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Around the East: Dire straits no longer faze Devs

Tuesday, 11.23.2010 / 3:13 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Around the East: Dire straits no longer faze Devs
Travis Zajac says the team is playing as if they have nothing left to lose anymore.
Devils center Travis Zajac used a phrase Monday morning that no player wants to utter only 20 games into the regular season.

"There is nothing to lose anymore," Zajac told NHL.com before the Devils put together their most complete performance of the season to beat the Capitals, 5-0, at Prudential Center. "We're way down in the standings. What's the worse that can happen now?"

Nothing to lose is usually reserved for teams that are out of the playoff race and looking to play spoiler down the stretch. It's not something you normally hear when only a quarter of the season is in the books, but Zajac's point is well taken.

The Devils have only six wins through 21 games and they know that everybody in the hockey world is leaving them for dead. A loss Wednesday against Calgary wouldn't by any means send shockwaves through the League, so instead of worrying about their position in the standings and what people are saying, the Devils are looking at the climb that's in front of them.

"Teams automatically have a little bit of confidence against us, so we have to initiate the play," Zajac said. "For us to be successful we can't sit back and let teams build on that confidence against us by making plays and scoring goals. And, we have to carry that through for 60 minutes."

They did Monday by attacking the Capitals from the opening faceoff. It finally resulted in some goals.

Jason Arnott scored twice and rookie linemate Mattias Tedenby continued to impress, scoring on a penalty shot and helping Patrik Elias convert for the game's opening goal just 5:49 in. Dainius Zubrus also scored off a nice rush with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Vasyunov.

Tedenby has been a sparkplug for the Devils since he was recalled six games ago. He has 3 goals and 2 assists playing with Arnott and Elias.

His production has been doubly important when you consider that Zach Parise remains out after having knee surgery and Kovalchuk can't seem to find his way out of a season-long scoring slump.

"Teddy always makes something happen when he's out there, so it's exciting," coach John MacLean said. "He has great confidence with the puck and you have to let his creativity come. He skates so well that he makes something happen each time he's out there."

The Devils will try to do that from now on. It can't hurt.

"It's all about wins now," Zajac said. "This is a team that is used to winning, and right now it's a struggle to us, but all that matters is wins. Stats don't matter. No one is going to have a good season if we don't win games, and no one cares if we don't win games. As soon as the team starts winning games individual success will come, but right now all that matters is going out and winning."

Now let's go around the conference to see what's making headlines these days. The teams are listed in order of where they are in the standings:

 Philadelphia Flyers (14-6-2, 30 points)

The Flyers took over first place in the NHL on Monday with their 3-2 win against Montreal coupled with Washington's 5-0 loss in New Jersey. They currently own the tiebreaker over the Capitals. Claude Giroux scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season to help lift the Flyers over the Habs. Giroux had 16 goals in 82 games last season, but he has 22 goals over his last 45 games, factoring in 23 playoff games last season and the first 22 games of this season.

 Washington Capitals (14-6-2, 30 points)

Caps GM George McPhee told us last week that he liked the team's record, but not the way it was playing. He was worried about the Capitals inability to play a full 60 minutes, and now we know why. Washington has lost three straight games and has surrendered 14 goals in the process. They lost 5-0 each to Atlanta and New Jersey, and 5-4 in a shootout to Philadelphia. Alex Ovechkin has only 2 goals in his last 11 games, and none in the last four.

 Montreal Canadiens (13-7-1, 27 points)

Carey Price for MVP? It's not such a ridiculous statement considering how much the young goalie has meant to the Habs. Price is tied for the League lead with 12 wins. He's fourth with a 2.05 goals-against average, third with a .932 save percentage and tied for first with four shutouts. He gave up 3 goals on 45 shots in a loss at Philly on Monday, but prior to that had a 30-save shutout against the Maple Leafs. He also had a 41-save shutout against the Flyers last Tuesday.

 Tampa Bay Lightning (12-7-2, 26 points)

Steven Stamkos for MVP? It's definitely not a ridiculous statement. He scored his 20th goal Monday in the team's 21st game. Only Teemu Selanne (20 games) and Simon Gagne (19 games) have reached the 20-goal mark faster in the past 17 years. Stamkos is tied with Sidney Crosby for the League lead in points with 35. More importantly, the Lightning have won four in a row, including the last two with solid defensive efforts after giving up 7 goals in an improbable win in Philadelphia last Friday.

 Pittsburgh Penguins (12-8-2, 26 points)

Sidney Crosby for MVP? He's definitely in the running. Crosby is off to his best start ever with 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points over 22 games. He's on pace for 56 goals and 74 assists. He has scored 8 more goals than anyone else on the Penguins and has 14 more points than any of his teammates. The Penguins have won three in a row since their heartbreaking, 3-2 loss to the Rangers last week. Marc-Andre Fleury has been in goal for all three wins and has improved his GAA to 2.88.

 New York Rangers (12-9-1, 25 points)

Is there a goalie controversy in the Big Apple? Not so, says John Tortorella, who despite watching Martin Biron backstop the Rangers to back-to-back wins emphatically proclaimed that Henrik Lundqvist is most definitely the Rangers' No. 1. Lundqvist is expected to start Wednesday in Tampa Bay, the first of four straight road games for the Blueshirts. Biron, though, has given the Rangers everything they were missing from their backup goalies last season. He's 5-2 with a 2.15 GAA.

 Boston Bruins (11-6-2, 24 points)

There could be some good news coming to the Bruins' depleted offense. Injured center Marc Savard was meeting with a concussion specialist at the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday and hoping to be cleared for full contact drills. Savard was cleared for non-contact drills last week and took the morning skate Wednesday with his teammates in Tampa. The Bruins lost in Tampa, 3-1. They also lost in a shootout to Los Angeles over the weekend. They're play at the Panthers on Wednesday.

 Ottawa Senators (10-10-1, 21 points)

Alex Kovalev picked up his 1,000th career point to help the Senators snap a three-game losing skid with a 3-2 win against Los Angeles. Since winning four straight from Nov. 2-9, the Senators have dropped four of six and have given up a combined 23 goals in the losses. They've scored only 11 goals over the last six games. It's likely that the tragedy over the death of assistant coach Luke Richardson's daughter, Daron, has played a part in their recent funk. But Monday's win might be the elixor.

 Atlanta Thrashers (9-9-3, 21 points)

Dustin Byfuglien could be playing his way into the Norris Trophy discussion. He leads all NHL blueliners with 7 goals and he's second behind Nicklas Lidstrom and John-Michael Liles with 19 points. He also has an even rating, which on a team that has yielded a Conference-worst 70 goals, is impressive. The Thrashers have won two in a row behind goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who has stopped 104 of the 108 shots he's faced since coming in for Chris Mason halfway the Nov. 14 loss at Washington.

 Carolina Hurricanes (9-9-2, 20 points)

The Hurricanes have had the last three days to stew over their back-to-back shootout losses to Pittsburgh and Nashville over the weekend. They host Washington on Wednesday. Jussi Jokinen had 8 points in three games prior to Saturday's game against Nashville. He nearly doubled his point production for the season in those three games and now has 17. Ian White, who was acquired in last week's trade with Calgary, has played more than 25 minutes in each of his first two games with the Canes.

 Toronto Maple Leafs (8-9-3, 19 points)

The Leafs have won three of their last four, beating Nashville (5-4), New Jersey (3-1) and Dallas (4-1). The lone blemish was a 2-0 loss to Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada. They're off until Friday. Clarke MacArthur, Mikail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin have taken over Toronto's No. 1 line. They combined for 2 goals and 3 assists in the win over Dallas. MacArthur leads the team with 18 points. He's never had more than 31 points in a season.

 Buffalo Sabres (8-11-3, 19 points)

The Sabres are dealing with some injuries. Ryan Miller missed Saturday's game against Tampa Bay with a groin problem. He might play Wednesday against Pittsburgh. Rob Niedermayer will be out two weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery on Monday. Tim Connolly left Monday's practice with a groin issue and his status for Wednesday's game is in jeopardy. Drew Stafford, who has missed eight straight games, is nearing a return but when is still up in the air.

 Florida Panthers (9-10-0, 18 points)

The Panthers have gotten fantastic goaltending from Tomas Vokoun (.924 save percentage, 2.38 GAA), but still haven't been able to get untracked due to a lagging offense. They are 7th in goals against per game (2.53) but 19th in goals for (2.74). Mike Santorelli leads the team with 6 goals. Twenty-six teams have at least one player with more goals than that. However, the Panthers have at least remained competitive.

 New Jersey Devils (6-13-2, 14 points)

The Devils needed Monday's 5-0 win over Washington in a huge way. They felt good about their effort in St. Louis on Saturday, but still had nothing to show for it in a 3-2 loss. Beating the Capitals could be the spark they need in order to break out of their season long slump. They host Calgary on Wednesday and will be looking for their first winning streak of the season.

 New York Islanders (4-12-4, 12 points)

The losing streak has hit 13 games (0-11-2) and there really isn't any more to say. The Islanders will be looking for their first win since Oct. 21 when they host Columbus on Wednesday. Mike Mottau has spent the last two nights in an Atlanta hospital as doctors tend to his right eye injury. He was struck in the face by a Zach Bogosian wrist shot in Sunday's game. Mottau has significant swelling around his eye. Travis Hamonic was called up Tuesday and will play in Wednesday's game.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie