The addition of Scott Gomez, who made his season debut Tuesday in Pittsburgh, could buoy Devils' December. (GETTY IMAGES)
The Devils have made it through the first two months of the season, which included a difficult five sets of back-to-back games. A new month brings new opportunity and the chance for the team to fight its way back into the playoff discussion. Below are four reasons why December could be better for the Devils.
Recently re-signed veteran Scott Gomez has a record of being a playmaker who creates chances for his teammates. In each season of his NHL tenure he’s tallied significantly more assists than goals and holds career numbers of 540 assists to 173 goals. Gomez has also been practicing with the Devils since training camp, which should help him make a smooth transition into coach Peter DeBoer’s system. Gomez is 12 games away from his 1000th in the NHL, a milestone that could happen before the New Year if he plays often. Gomez said Monday he’s excited and, “ready to help out, ready to come back.”
Fewer Back-to-Back Games
The Devils’ November schedule featured five sets of back-to-backs; December’s has two. Last month, the Devils went 0-4-1 in first games and 1-3-1 in the second night's matchups. To add to the difficulty, each game of the back-to-back series was played in a different city. The Devils will play their first home back-to-back of the season on Dec. 19-20 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
The majority of the Devils’ games in December are against Eastern Conference teams not currently in the playoff picture, a stark contrast to their November schedule, which featured eight games against the Western Conference. Currently in the West, two teams sit with point totals that would put them ahead or equal with the eighth-place Rangers in the East. With the exception of Edmonton, five of six teams in the west not currently in, are within striking distance of the playoffs and only five points out or less. In the east, the Devils are one of four teams within five points of the playoffs, with four others at least eight points out of contention. While the team’s 6-5-2 record against Eastern Conference opponents is not ideal, it’s a step above a 3-6-2 mark against Western opponents.
December has been a good month in recent Devils history. Last year the Devils worked their way to a 6-5-3 record in December, earning 15 of a possible 28 points. Back in 2011, the Devils went on a 9-3-0 run from December 6 through the end of the year as part of a 9-5-0 month. Five years ago, in 2009, the Devils tore through December with an 11-4-0 record that included an 11-2-0 run from December 4 to December 30.