The Carolina Hurricanes were 10-0-1 at home in their last 11 games; they are now 10-1-1, thanks to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are now 3-0 against the Canes this season (two of those games were at PNC Arena) and see them one more time before the season’s end.
The Devils are now 16-16-7 on the season and are back at .500. They are now 2-0 to start the new year and don’t look now but they’re six points out of the final wild card spot in the East (with four teams in front of them). They tie Carolina in points with 39 but have two more regulation losses. The team now embarks on a much needed (and much welcomed) three game homestand against Toronto (Friday), Edmonton (Saturday), and Florida (Monday).
As a team, the Devils were +10 and Ben Lovejoy lead the team in time on ice. Cory Schneider made 29 saves to win both games in his first back-to-back start of the season. He made some truly spectacular saves again tonight and he looks like he’s finally starting to find his groove and be one of the league’s best goaltenders like we think he is. Adam Henrique (10), Michael Cammalleri (10), and Kyle Palmieri (8) all scored tonight and finished with a goal and an assist each. Schneider, Henrique, and Cammalleri were the three stars of the game. The Devils are now 10-0-2 when leading after two periods.
But the real heroes of the game were the Devils’ defensemen. Captain Andy Greene took a puck to the face and at the time, it looked as if it hit his right eye but after the game, we were told that it was not, in fact, his right eye. He didn’t return to the game, which was his 350th consecutive game. We didn’t receive any other updates after the game and we’re unsure if he’ll return Friday night versus the Leafs. The remaining defensemen (Lovejoy, Damon Severson, Steve Santini, Jon Merrill, and Kyle Quincey) had to step up and spend more time on the ice, and they did and they played very well. The defense took another blow when Quincey had to go to the locker room for stitches on his chin but they only allowed one goal and played as one, cohesive unit. All six defensemen earned tonight’s Hard Hat, rightfully so.
Overall, it was a slow game, especially compared to last night’s game against the Boston Bruins. The Devils only took 18 shots compared to Carolina’s 30 but they were able to capitalize on those shots and score three goals. However, 18 shots still won’t always get the job done. Who quietly played a very good game? Santini and Pavel Zacha. Santini continues to play a solid, physical game and has earned his place on this team. I hope he stays up for the next few weeks, if not the rest of the season, even when John Moore comes back (Moore has not started off-ice workouts yet so his expected return date is unclear). Zacha did a great job in centering Taylor Hall and P.A. Parenteau on the top line and he’s also earned the right to stay there.
The Devils’ penalty kill was also strong tonight and killed all four Carolina power plays. The Devils are now 8th best in the league with an 84% success rate. However, they were still unable to score on their two and have now not scored on the man advantage in their last 27 power plays. Their power play conversion rate falls to 13.2% and New Jersey is only ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the worst power play in the league. They’ll start scoring power play goals eventually and are managing to win games without them but they could be a huge asset and boost of confidence going forward.
It’s a New Year for the New Jersey Devils and they look like a new team. They’ll look to start another win streak at home against Toronto when they induct Dr. John J. McMullen into their inaugural Ring of Honor Friday night.