Thursday, January 1, 2009

Devils Split New Year's Road Trip as They Finish December 9-4-1

For many the holiday season came and went and many will be sad to see the month and another year end. The New Jersey Devils will be among them as the Devils finished December with a 9-4-1 record by splitting their first real road trip west of Pittsburgh this season. On Tuesday the Devils finished off the St. Louis Blues as Zach Parise scored two goals and Brian Rolston added his fifth of the season in the 4-3 win. New Year's Eve presented more of a challenge in Dallas, as the Devils were left punch drunk as they got pounded by the hard hitting Stars in the 4-2 loss.

The month of December was the Devils best to date this year. The big surprise of the month and year has been the play of Scott Clemmensen. Clemmer started all but one game in December going 9-3-1 only allowing more than 3 goals-against once, the 8-5 win against the Rangers. The entire month Clemmer only allowed a total of 26 goals and had a save percentage that would rank among the tops in the league at .931 save-percentage.

Despite being shut-out twice and setting the franchise record for longest time without scoring a goal, the Devils stepped the offense up into a new gear this month scoring 43 goals. In fact the Devils were 8-0-0 when they scored 3 goals or more.

The tandem of Elias and Parise have become one of the top scoring duos in the league. Their combined 38 goals ranks 2nd among all duos behind Philadelphia's Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne's 45 goals. Their 84 combined points ranks 4th behind Malkin/Crosby (PIT-109pts.), Ovechkin/Backstrom (WAS-91pts.) and Savard/Krejci (BOS-86pts.). This month alone the duo combined for 17G-21A-38Pts.

The super-duo had help as other teammates came through with some offense as well. Zajac had 6G and 11pts, Langebrunner and Gionta each chipped in 2G-10A for 12 pts and Brian Rolston returned and scored 4 goals in the final eights of the month. Even David Clarkson started to kick-up his offense as he had 2G-4A-6pts, and 5 of the points have come in the last eight games of the month.

The biggest difference and the reason the Devils have the chance to overtake the Rangers and Flyers in the coming weeks is the play of their specialty teams. The power-play has been better as they were 10-for-50 (20.0%) in December and the penalty-kill which was one of the worst in the league killed off a respectable 45-of-52 (86.53) chances this month. But there is still room for improvement as they both still rank around 20th in the league.

-Marty Brodeur has begun off-ice workouts and his expected return may be moved up to late February. More will be known by the end of January.
-The three Devils prospects at the World Juniors Championships have played well through the preliminary rounds first four games so far. Mattias Tedenby (SWE) has 1G-2A-3pts and a +2 rating, Patrice Cormier (CAN) 0G-1A-1pt and a +1 rating and Mike Hoeffel (USA) 1G-2A-3pt and a +3 rating.
- With the games in St. Louis and Dallas, the Devils played their first multi-game road trip west of Pittsburgh. The Devils will play nine games on the road in January including a trip out west to face the Kings, Ducks and Canucks and them come back eastward to play Columbus before playing the Islanders and then making another trip to Nashville. The Devils are currently 10-5-2 on the road and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 road games.

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