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Devils not looking so powerful with man advantage

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- The absence of Patrik Elias is certainly taking its toll on the New Jersey Devils' power play during the initial games of the 2009-10 campaign.

Elias, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, is expected to begin skating this week after being sidelined since Sept. 15 following arthroscopic groin surgery. The Devils assistant captain notched a career-high 12 power-play goals last season when his club finished 15th in the League with an 18.9 percentage with the man advantage.

But while the Devils await Elias' return -- which could come as early as the end of this month -- the team must endure.

Through two games, however, that's been a problem.

"Of course, you would miss a player like (Elias) everywhere on the ice because he plays all aspects of the game," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "Not having a guy like that in the lineup hurts, but there's no excuses here. There are guys in our lineup that are put in certain situations to produce and we have to find ways to get wins right now."

The Devils are 2-for-12 this season on the power play, including a second straight 1-for-6 effort on Monday in a 3-2 loss to the Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers (2-1-0) before 17,625 at Prudential Center.

"We showed some life with that power-play goal (by Travis Zajac) in the first, but then couldn't maintain that momentum and got into trouble taking penalties of our own," Langenbrunner said. "That kind of took us out of our rhythm."

Perhaps even more alarming is the fact New Jersey (0-2-0) has come up empty on three two-man advantages this season. That includes a pair against the Flyers on Saturday and another for 26 seconds against the Rangers to open the third period on Monday.

"The thing is, they kill a 5-on-3 and then their bench is fired up and it sends a message to us," wing David Clarkson said. "It's huge and that was a big difference tonight. But we're just one pass, one second away from being great. We're there, and we'll make those plays and get better as the season goes on."

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire believes he knows what's ailing his team's power play.

"We don't shoot the puck enough," Lemaire said. "We're actually killing our own power play at times. You move the puck around and kill time, but you must be in position to shoot. If you want to shoot, shoot it. We're looking at different ways to pass and it's not working out."

"Execution might be the biggest problem," Langenbrunner said. "We worked on our power play on Sunday and maybe that's where the chemistry thing comes into play. We have to get accustomed to knowing where guys are and we must put ourselves in the right situation to be in a spot to shoot -- but you have to get yourself in those spots. We're standing still out there and when a power play is working, skaters are moving and creating problems for the opposition."

The Devils generated just five shots on their six power-play opportunities against the Rangers.

"To be honest, I don't know what the problem is right now," Devils defenseman Paul Martin said. "We want to get pucks on net from the back end and it's up to our top guys to make plays, and if they're not making plays it's tough to get a good thing going on the power play. We just need to get pucks to the net in the right situations. Hopefully, we'll get better."

Martin feels the team's upcoming three-game road trip might do the team, and its power play, some good.

"I do feel going on the road will benefit us," Martin said. "We haven't been playing well in front of our home crowd, so to go on the road as a team and play for each other and together, could do some good. Hopefully we can manage some points."

The Devils travel to Tampa Bay, Florida and Washington before returning home Oct. 16 against the Atlanta Thrashers.

-- Mike Morreale, Staff Writer

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