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The week ahead - Feb. 1

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Brodeur begins the week as the League leader in wins (32) and shutouts (7).
After taking two of three games in the week ending Jan. 24, the Devils stumbled with Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Ottawa. They recovered with a stronger effort Wednesday, gaining a point in a 2-1 shootout loss at Buffalo.

Jersey’s Team overcame a blown two-goal lead to top Toronto in overtime on Friday, then allowed two goals in the final two minutes of Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Los Angeles.

The Devils have dropped seven of 10 entering this week, but hold a three-point lead over Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand. The Penguins were set to host Buffalo on Monday.

The week ahead
Tues. @ Toronto 
Fri. vs. Toronto GET TICKETS
Sat. @ NY Rangers

All games broadcast on MSG Plus and WFAN 660 AM. Friday's radio is Bloomberg 1130 AM.

Toronto (17-28-11) is now a vastly different club from the one the Devils beat on Friday. On Sunday, Maple Leafs’ President & GM Brian Burke swung a seven-player deal with Calgary that brought former Norris Trophy finalist Dion Phaneuf, along with forward Freddy Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie, to Toronto. In return, the Leafs shipped forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and defenseman Ian White to the Flames.

“Definitely a little overhaul out there. Not many guys in return though – a lot of guys leaving,” Martin Brodeur said Monday. “It’ll be interesting to see what kind of lineup they have for the next two games.”

Phaneuf’s first two games as a Leaf will come against the Devils, perhaps bumping talk of Brodeur and his Olympic role with Team Canada to the backburner for New Jersey’s first visit to the Air Canada Centre.

The last-place Leafs are winless in six straight and went 3-10-2 in January. Head coach Jacques Lemaire has to prepare for a revamped opponent.

"The coach usually has a certain way to play and the guys that will be dressed will play the same way," he said. "That won't change."

In a second trade, Burke picked up goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim, sending forward Jason Blake and goalie Vesa Toskala to the Ducks. Giguere owns a mark of 4-8-5 to go with a 3.14 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in 20 appearances this season. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2003, when the Devils beat Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Finals.

“It’s a big story for them, with Giguere coming in also,” Brodeur said. “Phaneuf, it definitely will be interesting to see him jump on the ice and see how the fans react. I’m surprised Calgary would move a player like that. I got to play with him at Team Canada training camp and he’s a good player.”

Even with Toronto’s roster shakeup, Brodeur is ready for all the attention that his trip into Toronto will garner. It will be the Devils’ last stop north of the border before the Olympic hockey tournament opens in Vancouver on Feb. 16.

“Usually we try to manage it as good as we can,” he said. “It’s important to answer the questions, especially for me going back to Canada. I don’t go there too often, so you want them to have the opportunity to be able to talk to me. But when there’s a hockey game, you have to play. That’s still what I need to do. It’s a bit like what we had to go through in Montreal, probably on a bigger scale, when I tied Patrick Roy’s (wins record last March). You do things accordingly.”

Phaneuf will bolster a Toronto blue line that already features Tomas Kaberle, who's fourth among NHL d-men in scoring with 43 points (5g-38a). Defenseman Mike Komisarek, signed by the Leafs as a free agent last summer, has been limited to 34 games because of injury, and has not played since Jan. 2 (upper body).

Brodeur felt Toronto might have sacrificed some forward depth to land Phaneuf, who had 10 goals and 12 assists in 55 games with Calgary. The 24-year-old Edmonton native is in his fifth NHL campaign. 

“They paid a price offensively with some of their skilled forwards – for now,” he said. “Listening to the media, ‘(Burke’s) open for business for more trades.’ Right now, who knows what’s going to happen before (the March 3 trading deadline).”

By the time the Devils visit MSG on Saturday, the Rangers (25-24-7) might be a different squad, too. They reportedly acquired forwards Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust from Calgary for a package that included forwards Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins. That deal was said to be on hold as of Monday afternoon.

The Rangers split the first two outings of a three-game Western swing, and snapped a five-game losing streak with Sunday’s 3-1 win at Colorado.

New York begins the week in a three-way tie with Philadelphia and Florida for the final playoff spot in the East. New Jersey has taken back-to-back wins over its division rival. After Saturday’s contest, they close out the season series with games at Prudential Center on March 10 and 25.

“There’s things that happen in our game that weren’t there before. Whatever reason that is, we need to figure it out as quick as possible so we don’t keep doing the same thing over and over. It comes to be something pretty hard. Right now, we’re win one, lose one, win one, lose two, win one. We need to start building how consistent we are like we were early in the season. That’s the bottom line. It’s definitely a little harder. Teams are gunning more for us now knowing that we were on top for the most part. Teams are playing us well.” – Martin Brodeur (Monday, Feb. 1)

Who’s hot
In two games, the line of Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus combined for five goals and nine assists. Lemaire indicated Sunday night that he’s likely to break up the trio, however, moving Zubrus to center to relieve some of Rob Niedermayer’s workload up the middle.

Zajac has five points in two games, including goals in back-to-back outings. Both were blasts from the right circle.

“It’s just kind of been lucky, hitting goalies and going in,” he said Monday. “I’ve been trying to shoot a little quicker before goalies get set up and have time to come out and challenge. Both goals were on the ice, five-hole or went off them. It seems to be working right now.”

Zajac endured a 12-game goal drought from Dec. 9 to Jan. 2. Since then, he’s notched seven goals and nine assists in 14 games.

“When you’re scoring, you get more confidence to shoot the puck,” he said. “That helps a bit, too.”

The Devils assigned forward Nick Palmieri to Lowell (AHL) on Saturday. The 20-year-old right wing had an assist in his NHL debut on Jan. 20, and appeared in six games with New Jersey.

A young fan takes in the Devils-Leafs game at the Rock.
Last week
Jan. 26 - OTT 3, NJ 0
Brian Elliott recorded 24 saves to lead the Senators to a 3-0 win over the Devils at Scotiabank Place. New Jersey saw its winning streak against Ottawa snapped at nine games, and had its bid foiled for consecutive sweeps of the season series.

Alexei Kovalev and Milan Michalek scored even strength goals as the Devils fell behind 2-0 for the fourth time in their last five road games. Jason Spezza added a tally in the second period to hand the Devils their fifth loss in seven outings.

Brodeur made his 30th consecutive start but was relieved by Yann Danis after the second period. Brodeur finished with nine saves on 12 shots. Danis, whose last start was Nov. 21 at Dallas, made his second relief appearance in a span of five games. He turned away all six Ottawa shots in the third.

The Devils were shutout for the third time in eight games, and second time in their last five. They had gone the first 43 games of the season without being blanked once.

Zubrus returned to action after missing 30 games with a leg injury.

Jan. 27 - BUF 2, NJ 1 SO
Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout to send the Devils to their sixth loss in eight games. Hecht deked at the left circle to avoid Brodeur’s poke check, and Pominville snuck a wrist shot underneath Brodeur’s catching glove. New Jersey dipped to 6-2 this season on shootouts.

In his 31st consecutive start and 38th straight appearance, Brodeur recorded 30 saves, including four in overtime.

Shootout attempts by Parise (forehand deke) and Jamie Langenbrunner (fake slapshot in slot, forehand) were stopped by Ryan Miller, who finished with 39 saves in the contest.

“We played better, definitely,” said Lemaire. “We had a lot of good chances. We didn’t capitalize as much as we would like, but our chances were there. They were there, and we didn’t give up a lot. We gave them five, six chances, which is pretty good.”

Buffalo’s Adam Mair opened the scoring in the second. Brian Rolston’s 16th of the season snapped a six-game points drought and tied the game, 1-1, later in the frame. Johnny Oduya hit Rolston with a long pass from his own zone, springing Rolston for a partial break and a blast from the left circle that beat Miller shortside. The assist was Oduya’s first point in 10 games.

“We get more chances, you want to win,” Lemaire said. “You get a point but this is a game that we felt we should’ve won because of the chances we got versus the chances they had.”

Jan. 29 - NJ 5, TOR 4 OT
Call it the ZZZ line, but the trio of Parise-Zajac-Zubrus was anything but a snooze in Friday’s overtime triumph over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. They combined for four goals and seven assists, led by Zajac’s winning PPG with 45.5 seconds to go in in the extra session.

The Devils blew a 4-2 lead in the third period, but came back to snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 2-0 in overtime.

Zajac added three assists for his first career four-point outing. Parise, who leads the team with 25 goals, 32 assists and 57 points, had two goals and two assists for his first four-point game of the season, sixth of his career. Zubrus, in just his third game back since missing 30 with a leg injury, potted a goal and two assists.

Brodeur made his 32nd consecutive start and recorded 25 saves for his League-leading 32nd victory.

Patrick Davis notched his first career goal in his seventh career NHL game, and it wound up being a big one.

"When I scored to put us ahead by two goals, I really didn't think it was going to that important of a goal," Davis said. "When they scored the third one, I thought, 'I've got the game-winning goal right now with just five minutes left.' Unfortunately they did tie it up, but this was a great win for this team.”

"I couldn't stop smiling," he continued. "It was a dream come true and I just can't put into words how it felt."

Jan. 31 - LA 3, NJ 2
Oduya and Zajac staked the Devils to a 2-0 lead before they allowed three unanswered goals – including two in the final 1:46 of regulation.

Oduya snapped a 26-game goal drought with his second of the season. His centering feed for Rolston deflected off the skate of Kings defenseman Jack Johnson and past Jonathan Quick 4:45 into the contest. Zajac’s 16th was a right-circle slapper set up by Zubrus on a three-on-two with Parise.

Michal Handzus scored from the crease with 28.7 to go in the middle frame. Wayne Simmonds’ sharp-angle shortside wrister on Brodeur tied it at 18:14 of the third. The Kings cashed in on Andy Greene’s trip with a minute to go in the third. Drew Doughty’s slapshot through traffic broke the 2-2 tie on the power play with 27.3 seconds left.

Brodeur finished with 19 saves, but the Devils suffered their seventh loss in the last 10 games.
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