The past month has been nothing short of a struggle for Jersey’s team. The Devils have gone 2-6-2 in their last ten, they were booed off the ice during their 4-1 loss against the Washington Capitals, and along with a boatload of injuries to key players, it’s been rumored the Mumps may have found its way into their locker room.
For anyone that isn’t already aware of the rapidly growing sickness; the Mumps have already attacked two NHL locker rooms which include the Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild. Nine player have been affected including star players like Ryan Suter and Corey Perry.
The Devils have said Adam Larsson and Travis Zajac are both sick and are being tested for the Mumps, which could part of the problem. Jaromir Jagr has also been feeling under the weather as well and even though he played in the game Saturday night, he admitted afterwards he wasn’t feeling well at all and it showed in his play.
That being said, the speculation doesn’t help the Devils at all, as aside from having to deal with the issues at hand, they have four tough games this week against teams who have proven to give them problems in the past.
Monday starts off at the Carolina Hurricanes who are last place in the Eastern Conference. However in recent seasons have shown when the Devils come to town, they seem to up their game. Eric Staal has burnt the Devils several times in the past, and Cam Ward look like he’s playing some of his best hockey in the past three years after a stretch which saw Anton Khudobin almost snatch the starting gig from him.
Tuesday the Chicago Blackhawks come to the Rock as they prove to be the Devils most difficult matchup in quite some-time. Even with Corey Crawford out with injury, Antti Raanta has come in and shown he can post solid numbers in relief. However the big challenge for the Devils will be containing the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and possibly Patrick Sharp who head coach Joel Quenneville expects to return during the team’s road trip.
Hopefully for the Devils, Sharp will decide to wait an extra game to return as he lit up the Devils in the two games they played last season scoring five goals including a hat trick in his last visit to the Prudential Center. Beating a team like the Blackhawks would be a huge shot of confidence.
New Jersey would then begin a three-game road trip on Thursday by heading down to visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers finally snapped their seven-game losing streak in large part to a 37 save performance by Steve Mason as they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Otherwise the Flyers have been just as inconsistent as New Jersey; they have two of the top scorers in the league in the form of Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Unfortunately for them, their team as a whole hasn’t been good at all with most recently Vinny Lecavalier being a healthy scratch.
The Devils will wrap up the week against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on Saturday where they will look for some revenge after a 3-2 shootout loss earlier in the season. Dallas is probably the most interesting team during this stretch as people are still trying to figure out why a team that recently acquired Jason Spezza, on top of already having Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, is faltering in the fashion they are. One figure to point at has been the inconsistent play of Kari Lehtonen as the 31-year-old only has a .904 SV% to go along with a 3.03 GAA.
Mike Cammalleri’s Impact
If the Devils are going to get on a streak here, they need to hope the injury (which Lou confirmed as a pulled butt muscle) that took leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri out of Saturday’s game is a minor issue. It’s already confirmed he won’t be available for Monday’s game against Carolina so the Devils are hoping he will be able to play against the Hawks on Tuesday.
Cammalleri has been by far the Devils most consistent forward this season. After signing a 5-year $5 million deal on July 1st, he’s come in exactly as advertised, giving the Devils a scoring punch which was clearly absent last season.
Aside from scoring goals, Cammalleri has shown a great amount of leadership. In the mist of the injury bug circling the Devils locker room, he has kept this team stable and has been given an ‘A’ on his jersey by Pete Deboer on several occasions as a result. It’s plainly obvious that even though his time in Calgary wasn’t the most successful, there’s no doubt he’s learnt a ton about how to lead and be a veteran presence after his shaky departure from the Montreal Canadian’s.
Regardless of Cammalleri’s impact on the team, there aren’t any excuses coming from the Devils players or coaches.
“Injuries really don’t matter. Nobody cares. You have to find a way,” said Pete Deboer.
The Devils currently sit four points out of a playoff spot after the loss to Washington. With a 10-13-4 record and injuries galore, this stretch isn’t exactly a killer for the Devils but a great opportunity to gain ground on their competition.
Corey Spina lives in Wayne, New Jersey. He is a senior at Centenary College, and is majoring in Communications/Journalism. Corey is in his second season covering the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers, he completed a sports journalism internship with TAPinto, and he is the Host/Producer of the Sports Buzz on WNTI.org.