 goals last season, a career-high, and chipped in another 12 (3g, 9a) during the postseason. It was a culmination of the potential talent seen in Clarkson when the Devils signed him after going undrafted in 2005.
He’s responded early in the season, leading New Jersey with seven goals. That included his first multi-goal game of the season last night, scoring two in a win over the rival New York Rangers.
“He’s picked up right where he left off last year,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think the big test for him was to prove he wasn’t a flash in the pan 30-goal guy, that he could do that on a consistent basis. I think he’s proving that.”
It’s yet another step into stardom for Clarkson, who always seemed to possess the potential to be a good power forward. With his combination of size and toughness, he routinely went to the “dirty areas” to find goals. An fractured ankle cut short a promising season in 2009-10, limiting Clarkson to just 24 points (11g, 13a) in 46 games. He struggled the next season as well, posting 18 points (12g, 6a) and a minus-20 rating.
He attributes his success to his experience.
“The more years you play in this league you get more comfortable,” Clarkson said. “You start to make more plays. Patty is a pretty easy guy to play with, so I can’t take too much credit playing with a guy like that, but at the end of the day I just find those areas on the ice and the puck just kind of finds me a little bit.”
Clarkson and Patrik Elias have developed great chemistry since starting the season together on the same line. DeBoer added Henrique to that line last night, and it paid off immediately. Elias tallied three assists, his third multi-point game of the season. Clarkson picked up three points as well (2g, 1a), his third second three-point game of the season. Henrique chipped in with a goal of his own, setting the tone early with a score just five minutes into regulation.
“It was one of the better games so far this year,” Elias said. “[Henrique’s] a skilled player. He reads the play well and, hopefully, we can just keep it going to the same way creating chances. We had a few good shifts in their zone, good opportunities. I think sometimes I’ve got to keep shooting a little more. I was looking for the pass too much maybe, but as long as we’re creating chances and are real solid defensively, which I thought we were pretty good, we’ve got to be pretty happy with that.”
Clarkson’s emergence is also helping Elias. He’s assisted on both of his goals this season, and has helped the left wing collect 10 points in the team’s first nine games.
DeBoer knows this season’s success isn’t by accident.
“He creates his own luck,” DeBoer said. “He’s a guy that the puck follows around. He has that innate ability to be in the right place at the right time. When it happens over and over again, it’s not an accident. You’re doing something right.”