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Game Day: Blue Jackets vs. Devils

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets


**all statistics, streaks and records are official entering Feb. 27's games

The Jackets hope to snap their four-game losing streak on the final leg of their homestand when the New Jersey Devils visit on Saturday. The early-evening contest will be the Jackets’ second meeting this season against New Jersey and their first of three against the Devils over the next month.

The Devils made headlines this week when they shipped Jaromir Jagr to the Florida Panthers in exchange for draft picks. Jagr had seen his role diminish over the course of the season and appeared ready for a change, but GM Lou Lamoriello said he's not ready to give up on the season.

The Devils are still on the fringe of the playoff picture. With the Bruins stumbling and clinging to the final wild card spot, the Devils have won four of their past five and will face those Bruins on Friday night before heading to Columbus. The Devils are eight points out but must leap-frog three other teams before they can chase down the Bruins, including Jagr's new employer.

The Devils are a low-scoring team with the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL this season. Only leading scorer Mike Cammalleri has cracked the 20-goal mark and only four Devils have more than nine on the season.

Former fourth-overall pick Adam Larsson has 17 points and has shown dramatic improvement under the teachings of Devils great Scott Stevens, who took on the role after the dismissal of  former coach Pete DeBoer in December. Other youngsters with heavy promise include Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson (injured ankle), all under the age of 24 and playing big minutes in New Jersey.

In net, Cory Schneider and emerging back-up Keith Kinkaid have allowed a seamless transition from the Martin Brodeur era in Newark.

The Blue Jackets and Devils last met way back on Nov. 1, the first start of Anton Forsberg’s NHL career. The Devils beat Columbus on home ice, 3-2, at that time pushing the Blue Jackets’ losing streak to five games. Columbus jumped out to an early lead, scoring just 1:06 into the game when Brian Gibbons set up Jack Skille on a 2-on-1 rush to beat Schneider. That would be the only goal until Marek Zidlicky and Nick Foligno traded power play goals in the second.

The Jackets outshot New Jersey in the third period, but the Devils scored the only two goals. At 8:54 of the third, and with a mess of bodies scrambling for a loose puck in Forsberg’s crease, Adam Henrique came away with it and put it into a gaping net to tie the game. Roughly a minute and a half later, a Larsson slapper from the right point found its way through traffic and through Forsberg for the eventual game-winner.

Adam Henrique is tied for the scoring lead in New Jersey, but is not having the kind of season he or Devils fans probably hoped for. Henrique’s first three seasons in New Jersey included a 16 goal/51 point rookie season, an 11-goal season during the shortened lockout campaign, and 25 goals last year. That isn’t including his five goals and 13 points during the Devils’ 2012 Stanley Cup run and his overtime goal to send them to the finals. Heading into tonight’s game against the Bruins, Henrique has only 12 goals and 31 points and only two goals in the last 23 games. He has a nose for the net and can score from the dirty areas. With Elias in the twilight of his career, Henrique is a future cornerstone for the next generation of the Devils.

Mike Cammalleri joined the Devils as a free agent in the hopes that he'd bolster their offense, and he’s certainly playing well enough to make the league take notice this year. Cammalleri’s first season in New Jersey has been a strong one, with 23 goals on the season heading into tonight’s game. He has only eight assists with few goals-scorers playing around him, but the goal count indicates that Cammalleri is still one of the game’s best snipers with 30-goal ability. Cammalleri has five goals and six points in his last four games. He has seven power play goals on the season, but lately, has been doing his damage at even strength with only one power play goal since the beginning of February.

“Battle of the Ages”

The average age of the Devils’ roster will dip with the removal of the 43-year-old Jagr, but the Devils are still the league’s oldest team with an average age of 30.25, according to The Jackets, by comparison, are the league’s youngest team. Saturday’s outcome won’t likely depend as much on New Jersey’s experience trumping Columbus’ youth as much as it will on one young group competing against the other. The Devils will look to Henrique, Larsson and Merrill to make an impact at both ends, while the Jackets again look to Ryan Johansen but also hope that Marko Dano’s recent inspired play continues. Players often talk about odd start times affecting the start of a game. With an unusual 5 p.m. start time and a veteran roster on a back-to-back, the Devils will definitely be looking for their younger components to push the pace against a Columbus team that has struggled in first periods.

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