After two weeks filled with mediocrity and disappointment, the New Jersey Devils will have a rare rest period.
The Devils’ last game, Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, will come with a few days off for New Jersey, which won’t play again until Thursday in Winnipeg.
But, these three days off couldn’t have come at a better time for the slumping Devils. After a red-hot start, the Devils have tailed off over the past few games, including back-to-back losses to the Washington Capitals and the Jets.
Adding insult to injury, the Devils have started to feel the pains of a lockout-shortened season. Despite staying relatively healthy, the depth in New Jersey has been tested recently, with injuries to Dainius Zubrus and Ryan Carter leaving both of them on injured reserve. On Sunday, goalie Martin Brodeur couldn’t play with a sore back. After receiving tests on Monday, the Devils have listed him as day-to-day.
Most importantly, though, this short break will give the Devils the opportunity to find their game again. Since the Devils’ impressive 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 10, it’s been a different team on the ice. In those seven games after that victory, New Jersey is 2-4-1, with its only wins coming against the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-3, on Feb. 15 and the Capitals, 3-2, on Feb. 21.
For the first time in 2013, the Devils appear to be facing serious adversity. Earlier in the season, New Jersey rocketed to the top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings, but has since fell off. Currently, they are two points behind the Penguins, who will play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference overall.
When the Devils play again on Thursday, few of their problems will be solved. The short-term future of Brodeur will likely be known by then — and with the way the Devils are describing it, it doesn’t seem to be serious. But other problems, such as a lack of goal-scoring and cohesion along the defensive side of the ice, will remain the same. One thing solves issues like that: winning.
It might be good that the Devils are struggling, too. Teams never last an entire season on a hot-streak, and the ones that do usually burn out by playoff time. Adversity isn’t a new idea to the Devils, and with the level of leadership on this team, it will probably be met with force in the coming games.
To see just how the Devils will react, though, will remain until Thursday.