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Clutch Clarkson lighting the lamp

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

His goal production may be soaring to new heights, but David Clarkson's just happy to be contributing.

He matched a season high Tuesday with his 17th of the year, and did it in dramatic fashion, capitalizing on a crazy bounce off the glass to notch a last-minute tying goal against the Rangers.

The Devils (27-19-3) went on to a 4-3 shootout win to snap a three-game winless streak.

"As long as this team's winning, I'm happy," Clarkson said. "You look at our goals as a team, and our goals are really spread out wide. We've got a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net and that's what makes a team successful. I think as a group, we're doing a lot of good things and we've got to continue to do it."

Clarkson, who tallied 12 goals in 82 games last season, is on pace to finish with 28 goals and 39 points. He posted a career-high 32 points (17g, 15a) in 2008-09.

"You have goals you want to accomplish, whether it's team goals or individual goals," he said. "Things are going well, but everyone knows it's a streaky game, hockey. So you've just got to continue to work hard and do the little things like get to the net. I don't know how you could get lucky bounces like that, but just being around the goal and doing the little things right and hope that it keeps going well."

Clarkson has also benefitted from his relationship with Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who coached him in juniors at Kitchener (OHL).

"I've been through quite a bit with him over the years and have a lot of respect for him," Clarkson said. 

DeBoer sees Clarkson as one of his go-to guys in the clutch.

"For me, he's always been a big-game goal scorer," said the coach. "He's found a way in overtimes, in the playoffs, in big games, to rise to the occasion and score. He has that ability. We've seen that this year. He had an overtime winner in Toronto (Dec. 6), he scores last night to tie it up. He has that ability at key times to find a way to get a goal. That's one of his great characteristics."

Patrik Elias and Bryce Salvador missed Wednesday's practice to rest, but are expected to play Thursday when Montreal visits Prudential Center. Martin Brodeur will start, but Adam Henrique (groin), who missed his second straight practice, will not play.

With 57 points, the Devils are seventh in the East, one point ahead of eighth-place Toronto and two ahead of ninth-place Florida.

"No team is all set that they can maybe take a breather for 30-something games and just say, 'We're there. We'll be OK,'" Elias said. "Every game is tough. You have the Islanders playing well. You have Buffalo playing well. You have top teams playing well, then at certain times, everybody's struggling. There's no easy game. You just have to worry about yourself and just play the next game. We believe we're a good enough team to be in the playoffs, yeah."

Ilya Kovalchuk's sixth shootout winner Tuesday tied him with Adrian Aucion ('09-10) for the NHL's single-season record. (Elias Sports Bureau)

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