This isn’t the second half the New Jersey Devils (16-30-3) are accustomed to.
New Jersey, 22 points out of the eighth playoff spot, probably won’t finish contend for the postseason. Instead, the team will settle for the spoiler role, something unfamiliar to the franchise.
The Devils look to settle into the uncomfortable spoiler role tonight when they face the Ottawa Senators (17-25-8) at the Prudential Center.
In their eight games before the All-Star break, the team went 6-1-1, its best eight-game stretch of the season. The offense improved, outscoring opponents, 29-16. The defense stepped up, allowing no more than three goals to any of their opponents.
Several slumping players found their stride during the streak. Brian Rolston, a two-time waiver victim who remained with the team, recorded 11 points over that eight-game stretch. Maligned left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk averaged a point-per-game in those eight games. Martin Brodeur went 5-1-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average in seven starts before the break.
Those encouraging signs, however, are overshadowed by the virtual impossibility of making the playoffs. New Jersey, who qualified for the playoffs in 13 straight seasons, will most likely miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season. It’s a disappointing season for a roster that showed so much promise during the offseason and training camp.
New Jersey can continue their hot streak tonight against the Senators. Unlike the Devils, the Senators entered the All-Star break 1-6-3, falling to last in the Northeast Division. Like the Devils, their playoff chances are evaporating from slim to none.
The Senators won the only matchup of the meeting, 3-2, at Scotiabank Place on December 10. Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist. Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus scored for the Devils. A late video review denied the game-tying goal to David Clarkson and sealed a Devils loss.