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After streaks, Devils turn the page

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Elias chipped in two assists Monday for his first points of 2009-10.
Both their road and overall winning streaks are over, but the Devils were eager to turn the page and looked to get back on track when they visit the Predators on Thursday.

Monday's 3-2 defeat in Philadelphia snapped a run of eight straight wins for the Devils. They came one road victory shy of matching the League-record 10-0 road start by the 2006-07 Sabres.

"It’s obviously tough to lose games, but we had a good run," Travis Zajac said. "We knew we weren’t going to go 41-0 on the road. We didn’t play well. It’s going to happen, so we’ll just try to start a new one in Nashville."

The stats on the eight-game winning streak reflect how well the club overcame the absence of key regulars. Forwards Rob Niedermayer (upper body) and Jay Pandolfo (shoulder), as well as defensemen Paul Martin (arm) and Johnny Oduya (lower body) all remain sidelined.

Jersey's Team outscored opponents, 24-11, while outshooting them, 230-211. The power play connected at nearly a 30-percent clip (8-31, 25.8%), while the penalty kill allowed one goal in 21 opportunities (95%).

They captured five one-goal wins, and held opponents to one goal five times. Six different skaters accounted for the eight game-winners: David Clarkson (2), Andy Greene (2), Dainius Zubrus, Niclas Bergfors, Brian Rolston and Zach Parise.

Parise had points in all but two games during the streak, including goals in each of the final four contests. The Devils' leading scorer with 24 points (11g-13a) in 19 games, Parise amassed four goals and five assists for nine points over the eight-game span.

Martin Brodeur posted a 6-0 mark with a 1.48 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. Yann Danis won his first two starts as a Devil, allowing one goal in each to the tune of a .964 save percentage.

On their 9-0 road surge – the second longest to start a season in League history – New Jersey outscored teams 26-15 in regulation and went 3-0 in shootouts. The power play went 8-for-30 (26.7%), while the PK stopped 27 of 30 opportunities.

"We can certainly get a lot better, but we did a lot of good things during that wins streak," Zajac said. "We came from behind, we played with the lead, our PK was good, our power play was good. So there were a lot of positives. Everyone contributed, so now we just need to get back on track and do it all over again."

Zajac sees some room for the Devils to improve. They fell behind 2-0 twice in the final four games before rallying.

"I think we can still get better starts during the game," he said. "We have had to play from behind a couple of games, and that’s always tough. Just controlling the puck and playing a full 60-minute game; I think we’ve done a much better job of that recently, of making plays and controlling pucks. If we continue to do that, we’ll be a really good team."

The Devils did not skate in New Jersey on Wednesday morning, opting instead for an afternoon practice in Nashville.

"We could practice here and go there, but we decided to practice in Nashville," head coach Jacques Lemaire said Tuesday. "We’ll get there, it’s a two-hour flight. It’s a long flight, and I feel that after a long flight like that, you feel sluggish a bit. Going on the ice and loosening up gives you life, energy. We don’t lose anything here; it’s the same thing."

Patrik Elias was one of four Devils (Clarkson, Jamie Langenbrunner, Bryce Salvador) that had rest days on Tuesday.

For now, time off is just as important as ice time for Elias, who's still working his way back to top shape after missing the first 13 games of the season. He picked up his first points of 2009-10 with two assists versus the Flyers on Monday.

"It still hurts here and there, uncomfortable and doesn’t allow me to skate as hard as I can or to just play maybe the whole game up to the tempo that I like to," Elias, who had offseason groin surgery, said. "But it’s a work in progress. I’m just glad that I get through the games: sometimes with pain and sometimes without pain, and that I’m OK to play the next game. That’s a good thing."

He expects to rest when the schedule allows.

"I think so, especially for practices like this where we don’t play for a couple of days," he said. "The break and the rest is just as important as working through it to work yourself back. There’s got to be good balance, and the body needs rest also."

Elias finally got on the scoresheet in his fifth game back. He assisted on Clarkson's power-play goal in the second period 700K , then added his second helper on Parise's goal with 0.6 seconds left in regulation 700K

"I’m not down on myself or anything," said the Devils' all-time leading scorer. "It’s my fifth game in six months, and most of the guys have been skating since August. It’s going to take time. For me, I have to get my feel back, my shooting back, positioning, everything. Just trying to keep it simple. With that, and feeling good physically, it all comes. When you feel good physically, you get the hockey sense back and all of a sudden you put yourself back in better position so you get more time to make a play, to shoot, and you’re going to get more opportunity. It’s going to come."

Elias said he's not operating on any timetable. The plan is to manage his conditioning while making sure that the injury's adequately rested.

"No expectations," he said. "I just try to go through the games and see how it feels. Couple of games it didn’t feel good at all, and the last couple of games it felt better. Yesterday I was very tired; my leg felt a little bit sore, more than the two games before that. Like I said, there’s going to be good days and bad days. As long as I can just keep playing each game, that’s fine."

Elias wasn't challenged by the Flyers' hard-hitting style.

"I didn’t feel like it was any more physical than the games before that," Elias said. "We know what type of team they are, and you have to be cautious, you have to keep your head up in those games and not shy away from it. It was fine, might just be playing four games in six nights. That’s also something new; it gets tired. Today, just a good rest, and get ready for tomorrow."

• New Jersey will face Western opponents in back-to-back games after playing only one game against the West in their first 19 contests. The Devils topped Anaheim, 3-1, on Nov. 11.

"I think it’s faster," Lemaire said of the West, where he coached for nine years with Minnesota. "Here, I think the guys are bigger on this side. It’s more, I can’t say aggressive, it’s aggressive on the other side too. They’ve got teams that play aggressive. I would say it’s more offense-minded, the other side."

Lemaire said that as a coach, he has no preference for either style, but adjusts accordingly.

"You go with the styles, the tendencies of different teams," he said. "Then you have to look at the trips. At my age, I like these trips here. And for the players, it pays off in the long run. It demands a lot, the other side. I know you get used to travel when you don’t know anything else and you have to do it, you do it because you decided to play there. But when you get to this division as an example, travel is so easy, but games are tighter, tougher. I thought we were in a tough division when I was in Minny. But it’s a tough division here. Two years back, the Islanders were not as good. Now they’re good, so you’ve got all five teams."

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