Devils-Blue Jackets Preview
GAME: New Jersey Devils (13-12-3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (8-20-0).
TIME: Sunday, 5 p.m. EST.
The New Jersey Devils look to avoid tying their season-high losing streak at four games when they visit one of the NHL's worst teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Devils extended their skid and lost for the fourth time in five games Friday, 4-3 to Colorado in a shootout. Jay Pandolfo, Brian Gionta, and Scott Gomez each scored to rally the Devils from a three-goal first-period deficit, but Avalanche forward Antti Laaksonen scored the only goal in a seven-round shootout.
"Coming back against a team like Colorado says a lot about our club," Devils coach Larry Robinson said.
Robinson was happier with his team's effort after questioning the leadership following a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
"I took it as a good slap in the face," Gomez said. "He had every right to say that, the way we were playing. After the first period, it was like the old Devils. I think we're finally realizing what this unit can do."
Goaltender Martin Brodeur has seen his goals-against average increase from 2.03 in 2003-04 to 3.09 in 21 games this season. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has yet to record a shutout after posting 11 in 2003-04.
The Devils have struggled on the power play with only two goals in their last 40 opportunities, but they're facing a Blue Jackets team that's allowed 16 power-play goals in its last nine contests.
Columbus lost for the second time in three games Friday, 5-2 at Atlanta. Jaroslav Balastik scored his second goal of the season on the power play at 19:19 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1, but the Blue Jackets allowed three unanswered goals in the second period.
"When we give up one goal, we just can't give up the second and third one," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said.
The Blue Jackets have a league-low 54 goals this season and leading scorer David Vyborny hasn't scored in 12 straight games. Columbus attempted to improve its offense by acquiring Sergei Fedorov from Anaheim on Nov. 15, but he has one goal and three assists in 10 games since joining the Blue Jackets.
New Jersey, which lost four in a row from Nov. 1-8, is 2-2 all-time in Columbus.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 10): Devils - 29 points, 4th place, 15 PB, Atlantic Division. Blue Jackets - 16 points, 4th place, 26 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 17 goals and 30 points; Gomez, 15 assists; Jamie Langenbrunner, 34 PIM. Blue Jackets - Vyborny and Nikolai Zherdev, 6 goals; Manny Malhotra, 13 assists; Vyborny, 18 points; Jody Shelley, 58 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 10): Devils - Power play: 18.4 percent (30 for 163), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (113 for 138), tied for 18th. Blue Jackets - Power play: 11.8 percent (19 for 160), 30th. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (161 for 198), 22nd.
GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (11-9-1, 3.09 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-3-2, 3.54). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (3-11-0, 3.38); Martin Prusek (3-3-0, 3.22).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Devils, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 27, 2004; Devils, 4-3. At Columbus, Ohio, Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist, and Brodeur stopped 28 shots for New Jersey.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 5-7-1 on the road; Blue Jackets - 5-8-0 at home.