The New Jersey Devils will always be a stingy defensive team as long as Martin Brodeur is in net, but the Devils certainly wouldn't mind a few more goals to make things a bit more comfortable.
New Jersey will try to snap out of an early offensive funk on Thursday night when it continues its road trip against the Atlanta Thrashers, who were among the NHL's worst defensive teams last season.
Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups and four Vezina trophies in his illustrious career - including four of the last five goaltender of the year awards - and he's off to another strong start, having allowed just five goals through three games this season. But his teammates haven't offered him much support early in 2008-09, scoring just as many goals in the three contests.
The Devils (2-1-0) won each of their first two games by a 2-1 score, but they lost 4-1 to the New York Rangers on Monday, managing only John Madden's second-period goal on 27 shots. New Jersey finished 27th in the NHL with 198 goals last season, when it was eliminated 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs by the Rangers.
"We haven't scored much," Madden told the Devils' official Web site. "That troubled us a lot last year, but I think the difference is we were shut out 10 times last year. Fortunately, we haven't been shut out yet, but we've come pretty close. We have to find ways to score goals, whether it's dirty goals that come from mucking it up or getting rebounds."
Perhaps facing Atlanta (1-1-1) will help. The Thrashers allowed 266 goals last season, tied with Tampa Bay for the most in the league, and the Devils took advantage, going 3-0-1 against Atlanta and scoring 14 goals in those games.
In two regulation victories last season at Philips Arena, the Devils outscored Atlanta 9-5, scoring six goals against goalie Kari Lehtonen in a 6-5 win last Oct. 13. Lehtonen has a 3.58 lifetime goals-against average against New Jersey, while backup Johan Hedberg has beaten the Devils just once in his last seven starts against them.
The Thrashers have again struggled defensively to start this season, as Lehtonen has a 3.71 GAA through three contests. He allowed three third-period goals on five shots in a 4-2 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday as new Atlanta coach John Anderson was dealt his first regulation defeat.
"We were trying to do too many individual things," Anderson said. "I like the fact that we're trying to do those things, but we still have to do them in the framework of what we're trying to do as a team, and we just didn't do that."
There were positives against the Wild, however, and Anderson insisted that it wasn't "all gloom and doom" for the Thrashers.
Ilya Kovalchuk, the NHL's second-leading goal-scorer last season, scored for the first time in 2008-09, and center Bryan Little continued his strong start with a goal and an assist. Little, a first-round pick in the 2006 draft, has three goals and two assists three games into his second season.