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DeBoer, Devils positive despite injuries, losses

by Jon Lane /

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the calendar turns, the New Jersey Devils need a turnaround.

Eight points out of the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Devils are back at Prudential Center after playing 15 of their previous 20 games on the road.

A 5-11-4 record during that stretch did not deter coach Peter DeBoer. Combined with the upcoming three-day Christmas break and a road game against the New York Rangers on Dec. 27, the Devils will remain in the New York metropolitan area until a New Year's Eve game at the Detroit Red Wings.

"Six points out with 50 games left (before a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday), I don’t care what anybody says about history or anything like that. That's not an insurmountable amount of points," DeBoer said. "But we have to start winning games. We have to string four or five wins. We've played 10 more road games than home games, so the table is set for us. We have to make sure that we get it done."

Despite outshooting the Senators 34-16 on goal and 58-25 in shot attempts, and holding them without a shot for 18:40 bridging the first and second periods, the Devils fell to 3-5-4 at home.

New Jersey has lost five straight (0-3-2), has two wins in its past 13 games (2-7-4), and is five games under .500 (11-16-6) for the first time since Feb. 19, 2011. The Devils are 6-6-6 in one-goal games and 1-2-4 during their 13-game slide and rank 26th in scoring at 2.2 goals per game.

"That's the way it goes," forward Patrik Elias said. "We played well, a lot of good things, a lot of positives. It's just you don't score goals you're not going to win hockey games. It seems like it's happening a lot out of our [33] games."

DeBoer was asked Thursday what could happen if the Devils can't reverse course. In his first season, he coached the Devils to 48 wins and the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings, but they are in position to miss the playoffs for the third straight season and fourth in the past five.

"That comes with the job," DeBoer told the Devils website. "You show up here and do the best job that you possibly can. We're looking for solutions every day.

"Other people make those decisions. If it ends tomorrow, I know what I invested and what our staff has invested into these players on a daily basis and I think we're all comfortable with that. We don't like where we're at, but I know how hard we're working as a group."

The vibe in the locker room after the game Wednesday remained positive, but fans voiced their frustration when the Devils were booed off the ice in the closing seconds.

"They were disappointed, so were we, trust me, but we didn't deserve that today," Elias said. "The effort was there. We were the better team. We understand it, but it wasn't deserved. I didn't appreciate that."

What's also hurt the Devils has been the shootout, where they're 1-5 this season and 1-18 since last season. They failed to protect a third-period lead in their two recent shootout losses, allowing the tying goal with 3:13 left in a Dec. 9 game against the Chicago Blackhawks and letting a 2-1 lead Monday against the New York Islanders slip away. The losses left backup goalie Keith Kinkaid, who made 37 saves against Chicago and 31 against New York, waiting for his first NHL victory, and the Devils seeking answers that have been hard to find.

"We have to stick to our game right now," defenseman Eric Gelinas said. "Everyone is playing solid and it's just a matter of scoring. Defensively we're not giving up a lot of chances or goals, so we have to stick to this. It's going to turn around for us."

The Devils will have to turn it around dealing with a crowded injured list that added rookie defenseman Damon Severson, out four-to-five weeks with a hairline fracture in his left ankle, on Thursday. Leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri (lower body) has missed the past two games and 10 this season. Forwards Dainius Zubrus (left leg lacerations) and Ryane Clowe (head), and defensemen Adam Larsson (mumps) and Bryce Salvador (lower body) have been sidelined.

Reinforcements could be imminent. Cammalleri and Zubrus are skating on their own; Larsson took part in the morning skate Wednesday, skated hard Thursday at an optional practice, and was assigned to Albany of the American Hockey League for conditioning.

Injuries aside, the Devils have had their chances to win but haven't gotten over the top, and they need to find a solution before it's too late.

"Sure, you're concerned," DeBoer told the Devils website. "I think what keeps me optimistic on a daily basis is the way we're playing. I really think we've played well in probably eight of our last 10 games, well enough to pick up points and a lot of those games better than the other team. It hasn't resulted in results, but if we keep doing that and get some people back I know it will."


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