Entering the six game road trip, the New Jersey Devils were looking to build team chemistry and turn their season around. So far, nothing has gone right and the Devils look to salvage their six game trip tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
New Jersey enters tonight’s matchup losers of two straight and four of their last five games. The Devils have been outscored, 14-6, during the road trip, and they’ve allowed the goal in six consecutive games.
The scoring drought spans the entire roster. Ilya Kovalchuk has one point in his last seven games, and Travis Zajac hasn’t scored since the Devils’ opener against the Dallas Stars. Jason Arnott has three points in his last ten games, and captain Jamie Langenbrunner has two points in his last nine contests. Compound this with the loss of Zach Parise, who will miss three months after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the outlook is bleak.
On Monday, the Devils couldn’t break through against Roberto Luongo, and fell to the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0. The team’s lack of finish continued to plague them, as they peppered Luongo with 30 shots in three periods, generating scoring chances throughout the game. Vancouver struck first, as Raffi Torres put a shot over Martin Broduer’s right shoulder to put the Canucks ahead, 1-0, in the first period. Ryan Kesler doubled the lead in the second period, beating Brodeur with a backhanded shot for the goal.
Down 2-0, it looked like David Clarkson got the Devils back into the game. The right-winger stuffed a rebound under Luongo’s pads, but the refs waved off the goal on the ice. Clarkson was sent off for goaltender interference, and instead of a one-goal deficit, the Devils faced a penalty kill. They killed off the resulting power play.
Henrik Sedin pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third period. Devils’ defenseman Colin White attempted to play the puck in his zone, but it skipped over his stick. White had to trip Sedin, who broke in alone, giving the Swedish center a penalty shot. Sedin beat Brodeur with a backhanded shot, sneaking the puck past the outstretched skate of the Devils’ goalie for his first goal of the year.
Frustration continued to grow in the locker room as the lackluster performances and losses continued to pile up.
“Yeah, I’m frustrated,” coach John MacLean said. “Not scoring hurts more than anything.”
“We can’t just go through games and feel, ‘This is OK, we were in it,’” Patrik Elias said. “We’ve got to win these games.”
The Devils face a Blackhawks team hovering around the .500 mark. Chicago lost its last game, 3-2, to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Tonight’s game presents the Devils an opportunity to end their road trip on a high note. The players and coaches realize how far behind the eight ball they stand. A few more losses, including one in tonight’s game, will make it very difficult to reach the playoffs.
“We’re digging ourselves a hole. A huge hole,” Arnott said. “I’ve played a few years (in Nashville) where we were in and out of the seventh and eighth spot and that’s tough. We’re at the botom right now. If we don’t turn this around, it’s going to be real hard to (make the playoffs).”