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Devils Update: Team Practices, Holds Meeting; Martin Still Not Practicing With Team

The Devils held practice this afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Paul Martin, who’s contiuing to rehab his broken forearm, worked before practice with assistant coaches Tommy Albelin, Mario Tremblay and right-winger David Clarkson. Clarkson worked with Martin to have someone to pass to and work against during the drills.

Martin did not practice with the full team.

There was one major change in today’s practice. Dainius Zubrus moved up to practice with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac on the first line. Jamie Langenbrunner shifted down to the second line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. This isn’t a new change, as coach Jacques Lemaire has tinkered with these combinations before.

Mark Fraser practiced as the seventh defender today, meaning he’ll probably be a scratch in tomorrow night’s game.

The team worked on their breakout from the defensive zone and some 5-on-5 play.

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The team exited the ice around 11:40 a.m. and held a team meeting. Lemaire began the meeting, but exited the locker room to allow the players to finish the meeting themselves.

Lemaire didn’t specificially say what the meeting was about, but he noted it wasn’t about Sunday’s loss or the upcoming game against the Rangers.

“That’s not how it works,” Lemaire said after the meeting to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “How it works is you have work at it. You have to get all the guys on the same page. You have to get a team, a team in what you would describe as a winning team. Players that have been on a winning team, they know what it is to win, how they would describe a team. That’s what you need. When you won, you know what it took to get there. You know what it took as a group to get together. These guys can describe what a team is. So, we need some of that.”

The Devils have seven former Stanley Cup winners on the team, so they should know how to pull themselves out of this funk. They’ve already played a quarter of their season under .500 (6-13-2), and they’ve fallen five points behind Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Divison lead. The team needs to right the ship, and soon.

The players believe this meeting was long overdue.

“We probably should have done it a long time ago,”  Langenbrunner said. “For whatever reason, we started to believe we would just fix it. I can’t remember who said it, but it wasn’t from a lack of wanting to fix it or knowing that something needed to be fixed. It was the belief that in all of us that, ‘Oh, we’ll snap out of it.'”

The players admitted to believing things would end after the Olympic break. But when their problems continued, they realized they had to meet.

“I think everyone thought that we’d go into break and we’d come back and everything would be fine,” Parise said. “That’s not the way this game works.”

The players admitted Sunday was “rock bottom,” and that they must improve their play this week.

“This is a big week for us going back and getting back to the way we need to play,” Langenbrunner said. “I don’t think we could ask for a better week as far as emotional games for us, three divisional games (Wedensday vs. the Rangers, Friday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday at the Islanders).”

All quotes courtesy of The Fire and Ice Blog, written by Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti.

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Devils Notes: Skoula Joins Team Tonight; Players Indifferent About Facing Sutter

Only one more day until the Devils take the ice in Calgary to face off against the Flames. Here’s some news to hold you over:

Martin Skoula Joins Team In Calgary Tonight

Newly-acquired defenseman Martin Skoula joined the team tonight in Calgary. Lou Lamoriello assigned him number 28 – the number Valdimir Zharkov had all season. Zharkov has been reassigned number 18, which previously belonged to Niclas Bergfors and Sergei Brylin.

In an interview with Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire seemed high on Skoula, who played for him in Minnesota.

“I think he can play as good as some of the guys we have,” he said to Gulitti. “I think he’s very solid in the defensive zone. He knows the game well. He’s a big body (6-3, 225). He protects the puck along the boards. He can make that first pass. When he’s got his game straightened up, he can do good stuff. It doesn’t mean he’s going to go ahead of our guys right away, but we’ll see what he can do and if he shows that he’s doing more things, then we’ll put him in the lineup. That’s how it works.”

Although Skoula arrived tonight, he is not expected to play in tomorrow night’s game.

Devils Players Don’t Seek Revenge Against Sutter

With the Devils facing their ex-coach tomorrow night, there would seem to be some extra incentive for the players to beat the Flames.

If there is, no one is saying it.

When interviewed today, many Devils players were indifferent about facing Brent Sutter, their coach for two seasons.

“I haven’t quite thought about it,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said after today’s practice in Calgary. “We’re more concerned about starting to get something rolling than doing something him. I think they’ve got their own things to worry about trying to get into the playoffs. We’re trying to stay on top of our division.”

Sutter stepped down after the 2008-2009 campaign to be closer to his family in Red Deer, Alberta. Some players thought it was fishy when Sutter agreed to coach the Flames two weeks after leaving the Devils. His brother, Daryl, is the general manager of the Flames. But players aren’t showing any emotion about that situation either.

“That was a litle weird because we didn’t think (he was leaving) for that,” goalie Martin Brodeur said. “But, knowing the situation with his brother here and everything, if there was a place he was going to go this was it.”

There were some players, like Dainius Zubrus, who felt they were restricted in Sutter’s system.

“I’m happy now,” Zubrus said. “This year I’m way more involved in different things, whether it’s special teams. I’ve had more responsibilities than I had the past couple of years and that’s something I wanted. That’s about it.”

*Quotes from Fire and Ice Blog by Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti

Martin Unlikely To Play Next Week; Trenton Prospects Earn Honors

Here’s a few Devils’ news stories to keep you updated:

Paul Martin Unlikely To Play Next Week

Paul Martin continues to skate on his own, and he’s began to shoot pucks.

Though he’s been shooting, the defenseman hasn’t been able to give 100%. Although he wanted to play next week, the chances are slim to none.

“As soon as he’s ready, it will come quick,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Martin’s return to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s like with Marty (Brodeur) last year (when he was returning from a 50-game layoff with a torn biceps tendon). As soon as the doctor says he’s ready, he’ll be back.”

Martin has missed the past 52 games after fracturing his forearm on a shot by Bill Guerin.

Trenton Devils Prospects Earn ECHL Awards

Devils prospects Matt Vokes (Rookie of the Month) and Dave Caruso (Goaltender of the Month) were given ECHL honors for February.

Vokes had 20 points in nine games (nine goals, 11 assists), including three game-winning goals, to lead Trenton to an 8-3-0 in February. Vokes led rookies in goals, assists, game winners and plus minus and was tied for the rookie lead with three powerplay goals and one shorthanded tally.

The rookie also was named ECHL Player of the Week February 15-21. He leads the Trenton Devils in assists and a plus-minus rating of +12. He’s second on the team with 38 points.

Goaltender Dave Caruso was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Month for February.

Caruso was 7-2-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .942 save percentage for Trenton. He ended the month with a career-best six game winning streak, and allowed one goal in five of his nine starts. His play helped the Trenton Devils improve to 24-23-9 overall.

Will Ilya Kovalchuk Leave The NHL For Russia?

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

While checking up on my daily NHL reading, I came across this story on Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti’s blog: KHL President Says SKA Petersburgh Will Beat Any NHL Offer To Devils Left Wing Ilya Kovalchuk. Seeing this, I clearly had to read further. And, with what I’ve read, it seems as if the Devils will have some serious competition in re-signing the superstar winger.

When the Devils acquired Kovalchuk on February 4, they decided to not extend the winger’s contract. As a result, Kovalchuk can become a free agent July 1. Depending on what the NHL salary cap will be for 2010-2011, the maximum amount of money Kovalchuk could earn per season would be $11 million dollars. SKA Petersburgh, a member of the Kontinental Hockey League, believes they can top that.

KHL president Alexander Medvedev told THN.com and ESPN.com that the tax structure in Russia for Russian citizens allows Kovalchuk to be offered more money. Here’s a quote from Medvedev:

“The difference between 45 percent taxes and 13 percent taxes is substantial,” Medvedev told THN.com and ESPN.com. “We could top that (NHL) money he would receive by a substantial sum. He will decide. We are going to negotiate with him and his agents what kind of agreement could be reached.”

And Medvedev isn’t just shooting from the hip. SKA Petersburgh is sponsored by the Gazprom Company, where Medvedev is deputy chairman. He clearly is someone with knowledge of the situation.

This isn’t the first time the KHL caused a stir. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman constantly complains that the Russian league poaches NHL players from the league to play in Russia. The KHL levels the same accusations against the NHL. But this would be the first time a superstar player spurned the NHL for a chance to play in Russia.

Nothing is set in stone or definite, but it will be interesting to see if the KHL really does pursue Kovalchuk this offseason.

Quick Shots: Clarkson To Play In San Jose, Martin Out Until March 10

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

With the Olympics in full swing, the only real Devils’ news has come from those playing in the tournament. But with the season about to start again, here’s some recent updates from the team.

David Clarkson will join the team and return to lineup March 2 against San Jose. The winger practiced the past two days and will play. Defenseman Paul Martin, however, will not make the trip. The defenseman still cannot take shots and hasn’t practiced with the team. He’s looking to rejoin the team March 10 against the Rangers.

Devils Olympians Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk will rejoin the team in San Jose.

For those of us in the East, enjoy tonight’s snow!

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A quick Olympic update: The U.S. women lost in the gold medal game, 2-0, to Canada. They’ll bring home the silver. It’s an improvement over their finish four years ago, when they brought home the bronze from the Torino Olympics.

Devils Updates From The Off-Day

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Off days are usually slow days around the league, with teams usually  holding light or no practice. But, with the results from last night’s 3-2 regulation loss in mind, today’s Devils practice was a little different.

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire spoke to the team for about 20 minutes at the beginning of practice. It wasn’t a rally speech and Lemaire didn’t yell at the team; he emphasized the importance of playing a full game.

**”He was just pointing out some of the reasons why things aren’t going so well,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “Not doing it in a screaming way or anything like that. Just pointing everything out. We’re not far away, but it’s little things that have added up to a big thing.”

The team also worked on the powerplay after going 1-for-7 in last night’s contest.

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Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela will miss Wednesday’s game after being knocked out and taken off the ice on a stretcher last night in Philadelphia. The Devils haven’t specifically stated Salmela sustained a concussion, but Salmela’s agent posted on his Twitter feed that Salmela received a concussion.

With the injury, the Devils called up Rob Davison from their AHL affiliate today to fill Salmela’s spot. Davison practiced wearing number 18, the same number former Devil Niclas Bergfors wore before being traded to Atlanta. Davison played in 218 career NHL games with the  Sharks, Islanders and Canucks, posting three goals and 15 assists and 321 penalty minutes.

This season, Davison put up four goals, seven assists and 130 penalty minutes in in 44 AHL games with Lowell.

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I’ve received from great news today. I’ll be helping out writing on another Devils blog, called “Running With The Devils.” If you haven’t checked it out, make sure you click on the link on the left side of the screen. It’s a great blog, and if you enjoy reading this, you’ll love that blog as well. So check it out!

**Quotes and some information used in this post from The Fire and Ice Blog, written by Bergen Record beat writer Tom Gulitti