Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the 2011-2012 schedule, breaking down matchups and providing in-depth analysis of their opponents. Today, we the preview this season’s matchup with the Calgary Flames.
The New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames came together to form one of the more interesting games two years ago. Flames’ head coach Brent Sutter, who failed to lead New Jersey past the first round as coach, left the team. He cited the need to be near his family and the Red Deer Rebels. Shortly after that, he signed on to coach Calgary. That led to an interesting meeting at the Prudential Center, but one that went without any real incident.
Since then, the matchup faded back to it’s usual ho-hum nature. As with most of the teams from the Western Conference, there isn’t much hatred between the two teams. The matchup, however, still offers some intrigue. Here’s why you should watch this year’s matchup between the two teams.
The History Behind The Matchup
In 92 games against Calgary, New Jersey is 24-56-1 with 11 ties. Their .326 point percentage is the worst historically among all opponents. The Devils allow 3.89 goals per matchup (358 total) and score just 2.71 goals per matchup (249 total).
The team’s faced off once last season, on November 24 at the Prudential Center. The matchup came during the Devils only hot streak of the first half, and ended in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Devils. David Clarkson opened the scoring, tipping home a Mattias Tedenby shot at 13:06 of the first period. Matt Corrente held the puck at the blueline, skating it toward the center of the zone. His shot hit Tedenby in the slot, but the rookie found the puck and fired it on net. Clarkson deflected it past Henrik Karlsson for the lead.
Calgary wouldn’t go easily, tying the game just 1:18 into the third period. Mark Giordano held the puck near the blueline, shooting the puck toward the net. Rene Bourque came skating across the slot and tipped the puck past Johan Hedberg for the game-tying goal. Both teams remained scoreless until the shootout, where Ilya Kovalchuk would take care of business:
That was the first time the Devils strung together two wins in a row. They wouldn’t find that type of success again until January.
This Season’s Matchup
The Flames didn’t make any big splashes in free agency this offseason. They tried for Brad Richards, but ended up as one of the losers in that sweepstakes. They re-signed Anton Babchuk and Brendan Morrison, and recently added defenseman Scott Hannan.
The Devils and Flames trade some spare parts as well. Calgary acquired Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond from New Jersey for a 2012 fifth-round draft pick.
Both teams face off once this season, on January 10 in Calgary.
In 15 games against the Flames, Martin Brodeur is just 7-5-0 with three ties. He’s carrying a 2.17 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage…In 16 games against New Jersey, Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla has 12 points. Just one of them, however, is on the powerplay.
The days of Devils enforcer are over for Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.
Leblond, nicknamed “PL3,” was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 2012 fifth-round pick. The Devils banished Leblond to the minors last season after he earned an automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight with Washington’s Marcus Johansson in the final five minutes of a 7-2 loss on October 9. He played only two NHL games last season, collecting no points and 21 penalty minutes. He had 13 points and 334 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Albany Devils. The former seventh-round pick finished his Devils career with no goals, three assists and 91 penalty minutes in 37 NHL games.
A change in Leblond’s contract could have necessitated the trade. His contract changed from a two-way to one-way deal this year, carrying a $525,000 cap hit. Earlier in the summer, I wrote that Letourneau-Leblond’s days with New Jersey were probably done. Looks like that came true.
Zharkov, Corrente, Wiseman Re-sign
Zharkov accepted his qualifying offer – a one-year, two-way deal. He’ll make $577,500 in the NHL and $62, 500 in the AHL. Zharkov played in 38 NHL games last season, recording four points. In 31 AHL games, he collected 19 points. He seemed to solidify his position in the lineup last year, fitting in the bottom two lines. His overall performance probably earned him a shot at a consistent roster spot next season.
Corrente, like Zharkov, accepted his qualifying offer. His one-year, two-way deal carries an NHL salary of $660,000. Last season, he skated in just 22 NHL games. A shoulder injury ended his season, and he returns looking to hold onto a roster spot. With some young blueliners threating to grab roster spots, this will be a big year for Corrente to prove himself. His willingness to drop the gloves will easily replace Letourneau-Leblond, and his offensive capabilities will hopefully finally develop.
Chad Wiseman re-signed as an unrestricted free agent, inking a two-year, two-way deal. He’ll carry an NHL salary of $525,000 and an AHL salary of $105,000. Wiseman collected 44 points, and matched the team record for most goals in a period with four. He hasn’t found much success in the NHL, but provides quality organization depth.
The New Jersey Devils entered today with 11 restricted free agents. Two of them may not return.
The organization sent qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents today. Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina, Vladimir Zharkov, Mark Fraser, Maxim Noreau, Jeff Frazee, Steve Zalewski and Nathan Perkovich all received offers.
Alexander Vasyunov, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, did not receive an offer. His agent informed the Devils that he signed a one-year contract for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL next season.
The players can still receive offer sheets from other teams, but the Devils can match that offer.
There were a few players who were locks for qualifying offers. Taormina led defenseman in goals until a high-ankle sprain ended his season. He was one of the few bright spots during the team’s abysmal first half, and will probably get a chance to earn his spot back next season. Corrente, a former-first round pick, has the support of the organization behind him. Like Taormina, injury limited him this season.
Other players seem to be skating on thin ice. Fraser followed a strong rookie campaign with a disappointing sophomore season. The Devils qualified him, but with the defensive depth moving through the organization, he needs to put together a solid season. The same goes for Frazee. The Devils have three strong goalie prospects in Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont and Keith Kinkaid. They’re still a year or two away, but Frazee doesn’t have much time to prove himself.
The organization also did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Anssi Salmela. He played 48 games with the Devils, but failed to really make an impression. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t sign him. Two years ago, New Jersey didn’t qualify Andy Greene, but re-signed him anyway.
Zach Parise entered this offseason a restricted free agent, but did not receive an offer. Instead, New Jersey elected to take the left-winger to arbitration. That eliminates the possibility of other team’s submitting an offer sheet and guarantees he will be a Devil next season.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining defensive players.
Of all the positions to suffer from injuries, the New Jersey Devils’ blueline was among the most volatile. They lost stalwart Bryce Salvador before the season even started, a major blow to the defensive corps. Injuries to promising rookie Matt Taormina left another hole needing to be filled. Anton Volchenkov and Colin White both missed stretches of games as well.
As a result, seven defenseman filled in, playing at least four games. Below is a list of those players and their performance this season. Some were good, others were just ok, and a few shouldn’t be back next season. We’ll take a look at them, in order of games played. And here we go:
Mark Fraser – 26 GP, 2 Points (2 A)
Fraser entered this season with a new contract (two-year, $1.085 million) and heightened expectations. He played well during the 2009-10 season, skating in 61 games and recording six points. The 2010-11 regular season would represent a major step backward. Fraser broke his hand on October 13, causing him to miss 32 games. He couldn’t consistently crack the lineup, playing in just 12 straight games.
A look at his numbers shows his general ineffectiveness. Fraser only averaged 13:58 minutes a game, managing to pull down a plus-0.18 rating. Despite a low goals-against per 60 rate (1.65 at even strength), his other numbers weren’t strong. His on-ice Corsi rating (minus-2.03) ranked far below his off-ice rating (plus-2.02). Opponents shots against fell from 26.8 with him on the ice to 24.8 with him off.
Despite it all, he still recorded a plus-1.0 GVT. I’m willing to give him a pass for this season. Both injuries and the inability to play consistently showed on the ice. He’ll battle for a spot next season, but could be pushed out with the strong play of Mark Fayne and the return of Salvador.
Matt Corrente – 22 GP, 6 P (6 A)
Like Fraser, Corrente entered the season with heightened expectations. The Devils’ first round pick (30th overall) in 2006 had yet to make his mark and earn a consistent roster spot. Training camp would be his opportunity to finally earn that spot.
Corrente performed worse than Fraser in his limited role this season. He missed 38 games with a shoulder injury, managing just an average time on ice of 13:35. He managed a plus-0.32 rating, higher than Fraser. The goals against numbers didn’t reflect well, with the team allowing more goals against with him on the ice (3.32) than him off (3.03). Shots against followed the same trend. Opponents averaged 29.3 shots per 60 with Corrente on the ice. Off the ice, that number fell to 23.3. The Corsi rating is just as bad. On the ice, the number sat at minus-0.83. Off the ice, the team improved to plus-9.63.
Despite all of that, Corrente recorded a plus-1.3 GVT. His six assists probably helped that cause, and he showed a surprising willingness to contribute offensively. He’s flashed his potential, but time might be running short. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and the organization will probably re-sign him. He’ll find it hard to crack the lineup, especially with some rookies outplaying him over the course of the season.
There’s been some updates on several players over the past few days, so here’s a quick rundown of the conditions of those players. Thanks to both Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record and Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger for the updates.
1. Zach Parise Sheds Leg Brace
Yesterday, Gulitti reported that Parise received clearance to remove an immobilizing leg brace from his doctor yesterday. Although the left-winger is about two months away from returning, it’s a positive sign in his recovery.
2. Anssi Salmela To Play Wednesday
Salmela, who missed several months with a torn ACL, will make his return to the lineup Wednesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. Salmela completed a conditioning stint with the Albany Devils earlier this week.
3. NHL/AHL Roster Moves
The Devils sent down Matt Corrente and Alexander Vasyunov during the weekend, and recalled both Harry Young and Dan Kelly. Kelly has already returned to Albany, and Young is expected to return when the team activates Salmela. The Devils also recalled Tim Sestito earlier today.
4. Injury Updates
Gulitti also posted several updates on injured Devils. Matt Taormina is beginning to skate after suffering a high ankle sprain, and his return won’t be anytime soon. Jacob Josefson also began skating, but like Taormina, he won’t be ready for a while. Mark Fraser appears to be the closest injured Devil ready to rejoin the team. The defenseman has skated on his own for about 10 days and, pending a visit to the doctor, should be able to return to practice soon.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Montreal Canadiens (15-8-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (8-14-2) tonight at the Prudential Center. It’s the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Devils lead the current season series, 1-0-0.
The Last Canadiens Game: The Habs blew a third period lead and lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, last night in Montreal. Down, 3-1, in the third period, the Oilers began the comeback with a goal from Ales Hemsky at 10:09 of the period. Sam Gagner tied it in the third, and Dustin Penner scored the overtime winner.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in a shootout Saturday afternoon at the Rock. Adam Mair struck first, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead in the first period. New Jersey held the lead until the third period, when Daniel Briere tied the game on a powerplay goal. Travis Zajac scored the shootout winner, beating Brian Boucher high to the glove side for the win.
The Last Canadiens – Devils Game: The Devils blanked the Canadiens, 3-0, on October 21 at the Bell Centre. Zach Parise, Jason Arnott and Matt Taormina provided the offense, and Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for the shutout.
Brotherly Love: Stephen Gionta will face off against ex-Devil and brother Brian Gionta tonight, the first time they’ve faced each other in their professional careers. Stephen wears number 14, the same number Brian wore while with the Devils. Brian is the better goal scorer and will probably have a greater impact on the outcome of the game. Regardless, it’ll still be fun to watch. Maybe they’ll get into a few battles along the boards.
Tonight’s Matchup: After winning three of four games last week (and playing four out of the seven days), the Devils earned a well-deserved four day break. But those breaks can take a team off their game, especially one that’s just beginning to develop some momentum. The biggest key of tonight’s matchup will be intensity. If the Devils play fast and smart, they can wear down the Canadiens early. Remember, the Canadiens did play last night and travel to New Jersey. The Devils will hold a decisive edge in rest, and they need to take advantage of that tonight.
Intensity will only get them so far. The Devils need to finish their scoring chances tonight. As we all know, that’s been the biggest challenge this season. The Canadiens, however, usually provide the remedy to cure the Devils’ problems. Carey Price is having a great season (14-7-2, 2.04 goals-against average and .932 save percentage), but hasn’t played well against the Devils. New Jersey should find a way to beat the Habs tonight. It’s almost like clockwork against them.
Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Corrente both return tonight for the Devils. Alexander Vasyunov and Olivier Magnan are healthy scratches.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN 660AM. Here is the projected lineup for tonight’s game:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Dainius Zubrus – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Mark Fayne – Matt Corrente
GOALIES: Johan Hedberg; Mike McKenna
It’s finally gameday, as the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens face off tonight at the Prudential Center. A game preview will be up soon, but to hold you over, here’s today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:
Ilya Kovalchuk still searching for goals as pressure mounts (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Devils turned a profit in 2009-10, but lost value (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jason Arnott, David Clarkson back for Devils practice (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Emotional journey for Devils right-winger David Clarkson (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils’ Stephen Gionta hoping for chance to play against brother Brian (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Langenbrunner, Arnott, Corrente feel ready to play; MacLean to make decision on Gionta in morning (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jamie Langenbrunner ready to return to an upbeat Devils squad (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Bourne Blog: How Kovalchuk can salvage dismal offensive season (Justin Bourne/PuckDaddy.com)
Forbes magazine says Devils are 11th most valuable NHL franchise (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Penguins Take Down Devils, 5-1 (AlbanyDevils.com)
Devils powerless against league leading Penguins (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Davis breaks franchise record for points (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils notes ‘n’ quotes: Frazee doesn’t start, but he plays (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils Angle Past Walleye, 4-2 (TrentonDevils.com)
Trenton Adds Chase Watson (TrentonDevils.com)
Devils Acquire Connelly; Lerg To 21-Day IR (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
Lerg Out With Fractured Thumb (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)