New Jersey Devils: California Dreaming


The New Jersey Devils open their three game visit to California tomorrow night against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings in a game which is what I like to refer to as a “tale of two seasons” matchup. The Kings are flying high, in second place in the Pacific Division, arguably the most difficult division in the NHL , while the Devils are in second-to-last place in the Metropolitan Division and have a record of 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.

Some may say that the Devils ability to come home next week with a winning record in three games against top-tier teams out West is akin to California dreaming.

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The clash with the Kings looks more daunting from my perspective as a New Jersey Devils fan when I checked the standings and observed that L.A. sports a 15-5-4 record on their home ice at Staples Center. The Kings are 4-2-4 in their last 10 games, but their home record is among the best in the entire league.

In addition, to provide some further perspective on just how far apart the performance of these two teams has been during the 2014-15 season keep in mind that the Kings have 15 wins at home this season, the Devils have 15 wins total this season. New Jersey has an 8-14-2 record on the road this season, which looks bad but actually 6 teams, including the Kings, have worse road records than the Devils.

Despite all of the records and statistics, the Kings have a strong advantage in their home arena that the Devils will only overcome to earn a positive result on Wednesday night by playing hard and limiting mistakes. New Jersey has to take the aggressive stance in this matchup because the Kings are an aggressive and physically imposing team. They are coached well with a system that fits their personnel and encourages the players to play the puck with a high degree of risk compared to other systems employed in the NHL.

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  • The Devils will be without Jaromir Jagr who has the flu and will sit out the game as it was announced by the team earlier today. That could not come at a worse time for New Jersey and you have to wonder at Jagr’s age it may take him a longer period of time to get rested and healthy, plus the coaching staff does not want him to spread the illness to the rest of the team.

    New Context

    This game takes on a whole new context when some fans on social media were discussing the possibility that L.A. may “look past” the Devils because they have been struggling and will be without Jagr in this game. I do not subscribe to that theory for two reasons: it is not within the Kings pedigree to look past any opponent and secondly the upcoming schedule is difficult for Los Angeles.

    The Kings upcoming schedule includes games against the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, and Chicago Blackhawks. They would like nothing more than to secure a win against the Devils tomorrow night in order to provide them with some cushion entering that rough stretch of games against very good teams.

    The Devils have a pretty difficult upcoming schedule as well with the remaining games on this trip against the Ducks (1st place in the Pacific Division) and Sharks (4th place in the Pacific, but with 22 wins this season) before returning home to the Garden State to play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (22 wins this season) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (25 wins, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division).

    Shoot First

    My main criticism of the Devils this season is that they do not shoot the puck enough, they are at times tentative on offense. I had the same issue with the team last season as well and it has not, for the most part, changed. New Jersey cannot afford to be that tentative against the Kings, they need to shoot first before looking to make the extra pass.

    The Devils also must take a volume shooting approach against a Kings team which was excellent on the penalty kill in their last game. Los Angeles has also been riding a hot streak by their star winger Marian Gaborik who the Devils will need to find a way to contain within their defensive strategy for this game.

    The exact specifics of all of these games will follow in the days ahead here on Pucks & Pitchforks so keep checking our site for game previews, recaps, and all the latest news surrounding the Devils as they begin a difficult road trip in California.

    (Records and statistics courtesy of

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