Before the Devils’ 2-1 win over the Lightning, team CEO/GM/President Lou Lamoriello announced that Zach Parise was cleared to begin skating. This came as great news not only for Devils fans, but also for the team and Parise.

“As soon as he can,” Kovalchuk said of his hopes of Parise coming back. “He’s a huge part of our game. He’s one of our leaders. We miss him a lot. I can imagine how good we’re gonna be [when he is] back.  He can do everything.

“He’s gonna give us a lot of jump…a lot of energy. He’s one of those guys that always plays on the edge and works really hard.”

“I don’t even think [it’s] for the team,” Martin Brodeur said of Parise’s clearance to skate.

“I think [it’s] for his own psyche. I’ve been there before with a long injury. I think when you get back on the ice it’s like Christmas. It’s so much fun. I’m sure he’s ecstatic about it. Hopefully, we’ll give him a chance to get himself to get ready to play for us this year.”

Even though talks of Parise’s return to skating puts a lot of liveliness in the Devils’ locker room, they are still watching their steady climb in the standings.  The Devils are now 12th in the Eastern Conference, just nine points out of the eighth seeded Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Nine points is a lot of points to catch up, especially with the amount of games we’ve got left,” Brodeur said after the win.

He remarked that if the ‘Canes went 15-4, the Devils would be done for the season. Ironically, the Devils need to be 15-4 in order to even have a chance at the playoffs.

With the Rangers currently sitting in the seventh spot, the Devils don’t even see them as a threat.

“They have their own problems,” Brodeur said.

The Rangers have watched one player after another go down in injury. Most recently, Michael del Zotto (hand) and backup goaltender Martin Biron (broken collarbone) were added to the injury list for the Rangers. The Rangers have struggled to find wins, losing their last two, and going 4-6-0 in their last ten games.

With a lot of teams vying for any of those bottom spots, the Rangers, as well as Carolina, have a lot to fear. They are not safe. With about 17-20 games remaining in the season for most teams, every team has everything to gain, as well as everything to lose in this next month.

The Devils are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. Their predicament of going from the last team in the league to being a playoff contender forces them to not sit back on their heels anymore.  They are practically ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ as they push towards the top eight in the East.

Their last loss came from Tampa Bay last week, snapping the Devils’ win streak at eight wins. Wednesday night’s win proved that the Devils could still come back, even when the other team scores the first goal. They are not dismayed when the other team scores. They are ready to bounce back the second it happens.

“They’re a great defensive team,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said about Wednesday’s opposition. “They’re tough to play against. They’ve always got guys coming back hard…guys in your face. It’s a lot like we play. You know it’s going to be a one goal game. We were fortunate to play pretty good and come out on top.”

Dominic Moore was the lone scorer for the Lightning after deflecting a Pavel Kubina shot past Brodeur (on a Tampa power play) at 4:41 in the second period.

Henrik Tallinder’s goal at 18:45 in the second period helped the Devils to tie up the game, but it was Kovalchuk’s goal at 10:10 in the final stanza that allowed the Devils to take the prize.

“Today was really a tight-checking game on both sides,” Brodeur said.

This win came with a new face on the Devils’ roster…David Steckel. At the trade deadline, Jason Arnott got his wish and was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Steckel and a second round draft pick in 2012.  This was Steckel’s first trade in his career.

With Steckel, the Devils look to becoming a stronger, fiercer team as they head towards the end of the season.

“We take one step forward, we take one back when we don’t play,” Brodeur said. “I wish we could play every day.”

About The Author

Michelle Kenneth has been with Inside Hockey since 2007 as the beat reporter for the New Jersey Devils. She is also part of the IH team covering the New York Rangers. Since 2007, she's covered the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL All-Stars, NHL Awards, Winter Classic, Stadium Series and the NHL in Europe. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @MichelleKenneth and on her blog:

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