After a 10 month layoff, Johan Hedberg will finally get back on the ice.
The Devils netminder will make his season debut tonight as the New Jersey Devils face off against the Boston Bruins at the T.D. Garden.
Hedberg last played on April 17, 2012, replacing Martin Brodeur in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He went 17-7-2 last season with a 2.23 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and four shutouts.
“It’s been a long time,” Hedberg told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I’m excited to get back and play in a game again.”
Brodeur started the first four games this season, going 3-0-1 with a 1.69 GAA, .932 save percentage and one shutout.
It’s the second game of short two-game road swing for New Jersey. The Devils dropped the first to the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, Sunday at the Bell Centre. Trailing by two goals in the third period, David Clarkson and Patrik Elias scored goals to tie the game in regulation. Andrei Markov sent New Jersey to its first loss of the season, scoring the game-winning goal with just 38 seconds left in overtime.
The loss ended New Jersey’s perfect record, dropping the Devils to 3-0-1 this season. It also started with yet another slow start, as they found themselves trailing, 2-0, and outshot 16-7 after the first period.
Those starts have become a common theme for New Jersey, one coach Pete DeBoer wants the players to fix.
“I think that has to come from the dressing room,” he told Gulitti. “The onus, I believe, is on the leadership group and our team to get themselves ready to play. It’s not a major issue yet, but it’s something we want to nip in the bud.”
Devils captain Bryce Salvador agreed it’s up to the players in the dressing room to fix it.
“You don’t want overanalyze it,” Salvador told Gulitti. “I think the fact of the matter is with this team the great thing about our group is we know (it’s a problem). It’s just been too many games, so now it’s being addressed. We’re four games in now and we’ve been fortunate with a couple of the games that we had slow starts Marty (Brodeur) played well and kept us in those game. Now, three games in a row, it’s that point where it needs to be addressed. We can’t keep being delusional that those starts are OK.”
Clarkson and Elias lead the Devils into tonight’s matchup. Clarkson has a point in every game this season, with six points (3g, 3a). Elias recorded three points in Sunday’s loss, eclipsing the 900 point mark. He has six points (2g, 4a).
Boston is off to a hot start, compiling a 4-0-1 record. It’s nine points in the season’s first five games are the most since the 1990-91 season, when it had the exact same record.
The Bruins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-3, last night in Raleigh. Boston twice had a two-goal lead, but Carolina overcame that deficit to tie the game at the end of the second period. The Bruins pulled away in the final period, with David Krejci and Tyler Seguin scoring in the final two minutes of regulation.
Anton Khudobin, making his season debut, stopped 29 shots.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara leads Boston in points, with two goals and three assists heading into tonight’s matchup. Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with three goals.
Tuukka Rask has played in four of the team’s five games, recording a 3-0-1 record with a 1.96 GAA and a .925 save percentage.
New Jersey is looking to break a four-game losing streak against Boston. The Bruins swept last year’s season series, and have won eight of the last nine games between the teams.
Here’s a look at last season’s matchup:
November 15, 2011: Bruins – 4, Devils – 3 @ TD Garden
The game remained scoreless until the second period, when Clarkson opened the scoring on the powerplay. Chris Kelly tied the game, and the teams carried that 1-1 tie into the third period. That’s when the damn broke, with each team trading goals. First Marchand scored for Boston, with Nick Palmieri tying the game at two. Boston responded again, grabbing it’s second lead of the period on a Shawn Thornton goal. Palmieri would come through again for New Jersey, tying the game at 3-3 with his second goal of the period. Benouit Pouliot would end the scoring, giving the Bruins their third and final lead with the game-winning goal at the 16:59 mark of the final period.
Hedberg stopped 33 shots in the loss. Tim Thomas recorded 27 saves in the win.
January 4, 2012: Bruins – 6, Devils – 1 @ Prudential Center
New Jersey broke through first again, with Clarkson tallying on the powerplay for a 1-0 lead in the first period. From there, it was all Boston. The Bruins scored six straight goals – paced by Patrice Bergeron’s multi-goal game – to skate away with a 6-1 win. Twelve different players recorded at least a point in the win. Brodeur allowed all six goals, making just 21 saves. Thomas was stellar in net, stopping 30 shots.
January 9, 2012: Bruins – 4, Devils – 1 @ Prudential Center
The Devils once again scored the first goal in the game, with Petr Sykora breaking a scoreless tie in the second period. Andrew Ference tied the game at one at the 3:01 mark of the third period, and opened the floodgates for Boston. The Bruins pulled ahead, 3-1, in a span of 35 seconds. Goals from Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell put Boston ahead, once again overcoming a first goal by the Devils. Kelly added an empty-netter to seal the win.
Thomas stopped 30 shots in the win. Brodeur, on the losing end once again, made 21 saves.
March 1, 2012: Bruins – 4, Devils – 3 (OT) @ TD Garden
Boston jumped ahead early, with goals from Krejci and Seguin giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead after one period. New Jersey roared back in the middle frame, with Zach Parise, Elias and Clarkson staking the Devils to a 3-2 lead after the second period. Krejci then took over, tying the game in the final period. He’d complete his second career hat trick in overtime, scoring the game-winner at the 2:59 mark to give Boston the win.