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Clarkson Finally Playing To Potential

This is the David Clarkson the New Jersey Devils expected.

The right-winger, who signed a three-year, $8 million contract this offseason, has three goals and 12 hits in his past three games. Since the return of Jacques Lemaire, the right-winger has stepped up his play significantly. He’s finally meeting the expectations set for him this season.

In the past three games, Clarkson has recorded three goals and 12 hits. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New Jersey had high expectations of Clarkson coming into the season. The physical right-winger, who’s known for dropping the gloves, showed some goal-scoring ability the past two seasons. During the 2008-09 season, Clarkson set career highs in goals (17), assists (15) and points (32). Even during his injury-shortened season last year, Clarkson still scored 11 goals.

Many fans and analysts dreamed about Clarkson’s 20 goal potential. In fact, many people pegged him to have a “breakout” season this year. But his start, like the team, would be slow. Clarkson came out firing early this season, but couldn’t find success. As with most of the team, his offense struggled to materialize. Since the start of the new year, however, Clarkson’s found goals and become one of the Devils’ best players.

It seemed like the light turned on for Clarkson in the January 6 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite losing, 4-2, Clarkson scored a goal and recorded four hits. That play continued into the January 8 loss, where he recorded three hits and three shots. Yesterday was his best performance, with two goals, five shots and five hits in the 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It was this type of play the Devils expected to see early this season.

Lemaire credits Clarkson’s quicker decision making for his turnaround.

“He’s skating. He’s quicker. This is one thing that I asked him to do, try to be a little quicker on the puck,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “He’s always been strong with the puck and now he’s a little quicker, he makes things happen.”

Clarkson said increased confidence helped him improve.

“I feel the same, I think it’s just you get confidence as a player,” Clarkson told Gulitti. “You get a bit of confidence and you play with it and you hope that you get opportunities. (Assistant coach) Adam Oates has helped a lot with little things in my game. When you have a guy who did what he did in his a career, you try to take as much as you can from him.”

Finally, Clarkson is playing to his potential. The Devils expected their right-winger to score 20 goals and provide a physical presence on the ice. That expectation has existed for close to two years, with Clarkson showing flashes of his potential. But he’s never been able to sustain success.

With Lemaire at the helm, Clarkson seems to have found his offensive game. The Devils, desperate for secondary scoring, need Clarkson to play to his potential. Hopefully, this spurt will turn Clarkson into that tough guy and scorer the Devils need.

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