You can call Saturday night’s game a duel between youth and experience, as the NHL’s oldest roster squares off against its youngest. The Devils’ average player age is 30.5 years compared to Columbus’ average of 25.69. New Jersey's age figure is inflated by future Hall of Famers in Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias, but no longer by a cagey veteran in net. Martin Brodeur no longer patrols the paint for the Devils, as it’s now Corey Schneider’s net in Newark.
The Devils host a variety of accomplished offensive weapons, with Adam Henrique leading the Devils in scoring and Michael Ryder having a fine start to his second season in New Jersey with six points. The Devils rode a hot offense to a surprising 3-0 start, but have since come back to earth, winning only twice in their last seven games with their scoring slowing down. Luck may be turning around for the Devils, however. They won their last game against Winnipeg in a shootout, their first shootout win after an NHL record 18 consecutive losses.
The Devils are expected to be without sniper Mike Cammalleri, who is day-to-day with a jaw/neck injury and hasn’t skated since last Friday. Martin Havlat is on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
The Blue Jackets and Devils met on Feb. 27 of last season, a 5-2 Devils win at Prudential Center. The Devils did exactly what the Blue Jackets will try to defend against tonight, getting off to a quick start and jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. Ryane Clowe opened the scoring, and then it was Jagr and Henrique netting power play goals 1:23 apart. Henrique would add another shorthanded marker later in the game.
It was Columbus’ first loss to New Jersey in four games. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves, and Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik scored for the Blue Jackets against Schneider. It was Gaborik’s final goal in a Columbus uniform before being dealt to the Kings a week later.
It’s early, but the Devils’ rookie defenseman is already making a big splash on the blue line. Severson has four goals and seven points in his first 10 NHL games, leading all rookie defensemen in both categories. Severson has a heavy shot, with all four of his goals coming on drives from the top of the circle or higher. He also is second on the team in average ice-time, behind only his top-pairing partner, Andy Greene. Jagr told Devils’ beat writer Rich Chere, "He's playing the game like he's been in the League for 10 years." It’s still early, but after scoring 61 points in 64 games for Kelowna in juniors last year, Severson looks like the real deal.
It’s hard to find a player hotter than Ryan Johansen. He picked up a helper on Cam Atkinson’s third period goal Friday night to extend his point streak to a season-long ten games. Dating back to last season, Johansen has points in 16 consecutive regular season games (eight goals, 13 assists). Helping his cause, Johansen has meshed well since he was slid between Cam Atkinson and Scott Hartnell to form the new top unit. Hartnell has been around the net and has six points in the last five games. Cam Atkinson has returned from injury to score in two straight, both assisted by Johansen. With the Jackets struggling to score of late, Johansen is bringing consistent production.
The Devils’ power play is 4th-best in the league, clicking at a 25 percent rate. The Blue Jackets penalty kill was one of the last two perfect units in the NHL before their west coast road trip, but since has struggled and given up seven goals in the past five games. On the flip side, the Devils' penalty kill sits near the bottom of the NHL, 29th in the league and only 10-of-18 (55 percent) in their last five games. It’s not good for the Devils that they’ve spent the third-most time in the league shorthanded this season. The Blue Jackets' power play (19 percent) will need to capitalize in a game where the most effective special teams unit can prevail.