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Game Preview: Jackets look to build in New Jersey

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

After three straight losses to begin the new season, the New Jersey Devils are now one of the league’s hottest teams.

If it weren’t for the unbeaten Montreal Canadiens, perhaps we’d be talking more about the Devils, who have won four straight games and are quickly climbing the division standings. The Devils, long-known for being a defensive club, are playing an uptempo and energetic game under new head coach John Hynes.

It has been a total makeover in New Jersey with a new GM in Ray Shero, some youthful faces in their lineup and a coaching staff with a track record of getting the most out of players.

Hynes was hired this offseason, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he was Shero’s choice; the two men worked together in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization most recently, where Shero was the GM and Hynes coached their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

It’s a by-committee approach for the Devils, who have good balance among their forwards, defensemen and goaltending. Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac are the 1-2 tandem at center and there’s secondary scoring on the wings with newcomer Kyle Palmieri and veterans Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak, the latter signed as a free agent late in the summer. The well-traveled Stempniak has already made an impact with the Devils, scoring two goals and seven points in the team’s first eight games, including an overtime winner against the Rangers last week at Madison Square Garden.

On defense, the Devils have a handful of talented young players including Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill. They’re captained by veteran Andy Greene, a product of Miami University (Ohio).

Cory Schneider is, without question, the No. 1 goaltender in New Jersey and he will get the start on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets.

The last time these two teams met, we had two power play goals, a shorthanded goal late in the third period, and a game-winning goal by a defenseman in overtime. Other than that, it was a pretty normal game.

Columbus trailed 1-0 late in the first period on a power play goal by Mike Cammalleri (more on him below), but rallied with two goals early in the second period courtesy of Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky, the latter on a penalty shot. It was a goaltending duel between Schneider and Sergei Bobrovsky, and Bobrovsky was beaten by a fluky redirection from the goal line with 2:29 to play.

Ryan Johansen made it happen in overtime, though, swooping into the offensive zone before handing off to David Savard, who found Jack Johnson cutting across the slot. Johnson whipped a backhand shot off the post and in, giving the Blue Jackets their seventh consecutive victory.

The Blue Jackets are quite familiar with veteran sniper Mike Cammalleri, who spent time with the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames in the Western Conference, and in the East, has suited up for the Montreal Canadiens and now the Devils.

Now into his 30s, Cammalleri still has that quick-strike scoring touch that’s allowed him to tap into 30-goal territory throughout his career. The Devils’ power play is a beneficiary of Cammalleri’s presence, and you can usually find him camped in the right circle waiting for a one-time attempt or a quick wrist shot.

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