"At the end of every season, you go back home and start working out earlier and earlier. You just want to get back at it and want to have a big year -- that was my approach after our loss to Carolina (in the Stanley Cup Playoffs) last season."
-- David Clarkson
For a player who's expected to pick up some of the offensive slack while maintaining his feisty demeanor away from the puck, one would anticipate a little more than no shots, no hits and a minus-1 rating in a 5-2 setback to the Philadelphia Flyers. But that was Saturday.
Clarkson had a bounce-back game of sorts on Monday, albeit in defeat, 3-2, to the New York Rangers at Prudential Center.
The native of Toronto, Ontario, who entered the contest having registered no points, 26 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating in six career games against the Blueshirts, showed signs of life this time around.
Not only did he finish the contest with 2 assists, 4 hits and an even-rating, but he made his presence felt whenever the situation presented itself by getting in the face of the opposition. He was whistled for a holding penalty in the second and a roughing minor in the third but also proved to be an important force on the Devils' lone power-play goal of the evening.
"That last game against the Flyers was one of the weird ones I was involved in," Clarkson told NHL.com. "We were on the penalty-kill and it was tough to get into the flow of the game. Against the Rangers, I can't tell you how I looked, but I finished every check and felt like I was creating traffic and making them pay when they had the puck."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire knows Clarkson is not all about goals and points. He's more in line with those blue-collar, lunch-pail workaholics who scrap to get the puck and command space -- Lemaire's type of player. Clarkson will also drop the gloves when needed -- he hasn't been involved in any scuffles this season but was featured in 20 scraps while accumulating 164 penalty minutes in 2008-09.
Clarkson realizes with the departure of forwards Brian Gionta, John Madden and Mike Rupp in the offseason and the absence of Patrik Elias (groin surgery) to open this campaign, he needs to step up his game.
While he isn't going to finish among the top 10 in League scoring, Clarkson will work just as hard as those snipers do while contributing more than his share on offense. He posted career highs with 17 goals, 15 assists and 32 points in 2008-09.
"I expect to score at least 20 goals this season while playing my style of hockey," Clarkson said. "At the end of every season, you go back home and start working out earlier and earlier. You just want to get back at it and want to have a big year -- that was my approach after our loss to Carolina (in the Stanley Cup Playoffs) last season."
Lemaire has shown confidence in Clarkson, giving him plenty of ice time -- he logged 15:24 on 24 shifts against the Rangers. He's also found a home on the top power-play unit that also features Zach Parise and Travis Zajac up front and Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Martin at the points.
That unit gave the Devils a 2-1 edge 10:52 into the first when Parise fed Clarkson, who then slid a pass to Zajac in the right circle. The goal certainly generated some life into the Devils, but any momentum was short-lived as the host team struggled with its defensive-zone coverage at times.
"We do need to capitalize on our power play to make it easy on ourselves and, at the same time, not give up too many chances," Devils defenseman Paul Martin said. "Still, it's too early to be making excuses. We have to find a way to win on the road now."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com