After enjoying an extended break this week (with the exception of Alexander Urbom, playing Monday night in the AHL All Star Classic in Atlantic City and contributing an assist in a 8-7 Western Conference shootout win), the Devils got back to work this weekend with two road games against two good teams in Connecticut and Wilkes-Barre. It didn’t go as well as hoped. Time to rewind:
2/3 at Connecticut: 3-2 L
The weekend started in Hartford against the Whale, a divisional opponent that had yet to enter the win column in the 2012 calendar year (for January they were 0-6-3-2). Things were looking good for the Devils early as Eric Gelinas scored just 1:39 in for a quick 1-0 lead. But the first period problems cropped up again, as the Whale tied the game just over a minute later. Connecticut then took a 2-1 lead late in the period on a power play goal by All Star Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. The Devils only managed 5 shots on goal for the period. The Whale added to their lead late in the second period on a power play goal by Wojtek Wolski, sent down by the Rangers earlier in the week for conditioning. It took till the third period for the Devils to wake up and try to start a rally. Joe Whitney would bring the Devils to within 1, while the defense stepped up in front of Keith Kinkaid (who didn’t have a bad game, stopping 21 of 24 shots), but by then it was too little, too late. There were several good scoring chances during the last minute, but nothing across and Connecticut stopped their winless streak at 11. Darcy Zajac did contribute assists on both goals in a losing cause.
2/4 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 5-2 L
Saturday it was off to northeast Pennsylvania to face the Penguins, a team the Devils finally broke a franchise life-long losing streak against back in December. The pattern of sluggish first periods continued on this night, against a team still carrying momentum from a 4-3 comeback win against Hershey at home the night before. The Devils didn’t allow a shot to the Penguins till 8 minutes into the period…naturally it turned into a 1-0 Penguin lead. WBS would add two more in a span of 2:01 later in the period, a power play goal by Brian Gibbons and an even strength goal by Joey Mormina. Second period the Devils made it a game, as Nick Palmieri and Alexander Urbom picked up goals to get to within 3-2 and the Devils outshot their hosts 8-7. Third period the Devils had their chances to tie things up, but Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen was up to the challenge, stopping all 9 Devil shots. Bryan Lerg singlehandedly put the game out of reach late in the period, getting the insurance goal past Jeff Frazee with 1:25 left in the game, then adding the empty netter just 19 seconds later.
-Friday night Peter Harrold was a healthy scratch against Connecticut, despite the Devils being short on defensemen. Saturday morning we found out why: he was recalled to New Jersey and played in that afternoon’s game in Philadelphia against the Flyers. He was reassigned today to make room on the roster for Adam Henrique, who had been out with a groin injury.
-Injury front: Jay Leach, Matt Anderson and J.S. Berube are still out. Nathan Perkovich returned to the lineup Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, his first action since mid-January. Matt Corrente’s return continues to be pushed back, maybe this will be the week?
The road swing continues for the Devils this week, with a 3 in 3 weekend approaching. Friday night they make their last trip over the border to Canada this season to face Hamilton. Saturday it’s on to Syracuse to play the Crunch, followed by a Sunday afternoon tilt in Providence against the Bruins. This may sound like a broken record, but the Northeast is still a very tight division, 5 points continue to separate all 5 teams, so every point the Devils can get counts.