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Sutter focuses on Devils' special teams

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils – The Devils have picked up two wins in their first three games, despite a power play that's not yet firing on all cylinders.

New Jersey has started the year 1-for-11 with the man advantage (9.1%), and has gone nine straight opportunities without a goal. Head coach Brent Sutter said after Monday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers that special teams proved to be the difference.

To that end, Sutter devoted some of Tuesday's practice to special teams, and hoped the extra work would jumpstart his club's offense.

"Working on your power play means you're working on your PK, too," Sutter said following the Devils' skate at AmeriHealth Pavilion. "We want to be better on both."

Scoring was a concern last season for the Devils, who finished 27th in total offense with 198 goals. In the early going of the new campaign, they are tied for last in the East, 11 goals behind the league-leading Rangers. The power play, said Sutter, is the key to a turnaround.

"We scored five goals in three games, and I'm not even saying that's a bad thing because we're 2-1," Sutter added. "But the fact is that if our power play is able to get two or three goals in those three games then maybe it's eight goals, and that's not bad. That's the difference."

The Devils were 0-for-3 on the power play in Monday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers. That followed an 0-for-4 night in Saturday's 2-1 win at Pittsburgh.

New Jersey's penalty kill has allowed four goals on 14 chances (71.4%), including two power play tallies to New York's Aaron Voros on Monday.

"Our PK has been good," Sutter commented. "Last night, we just got on the wrong side of guys we were supposed to be [covering]. I know Pittsburgh scored on it, and the Islanders scored one skating in front of the net. We've just got to work on [the power play and the penalty kill] and make them better."

Sutter did express some satisfaction in how his team has fared at even strength.

"We've done a reasonably good job on 5-on-5 play," he said. "Last night we got away from it for a span where we had too many turnovers. Other than that, our 5-on-5 play has been pretty good."

But the head coach came back to the issue of special teams with the Devils set to wrap up their four-game road trip later this week.

"We've outshot teams, but the power play has to produce for you. It has to score goals. A power play can change the momentum of a game pretty quickly," he said.

After three straight match-ups against Atlantic Division opponents, the Devils visit Atlanta Thursday and Washington Saturday. New Jersey returns home to face Dallas on Thursday, Oct. 22, when the team will host Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night. GET TICKETS

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