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The Volchenkov Suspension: My Reaction

February 10, 2011 1 comment

There’s no doubting the league had to suspend defenseman Anton Volchenkov for his elbow to the head of Carolina’s Zach Boychuk.

This season, where so many players have sustained concussions and Rule 48 is all the rage, any contact with the head raises immediate suspicion. In this case, Volchenkov clearly moved his elbow away from the body, making direct contact with Boychuk’s head. While it may not have been purposeful, it looked almost intentional. The punishment, then, fit the crime. The league handed down an appropriate suspension to Volchenkov for the hit.

To fully analyze the hit, let’s look at this video:

The hit is quick, with Boychuk going for a loose puck near the blue line. He went reaching for the puck, which dipped his lower body right into Volchenkov’s elbow. The hit looked gruesome, but Boychuk was able to play the rest of the game.

The Devils’ defenseman believed that, if Boychuk didn’t reach for the puck, he wouldn’t have hit him his head with an elbow.

“If he doesn’t go down, it probably would have maybe maximum that I get him in the chest or the shoulder,” Volchenkov told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “But (Boychuk) tried to reach and was (leaning) forward and I hit him right in the face.”

Volchenkov could have avoided this by simply adjusting his hit and leading with his shoulder. Yes, he still would have made contact with Boychuk’s head. But using an elbow to separate the man from the puck never works out well. Usually, it’ll lead to a penalty. Using the shoulder to deliver the hit would be the better choice.

The hit looked innocent enough, but we all knew Volchenkov would face some repercussions. Three games seems to be the going rate for these hits. Volchenkov will also forfeit close to $69 thousand in salary for the suspension. While it’ll hurt the Devils, especially in the blocked shot department, the penalty fits the crime.

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For full coverage of tonight’s New Jersey Devils – Toronto Maple Leafs game, check out SB Nation New York.

Devils Acquire Jay Leach, Steve Zalewski from San Jose

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

A bit of old news, but the New Jersey Devils’ re-acquired defenseman Jay Leach and Steve Zalewski from the San Jose Sharks yesterday.

Leach played in the Devils’ organization with both the Devils and Lowell in 2008-09 and 2009-2010 before being claimed off re-entry waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. In 45 games with the Worcester Sharks, he had one goal, four assists and 45 penalty minutes.

Zalewski had four goals and 17 assists in 50 games with Worcester this season. The former fifth round draft pick played three games with the Sharks last season, failing to record a point.

Both Patrick Davis and Mike Swift were traded to the Sharks.

It doesn’t appear that Zalewski or Leach will play for the Devils this season. Both have been assigned to Albany. If needed, Leach could be recalled and would not have to pass through re-entry waivers.

A Look Back: The Kovalchuk Trade

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't been the offensive force the Devils expected, but he's picked up his play during the second half of this season. Photo Credit: Graham Hughes/AP Photo - The Canadian Press

As the trade deadline approaches, The Devils’ Den will look at previous important trades the New Jersey Devils made around the deadline. This feature will run throughout the month of February.

Last season, New Jersey Devils general manager pulled off one of the biggest blockbuster trades in franchise’s history.

Lacking scoring and turning in inconsistent efforts, Lamoriello shook up his roster. In a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers, the Devils’ general manager brought in Ilya Kovalchuk, giving the Devils a huge offensive weapon for the stretch run. In return, he traded away struggling forward Niclas Bergfors and underachieving defenseman Johnny Oduya. Other picks and players were traded as well.

The move was a bold statement from a team not known for making big moves. And while it ultimately made little difference – the team once again lost in the first round in the playoffs – it became one of the iconic trades for the franchise.

Who knew the deal would continue to reverberate today. Kovalchuk was, for all intents and purposes, a rental last season. His contract ran out after the playoff loss and immediately created speculation. Would New Jersey attempt to re-sign the left winger? Were the Los Angeles Kings really interested? And how much would it take to land Kovalchuk?

We all know what happened from there. “The Kovalchuk Saga” consumed the entire summer, dragging the Devils through the mud time after time. Every Devils’ fan became educated in arbitration hearings, and everyone thoroughly dissected the term “circumventing the cap.” The drama ended in September, with Kovalchuk signed and amendments made to the collective bargaining agreement.

So far, the deadline deal has been a push. Kovalchuk didn’t really impact the Devils offense last season, and this season he’s been inconsistent at best. He’s only in the first year of a new 15-year contract, so this end of the deal won’t be settled for quite some time. It doesn’t seem like Atlanta received a better end of the deal either. Oduya hasn’t done much (24 points in 83 games), and Bergfors continues to bounce in and out of the lineup. Patrice Cormier could become a great player, but he has yet to make an impact.

The Kovalchuk trade surprised several people, and was a bold step for this reserved franchise. The true impact won’t be felt for years, but it was one of the biggest surprises last season.

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For full coverage of tonight’s Carolina Hurricanes – New Jersey Devils game, make sure to check out SB Nation New York.

A Different Feeling In This Year’s Rivalry

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Martin Brodeur and the Devils have struggled against their cross-river rivals this season. Photo Credit: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

The tables have turned on the Hudson River Rivalry.

 

Instead of the New Jersey Devils fighting for improved playoff position over a floundering New York Rangers team, the script is flipped. The Rangers enter tonight’s matchup in sixth place in the conference. The Devils, despite a 7-1-1 run, still sit last in the league.

It’s an odd turn of events in the storied rivalry of these cross-river teams. With the Devils success the past 13 seasons, these matchups always served as a way to improve draft position. The Rangers usually toiled outside of playoff position, looking to find a way into the top eight.

Despite the Devils’ lack of success, the players consider it a rivalry.

“It’s always a rivarly,” right wing David Clarkson said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I love playing in those games. It’s like a playoff game every time you play them. Those teams that are close to you, especially them, the Flyers and the Islanders, it’s always those type of games.”

“No matter what, it’s always a big game,” defenseman Colin White told Gulitti. “Every game is big for us. That’s the way we’re approaching every game, but there definitely is a rivalry there. It’s been there forever.”

For the Devils, this game won’t be the usual matchup against the Blueshirts. While there’s a near impossible chance of New Jersey making the playoffs, this is a pride game. The Rangers have already won three of the six matchups this season, outscoring the Devils, 9-2.

Martin Brodeur has struggled recently at Madison Square Garden. While he’s posted a 1.99 goals-against average, Brodeur is just 2-6-2 in his last 10 games at MSG.

The Devils don’t want to allow their rivals to win the season series. They also don’t need the Rangers taking two points and improving their playoff position. They also don’t want to be embarrassed at MSG.

Brodeur also cited the fans as fueling the rivalry.

“The players, we feel for it because of people that care about us and people that hate us,” Brodeur told Gulitti. “That’s mostly what a rivalry is. It’s mostly through the fans. The players, you’ll feel it when you do battle for something – the playoffs or a playoff spot or an important game. When that’s not there, I think we get up maybe a little more because of our fans, because the people care about it. That’s normal. That’s part of sports.”

We usually expect hard fought battles and playoff positioning out of these rivalry games. But tonight, with little on the line for the Devils, it’ll be a different feel. The Devils will be desperate to continue their strong play. The Rangers will look to improve their playoff position.

There’s not much on the line for New Jersey tonight. It’s been a while since the Devils haven’t had anything to play for against the Blueshirts.

Palmieri Getting It Done

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

In 11 games, Nick Palmieri has five points (four goals, one assist) while playing with the Devils' top line. Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Much of the New Jersey Devils’ rookie hype has gone to Mattias Tedenby, the exciting right-winger who leads all rookie skaters in points.

While Tedenby’s on-ice play is exciting, several people are overlooking an important rookie – Nick Palmieri. The rookie, playing on the top line, has carried his weight during his call-up and looks like he’s cemented a roster spot.

Palmieri isn’t a physically imposing player. At 6’3″ and 220 lbs, he actually looks a little too chubby for the NHL. He doesn’t have blazing speed or great hand-eye coordination. Palmieri, however, more than makes up for his lack of physical abilities with his hard work on the ice.

The Devils roster lacks power forwards willing to drive the net. Some players, like David Clarkson, were expected to fill this role. But, so far, the team hasn’t found a player willing to continually crash the net. Palmieri embraced this role. He’s used his big frame to continually crash the net, looking for the “garbage” goals. The strategy is paying off, as he’s scored three goals in his past five games.

Palmieri believes he can be a consistent scorer in the NHL.

“I think all throughout my career I’ve contributed offensively through scoring,” the rookie told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. “When they had me playing in Albany they definitely had me in a scoring role. I don’t know if that was what they thought when they initially called me up. But I’m happy to be contributing, whether it’s in a scoring role or whatever they want me to do.”

Despite his success, coach Jacques Lemaire believes he can improve.

“He’s OK. When you look at the four goals you get excited, but he’s a kid who has to improve,” Lemaire told Chere. “He could be a power winger. He’s strong, he can skate, he goes at the net, he’s strong with the puck, he brings the puck to the net, plays in traffic. But he has to stay in shape and keep working hard to be that type of player.”

Palmieri has had help along the way. He’s playing with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, which brings more scoring chances and great linemates. That, however, shouldn’t dictate the story of his success this season.

Hopefully, Palmieri continues to improve throughout the season. He’ll never be an exciting scorer like Tedenby, but he provides a valuable skill to this lineup. His ability to crash the net and finish in front can’t be overlooked. Every team needs their share of “dirty” scorers, and Palmieri fits that bill. Plus, the rookie won’t go back to the AHL without a fight.

“I think my goal when I got called up was to come up here and make sure I made an impact and made it hard for them to send me back down,” Palmieri said to Chere.

Urbom Gets The Call

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

With the New Jersey Devils defense still ailing, rookie Alexander Urbom was called up to join New Jersey.

In 40 games this season for Albany of the AHL, Urbom recorded 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) and 29 penalty minutes. He was a minus-5 this season.

Urbom played seven games with the Devils earlier this season. He failed to record a point and was a minus-3.

The rookie defenseman believes his time in the AHL helped him develop.

“It’s good when you play a lot,” he said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “When you get a lot of ice time, it’s great. That’s what develops you as a player. When you get a lot of ice time and power play (time) and stuff like that, it’s good.”

Despite the call-up, the Devils have only six healthy defenseman available for tonight’s game. Mark Fayne is still battling the flu, and Colin White remains sidelined with a lower-body bruise.

For full coverage of tonight’s Ottawa Senators – New Jersey Devils game, check out SB Nation New York.