New Jersey Devils Open Second Half With Five-Game Home Stand


It seems as if the New Jersey Devils haven’t played a game in, well, forever.

The Devils closed out their season’s “first half” seven days ago with an impressive 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, and haven’t played a game since. With some teams not playing their last game until last Wednesday, New Jersey was able to enjoy an extended All-Star break.

With the All-Star Game now in the past, the Devils’ lone All-Star in Patrik Elias will return to the team as they reconvene for the season’s stretch run this afternoon.

This comes in advance of what will most likely be New Jersey’s most important stretch of games this season, as they return to game action Wednesday night. This will mark the beginning of a five-game home stand, part of a stretch consisting of just one road game in their next seven.

The Devils’ upcoming schedule is as follows:

  • 1/28 vs. Toronto (22-23-3, 47 points)
  • 1/30 vs. Pittsburgh (26-12-8, 60 points)
  • 1/31 vs. Florida (20-14-10, 50 points)
  • 2/3 vs. Ottawa (19-18-9, 47 points)
  • 2/6 vs. Toronto (22-23-3, 47 points)
  • 2/7 at Montreal (29-13-3, 61 points)
  • 2/9 vs. Edmonton (12-26-9, 33 points)

Why Is This Important For The Devils?

At 17-22-8, the Devils have 42 points and find themselves in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Sitting 15 points out of a playoff spot, New Jersey is all but certain to miss the playoffs this season. But with 35 games remaining, the Devils still have time to claw their way back into the playoff race.

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As seen above, four of the Devils’ next five games are against teams that are on the outside of the playoff picture. More importantly, New Jersey’s next five games are at Prudential Center, where they have performed much better this season than they have on the road (7-7-6 at home, 10-15-2 on the road). If you really want to get ahead of yourself, 12 of the Devils next 16 games are at the Rock, as they play only four games away from home during the month of February.

The Devils’ next seven games come against teams that have performed poorly of late, as every game, with the exception of Montreal, comes against a team that has won no more than four of their last 10 games. This includes two against Toronto, who has lost six in a row and nine of 10. This would be a prime opportunity for the Devils to make a run back toward an NHL-.500 record.

What To Watch For

The Resurgence Of Travis Zajac

As the Devils embark on their second-half journey, watch the play of Travis Zajac. The ninth-year Devils’ center has responded extremely well to the New Jersey’s coaching switch, tallying eight points in the last 11 games after totaling just eight points in 28 games under former coach Peter DeBoer. It will be interesting to see whether or not what we have seen over the past 11 games have been what we should be expecting of Zajac, or if it has simply been a fluke.

Trade In The Works?

Additionally, if the Devils aren’t to make a run during their upcoming stretch of games, look for New Jersey to begin exploring the selling of assets like Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky – and even Michael Ryder – if the Devils can receive a decent return for one or more of them. Teams entrenched in the playoff race are sure to be interested as they will seek a veteran presence for the season’s stretch run. This scenario would be ideal in giving the team’s prospects a shot to play for an extended period at the NHL level.

Severson’s Return

On defense, watch for the return of rookie Damon Severson. The 20-year-old has been nursing an ankle injury since December 15, with a recovery time of nearly six weeks. His return should be coming very shortly, and it will be interesting to see how the new coaching regime handles the situation. Severson should replace Mark Fraser in the lineup, but it remains to be seen how he will be utilized. He spent this season paired with Andy Greene prior to his injury, but Adam Larsson has stepped into that role and has played extremely well.

Schneider’s Workload

In net, look for Cory Schneider to continue to play for the majority, if not all games in the near future. While backup Keith Kinkaid has played well, Schneider is the Devils top goalie, and the team will need to continue to lean on him down the stretch. Schneider has played a particularly strong game of late, posting a .936 save percentage in his last five outings. The Devils will need that to continue if they have a shot at becoming relevant this season. 

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