The New Jersey Devils play 14 games during the month, finishing with an away game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Arena. Those 14 games are split among home and away games, which include a 3-game homestand starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 6th and a 4-game road trip beginning with the Edmonton Oilers on January 12th. The seven home games are welcome after a road-heavy start to the season over the last three months. The Devils play only three games against Metropolitan Division opponents: January 3rd at Carolina, January 21st at Philadelphia, and January 26th versus Washington. Taylor Hall returns to Edmonton for the first time since being traded last summer. The NHL All-Star game takes place on January 29th in Los Angeles (All-Stars have not been announced yet but Hall, Michael Cammalleri, Cory Schneider, and Andy Greene are all eligible). I don’t think any of them are going to be selected and honestly, I’m okay with them having a break that weekend as long as they come back well-rested and ready to keep grinding.
New Jersey plays four games in the first week of January, three of which are at home: Monday versus Boston, Wednesday at Carolina, Friday versus Toronto, and Saturday versus Edmonton. Saturday’s game will be Hall’s first time facing his former team but will not return to Edmonton until the 12th. We’ll also get to see Adam Larsson return to the Rock for the first time since he was traded this summer (have I mentioned that I miss him?) Friday night is also the Devils’ inaugural Ring of Honor night, where the team will honor Dr. John McMullen, who brought the team to New Jersey nearly 35 years ago, in a pre game ceremony. If you have tickets to the game, be sure to get there early for the ceremony and the first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative replica Ring of Honor pin. (I will be at Friday’s game so I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures to share in a game-day experience post.)
The Devils have the opportunity to get off to a very strong start and have a successful month, which could potentially turn their season around. 28 points are up for grabs this month and every single one of those points is valuable. They’ll hit a tough stretch come the 17th, where they play Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center, Montreal at home, Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center, and then Los Angeles and Washington at home. Before and after, however, the team should be able to accumulate a decent number of points, provided that they actually play like a professional hockey team. Points won’t be easy but if they have any hopes of making the postseason, they need them.
The team plays only three games against Metropolitan division teams this month. Out of all the games they play this month, I’m most looking forward to their rematch at Philadelphia. The Devils shut out Philly 4-0 in their last, and only, meeting this season and it was a game for the ages. New Jersey and Philadelphia always play rough, aggressive, and fast-paced rivalry games and after the accumulation of penalty minutes on December 22nd, I’m looking forward to their next meeting. After January, the Devils will have 17 games left against Metro division opponents, including four games against Columbus and four against New York (Islanders). New Jersey has not seen either of these teams yet this season. So from here until the end of the season, New Jersey has a total of 20 games to play and 40 points to gain (or to lose).
And the Devils really have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Why not call up more of the young guys? Let’s see what they can do at the NHL-level. Steve Santini was called up this morning (he’ll take John Moore’s place, who is on IR) but I’m excited to see him play again. I want the Devils to bring up these guys because they are capable of changing the way this team is playing. The veteran players clearly aren’t getting the job done; maybe they need a spark, or some extra motivation. It’s going to be a tough month (and tough season) if the Devils continue to play the way they have been but there are still four months of hockey left and with the right adjustments and changes, the Devils can, however improbable or unrealistic, make a playoff push.