|After winning only three of their first seven games in downtown Newark’s state-of-the-art facility, the Devils have become locks at The Rock.|
Like A Rock – The New Jersey Devils’ move into the Prudential Center can be compared to buying a new pair of shoes – they had to break it in.
After winning only three of their first seven games in downtown Newark’s state-of-the-art facility, the Devils have become locks at The Rock. Wednesday night’s 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers was New Jersey’s ninth in its last 10 home games. Since dropping a 1-0 decision to the New York Islanders on Nov. 16, the Devils have lost only once in the Garden State – a 4-1 decision against the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 15.
Want more good news, Devils’ fans? How about this: Of New Jersey’s remaining 43 games this season, 25 of them will be played at the Prudential Center.
Change of plans -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock was thrilled to get the chance to coach the Western Conference All-Stars, but it means a change of plans for the last weekend in January.
“I was going to go skiing with the family,” Babcock said after the Wings’ 4-1 victory Wednesday against Dallas at Joe Louis Arena. Babcock and Ottawa’s John Paddock, whose teams lead their respective conferences, will be behind the bench on Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
Babcock didn’t think the change in plans would bother his kids.
“I think they’ll like getting the chance to skate around with some new people and wear some other jerseys,” he said.
And what does it mean to be chosen to coach in an All-Star Game?
“It means I’ve got some really good players,” he said.
Come Jan. 27, they’ll have a really good coach, too.
Hot On The Trail – That cozy Southeast Division lead the Carolina Hurricanes once held is all but gone.
And that poor start the Atlanta Thrashers got off to – one that cost Bob Hartley his job – is in the rearview mirror.
The gap could become even shorter Friday night, when the teams meet again in Atlanta – which will also be the first of a five-game homestand for the Thrashers. Carolina, meanwhile, has lost nine of its last 15 games after starting the season 11-4-3.
"We want to keep chasing them and keep winning those games," Kovalchuk said. "They're huge games. They didn't play their best game and we're playing pretty good. We've got more chances to win."
Two For The Road – You had to be under the impression that it was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers were going to get some breaks and bounces.
On Wednesday night, Dustin Penner made his own.
The power forward scored twice – including the game-winner with less than 20 seconds remaining overtime – as Edmonton was victorious for the first time since Dec. 15 with a 3-2 win at St. Louis.
In each of their six-straight losses, the Oilers had not been defeated by more than two goals. Such a telling statistic is one of the many reasons why Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish remained positive through the frustrating skid.
''The whole stretch that we've had here, the whole team has been playing well,'' MacTavish said. ''As a coach, you worry that the guys are going to get frustrated because of the amount of effort they're putting in every night. It was nice to see that we battled through some pretty good adversity in the third period in terms of the amount of penalties we had.''
Judging by the way he performed on Wednesday night, there doesn’t seem to be any hard feelings.
Reinprecht notched his first hat trick in almost two years, leading the gritty Coyotes to an impressive 5-2 win against the host Colorado Avalanche. With his big night, Reinprecht now has four goals in two games against his former club.
''It's fine,'' Reinprecht said of being taken off Shane Doan’s line. ''You will play with a lot of people. You have to mesh with the people you play with. The guys I'm playing with are easy to play with. The adjustment has been easy.''
The Avs have no choice but to agree.
Long time coming -- No one is happy after a loss, but it would be hard to blame Columbus rookie Andrew Murray for having at least a bit of a smile after the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 defeat at Anaheim.
Murray, a 26-year-old rookie taken 242nd overall in the 2001 Entry Draft, scored his first NHL goal late in the first period, following his shot and knocking the rebound past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
After 183 games in the American Hockey League, Murray finally got to experience the feeling of scoring a goal on hockey’s biggest stage.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet,” he said of scoring his first goal in a loss. “But getting your first NHL goal is pretty exciting. I’ve just been trying to work hard and do the little things that got me called up. Getting a goal will help my confidence.”
Murray received a promotion to the NHL when the Blue Jackets were hit by injuries to Michael Peca, Manny Malholtra and David Vyborny. The goal came in his third NHL game.
These Flames are hot – By now, you have to wonder if the Vancouver Canucks are looking over their shoulders.
The Calgary Flames’ captain scored two more goals in Wednesday night’s 4-3 win against the New York Rangers, pulling him with four goals of the League lead (Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk has 33).
During the last 15 games, Iginla has scored 16 times. Calgary is 10-1-4 during that span, and has pulled to within three points of the first-place Canucks in the Northwest Division.
''It's been fun and a good streak, it's nice to see the puck go in and us getting some wins,'' said Iginla. ''There's been some fun streaks over the years but this one has definitely right up there, it's been pretty enjoyable.''
With the way Iginla’s been playing, the Rangers will gladly wait another five years to make another trip to Calgary.
Quote of the year? – A little off topic, but I can’t help but share this with all of you.
Researchers are saying that drivers who spend time on their cell phones are slowing down the flow of traffic, thus making people late for work.
Granted, we’re only three days into 2008, but good luck topping this quote, which comes from Peter Martin, who works in the Traffic Lab (whatever that is, but I digress) at the University of Utah:
"It's a bit like breaking wind in the elevator. Everyone suffers," he said.
OK … Time for me to go. I think I’ll take the stairs.
Brian Compton can be e-mailed at: email@example.com.