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Hockey’s Need For Better Helmets

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Bryce Salvador, pictured here in 2008 after being hit with a puck, has missed the entire season with a concussion sustained during the preseason. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The rate of NHL players sustaining concussions continues to grow, and the dangerous injury has already claimed several key players. Sidney Crosby hasn’t played in eight straight games. Bryce Salvador has yet to play this season. Marc Savard may have had his career ended with his second concussion in as many seasons.

While analysts debate the need to eliminate all hits to the head, there needs to be an improvement in player’s helmets. While improvements wouldn’t completely solve the issue, improved equipment can possibly soften blows to the head.

Hockey helmets aren’t a piece of complex equipment. The shell of the helmet consists of vinyl nitrile, which helps disperse force from points of contact. The inner shell consists of either the vinyl nitrile or expanded polypropylene foam, which absorbs shock to reduce the chances of concussions. And while those sound all well and good, the helmets aren’t the best. I recently had a two-year old helmet crack straight down the middle while playing a beer league hockey game. There aren’t the most in-shape guys playing in that league, yet the helmet still failed. Luckily I don’t have a concussion, but it shows that their not the most effective piece of equipment.

Unlike most pieces of equipment, helmets are meant to absorb repeated blows night in and night out. Players can replace shin pads, hip protectors, etc. But helmets aren’t usually replaceable. Why, then, wouldn’t they be better designed? The challenge, of course, is creating something without making it overly clunky, etc. Therein lies the problem – how can equipment be safer while still feasible to use?

Any improvement in equipment already has a template to work from. Football, which has its fair share of concusssion issues, continues to develop new helmet technology. One of these, the Xenith X1, uses 18 plastic pieces, shaped like hockey pucks, inside the helmet. Air is forced from these pieces until it’s completely flat. Then, the pieces immediately re-inflate, ready for the next impact.

Is this helmet the best? Maybe not. But it’s a prototype, and it shows progress. Players are faster and stronger than ever before. Hits are more violent, and while other pieces of equipment improved, helmets lag behind. New helmet technology may not eliminate all concussions. But it could be a major piece in the fight to eliminate these injuries from the game.

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For complete coverage of tonight’s Detroit Red Wings – New Jersey Devils game, visit SB Nation New York.

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Game 26 Recap: Crosby, Pens Continue Devils Road Woes

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils entered tonight’s game desperate for a consistent effort and two points. The team went up against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hadn’t lost a regulation game in their past ten contests. While the Devils put forth a consistent effort, it was the same losing effort. The Penguins defeated the Devils, 2-1, sending New Jersey to their sixth straight road loss.

Sidney Crosby celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates during the second period of tonight's game. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sidney Crosby Sinks The Devils

There’s one name that makes Devils fans instantly feel nervous and angry at once – Sidney Crosby. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Penguins captain recorded 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 33 career games against the Devils. Crosby carried a 15-game point streak into the matchup as well. And in only two periods, Crosby collected two points – including the game-winning goal – to sink the Devils.

Crosby’s first point of the night – an assist – helped even the game, 1-1. The Penguins moved through the neutral zone, and didn’t look to have anything developing. A cross-ice pass was tipped by Adam Mair, but Crosby used his back skate to kick the puck to his stick blade. The Penguins’ captain then moved down into the Devils’ zone along the side boards. He passed across the ice to Pascal Dupuis, who fired a one-timer past Johan Hedberg for his eighth goal of the year.

Crosby’s second point of the night proved to be the game-winning goal. With the puck in the Devils’ zone, Alex Goligoski drove to the faceoff circle and shot the puck. Hedberg made the initial save, but the puck caromed off his pads and to the side of the net. Crosby, all alone, dropped to one knee and fired the puck into the open net for his 24th goal of the season.

Crosby was the reason the Devils lost tonight. As much as fans despise him, he’s virtually unstoppable right now.

Brian Rolston scored the Devils lone goal tonight on the powerplay. It was the team's third in their last eight opportunities on the road. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Devils’ Powerplay Shows Life

One of the Devils’ major problems during the season has been the powerplay. It’s been especially dreadful on the road, where the team had one powerplay tally prior to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. But New Jersey went 2-for-3 against the Flyers, and that solid play continued against the Penguins, accounting for their only goal of the night.

With Dupuis in the box for hooking during the first period, Mattias Tedenby controlled the puck and brought it around the net. The rookie right-winger moved from behind the net and found a streaking Jason Arnott entering the Penguins zone. Arnott one-timed the pass, but the shot went wide right. The puck hit Brian Rolston, but the left-winger stayed with the puck and fired home the shot for his second goal of the season.

For all of the man-advantage struggles, the Devils have shown improvement the past two games. Their 3-for-7, good for about 43 percent. Combine that with better numbers at home, and the Devils powerplay is showing improvement.

John MacLean’s Swan Song?

The Devils needed a win tonight, plain and simple. Another loss meant yet another losing streak and another loss against a quality opponent. As its been all year, the Devils failed to capitalize on opportunities and allowed other teams to dominate games. Instead of stretching leads, the Devils watched them slip away. They couldn’t get anything going, and it might have cost their coach his job.

As I posted here, I don’t believe MacLean should get the axe. Two weeks ago, this team looked like it was turning a corner. But since winning three of four two weeks ago, the Devils dropped three straight. They haven’t shown any signs of a turnaround under MacLean. The team has three days off before they face Ottawa. General manager Lou Lamoriello may feel this is the best time to change coaches.

For the rest of the recap, follow after the jump.

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Game 26 Live Game Blog: Penguins Lead Devils, 2-1, In Third Period

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Penguins lead the Devils, 2-1, in the third period of their game tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center.

Sidney Crosby almost scored his second goal of the night at 12:21 of the third period. Crosby sent a wrist shot over the glove of Johan Hedberg, put the puck hit the pipe and came out into the slot.

David Clarkson and Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves at 14:31 of the period. The scrap started because of a hit Clarkson put on Engelland in the Penguins zone. Engelland landed some solid right hooks, but Clarkson dragged the defenseman down to end the fight.

Hedberg stoned Kris Letang to hold the deficit at one. With Rod Pelley in the box for delay of game, Letang sprung free in New Jersey’s defensive zone. The defenseman drove the net and shot low into the pads. Hedberg made the save, then absorbed the hit from Letang when he crashed the crease.

The Penguins lead in shots, 27-18. Pittsburgh, already 0-for-4 with the man advantage tonight, will have 1:09 remaining on their fifth powerplay opportunity, a tripping minor to Dainius Zubrus, to begin the third period.

Travis Zajac nearly tied the game with 4:55 left in the middle period. Jamie Langenbrunner stripped former teammate Paul Martin in the neutral zone and joined Zajac for a 2-on-1 rush. The captain passed the puck to Zajac, who cut toward the front of the net. He moved across the crease, looking to backhand a shot past the blocker of Marc-Andre Fleury. Penguins defenseman Zybynek Michalek ended the chance, knocking the puck off Zajac’s stick.

Shortly after that, Fleury stoned a Dainius Zubrus attempt from the slot. The Devils’ center skated the puck into the slot and fired a shot glove side. Fleury gloved the attempt and held on for the whistle.

Crosby’s goal at 12:49 of the second period put the Penguins ahead, 2-1.

Alex Goligosky drove the net in the Devils zone, putting a shot on Hedberg. The Devils’ goalie blocked the initial shot, but a rebound caromed off his pads and to the left of goal. Crosby, who was all alone at the side of the net, went to one knee and hammered home the shot for his 24th goal of the season.

Crosby now has two points tonight (one goal, one assist). He’s been averaging two points per game during his 16-game point streak.

Colin White should take the blame for that goal. He left Crosby all alone to come to the front of the net. I don’t know if there was a breakdown in communication, but you don’t ever leave Crosby alone near your net.

I’m not sure what the ice conditions are like at the Penguins new arena, but it looks choppy here in the second period. Several pucks have bounced over sticks, and players from both teams are wiping out on the ice.

Pascal Dupuis had an opportunity for his second goal of the game only 33 seconds into the second period. White tried to shoot the puck off a faceoff in the Penguins zone, but the puck was blocked to the neutral zone. Dupuis raced ahead of the defense and broke in on a short breakaway. Hedberg came out to challenge, and turned away the scoring chance.

The Penguins outshot the Devils, 16-8, in that first period. Pittsburgh also had three powerplay opportunties, generating six shots. The Devils were able to kill off all three opportunities.

An early whistle cost the Devils a chance for a rebound opportunity with 25 seconds left in the period. The refs blew the play dead after it appeared Fleury stopped and held a shot. But the puck trickled behind the Penguins goalie and sat all alone in the crease.

Zubrus had a beautiful scoring opportunity denied with less than a minute left in the first period. The center caused a turnover in the Penguins zone and drove the net. He couldn’t keep the puck on his stick, and missed out on an opportunity to put a shot on net.

Dupuis’ goal at 15:41 of the first period pulled the Penguins even with the Devils, 1-1.

Crosby started the play in the neutral zone, kicking a loose puck from his back skate to the blade of his stick. The Penguins captain skated into the Devils zone along the side boards, and found Dupuis open in the middle of the Devils zone. Dupuis ripped a one-timer past Hedberg for his eighth goal of the year.

The assist stretched Crosby’s point streak to 16 games.

Brian Rolston’s powerplay goal at 14:20 of the first period put the Devils ahead, 1-0.

With Dupuis in the box for hooking, Mattias Tedenby curled behind the Penguins net with possession of the puck. He came up to the side boards and passed the puck to Jason Arnott, who was streaking into the zone. The center blasted a shot toward net that went wide right. The puck hit Rolston, and the left-winger corralled the loose puck and fired it home for his second goal of the season.

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Game 26 Preview: Looking For A Big Win Against The Pens

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Tonight’s Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (8-16-2) face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8-2) tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center. It’s the second of six meetings between the two teams this season. The Penguins lead the current season series, 1-0-0.

The Last Devils Game: The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Devils, 5-3, Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. New Jersey jumped out to a 2-1 lead after one period. But the Flyers fought back, scoring three straight goals between the second and third periods to take a 4-3 lead. The Devils cut the deficit to one, but couldn’t tie the game late in the final period.

The Last Penguins Game: The Penguins destroyed the Columbus Blue Jackets, 7-2, Saturday night in Pittsburgh. The Pens scored four goals in the first period – including two on the powerplay – to lead 4-0 after the first period. The Pens put the Blue Jackets away, scoring three goals over the final two periods.

The Last Devils – Penguins Game: The Penguins beat the Devils, 3-1, on October 10 at the Prudential Center. The Devils, playing with 15 skaters because of injury, fell behind, 1-0, after Alex Goligosky scored a first period goal. Mark Letestu extended the lead to 2-0 in the second period. Patrik Elias cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third period, but the Devils couldn’t tie the game. Ex-Devil Paul Martin clinched the win with an empty-netter.

Stepping Out of the Igloo: The Devils will play their first game in the CONSOL Energy Center. The Mellon Arena, or the “Igloo”, will suffer the same fate as the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The Penguins new digs are LEED gold-certified and was voted one of the best arenas in all of sports.

Tonight’s Matchup: The game features two teams going in two very different directions. After struggling early, the Penguins caught fire. In their last ten games, Pittsburgh is 9-0-1, earning 19 of a possible 20 points. Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed two goals or less in his last 11 games, and Sidney Crosby has 17 goals and 14 assists on his current point streak.

The Devils, on the other hand, are trending in the wrong direction. After winning three of four games two weeks ago, the team dropped two in a row. It’s been feast or famine offensively, and the defense plays suspect. Inconsistent efforts doomed New Jersey, especially in the second period of games.

Devils’ captain Jamie Langenbrunner acknowledged that another poor effort could lead to a blowout loss.

“When you face a team like that, you have to be at your best or they embarrass you,” Langenbrunner said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “I think if we go in with any mindset other than that, it will get ugly.”

The key for tonight’s game is simple – consistency. As Langenbrunner said above, the Devils need a sixty minute effort tonight. If they slip up for one shift, it can cost them the game. New Jersey can’t give Pittsburgh any extra opportunities. The Devils need to limit the turnovers and give the effort their capable of giving. Pittsburgh is playing unreal hockey right now, and allowing them to capitalize on mistakes will doom the Devils. A win over their rivals would be huge, but it won’t come easy. A consistent effort throughout the game will go a long way towards  getting the Devils a much-needed victory tonight.

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 – Dainius Zubrus; Brian Rolston – Adam Mair – David Clarkson; Mattias Tedenby – Rod Pelley

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Mark Fayne; Anton Volchenkov – Olivier Magnan; Matt Corrente

GOALIES: Johan Hedberg; Martin Brodeur

Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins

August 5, 2010 1 comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will take an in-depth look at the Devils’ 2010-2011 schedule. New Jersey has made the postseason 13 times in a row, winning the Atlantic Division and finishing second in the Eastern Conference last season. This year, the team will look to continue it’s impressive playoff streak while maintaining their place among the best in the conference. I’ve already previewed two opponents – the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals – and today we preview a well-known rival – the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Brodeur shut out the Penguins twice, and Parise recorded six points against Pittsburgh last season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Penguins vs. Devils – Historical Data

The Devils are 97-80-17-2 in 196 regular season games against the Penguins. The Devils average 3.40 goals for against Pittsburgh, while allowing 3.33 goals against. The Devils’ owned the Penguins last year, sweeping the regular season series. In their first meeting of the season, on October 24, 2009, rookie Mark Fraser recorded his first NHL to put the Devils ahead, 1-0. In the second period, another Devils’ rookie, Niclas Bergfors, doubled the lead with a powerplay goal. Travis Zajac and Zach Parise scored third period goals, and the Devils defeated the Penguins, 4-1.

On November 12, the Devils once again beat the Penguins, 4-1. Ruslan Fedotenko gave the Penguins a first period lead, but the Devils scored four unanswered goals to win the game. Zajac tallied three assists in the victory.

The Devils next victory, a 4-0 win on December 21, carried historical significance. Martin Brodeur, tied for the most shutouts in NHL history with Terry Sawchuk, passed the goalie with the victory. Brodeur finished with 35 saves for the victory. Brodeur again shut out the Penguins nine days later, helping backstop the Devils to a 2-0 victory. Bergfors scored a goal at 1:48 of the first period, and Brodeur’s 32 saves made that tally stand throughout the game. Jamie Langenbrunner added an empty-net, shorthanded goal at 19:48 of the third to ice the victory.

The Devils once again defeated the Penguins, 3-1, on March 12, 2010. Patrik Elias and Sidney Crosby scored first period goals, and the teams were tied until the third period. Andy Greene scored the game-winning goal at 2:06 of the period, and Ilya Kovalchuk added an insurance goal at 9:59 of the period.

The Devils completed the series sweep on March 17, defeating the Penguins, 5-2. New Jersey wore their “throwback” jerseys, going with the red, green and white jerseys. After Chris Kunitz gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 4:01 of the first period, the Devils scored four unanswered goals – including Paul Martin’s first goal of the season – to take the lead, 4-1. Fedetenko made it a two goal game at 5:23 of the third period, but the Devils held off the Penguins. Rob Niedermayer added an empty-netter for insurance in the win.

Penguins vs. Devils – This Season’s Matchup

The Penguins and Devils will again face-off six times this season. The first game should be the most interesting, as ex-Devil Martin, who signed with Pittsburgh this off-season, returns to The Rock on October 11. The Penguins, who were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs, boast a deeper blue line with the additions of Martin and Zbynek Michalek. The team also features Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the best scorers in the league.

What’s even more interesting is that half the team’s games this season come in March and April. Those late games will have a huge impact on the standings, and they could decide who wins the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings.

Matchup Notes

Fraser scored three goals last year, and all came against the Penguins…Parise recorded 7 points (three goals, four assists) against the Penguins…While playing for the Devils, Bergfors scored three goals against the Penguins – two via the powerplay…The Devils’ held Crosby to two points (one goal, one assist) last season.

Game 81: Devils Look For Pivotal Two Points Against Islanders

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (46-27-7) face off against the New York Islanders (34-36-10). This is the final game of the regular season between both teams. The Devils currently lead the season series, 3-2-0.

The Last Islanders Game: The Islanders lost to Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-3, Thursday night. In the final game at the Igloo, Sidney Crosby collected four points to become the third youngest player to ever reach the 500 point mark. Martin Biron was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots in the first period. Dwayne Roloson allowed three goals on 25 shots in relief.

The Last Devils Game: The Florida Panthers defeated the Devils, 3-2, Thursday night. Patrik Elias opened the scoring 59 seconds into the second period. Florida scored the next three, including the game-winning goal from Nathan Horton in the third period. Ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen stopped 44 shots in the victory.

The Last Islanders – Devils Game: The Islanders defeated the Devils, 4-2, March 13th on Long Island. Jon Sim broke a 1-1 tie in the second period, and Sean Bergenheim added the dagger with a shorthanded goal in the third period. Devils goalie Yann Danis stopped 29 shots in the loss.

Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils had a solid effort against the Florida Panthers Thursday night, but the offense came out on the short end of the stick. Clemmensen had a big hand in that, stonewalling the Devils and thwarting their best efforts tie the game. With the Islanders inability to even look competitive against the Penguins, the Devils fell back into a tie for second seed in the conference and first in the Atlantic Division.

The Devils effort in the past three games hasn’t been terrible. As a matter of fact, I’d say they’re playing some great hockey. Thursday night was a letdown, but the team still played hard. They come into tonight’s game playing the Islanders, a team that always plays the Devils tough. The Devils can’t take this team lightly. They’re always a thorn in the Devils’ side, and they have some young guys licking their lips and ready to play the spoiler. To prevent a loss, the Devils just need to continue to play solid hockey. Pittsburgh provided a solid blueprint for defeating the Islanders. Drive to the net and put shots on their goalies. Biron (who I’m sure Philadelphia wants back now) and Roloson aren’t superstars by any stretch of the imagination. If the Devils can continue their aggressive style, they should be able to win this game.

Update (5:17 p.m.): None of the regular players will be getting any rest tonight. Coach Jacques Lemaire wanted to rest defenseman Colin White, but relented when White begged him to play. If the Devils win tonight and the Penguins lose, they can clinch their ninth Atlantic Division. If the Devils win and both the Penguins and Buffalo lose, the Devils win the division and clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference. So, let’s go Thrashers and Senators!

Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSGPlus or WFAN.

Use this as tonight’s open game thread. Please keep comments focused on the game or any other relevant NHL action going on tonight. Please keep it clean and respectful.

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

March 29, 2010 1 comment

In the continuing “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview” series, I’ll take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Atlantic Division with 95 points. The defending champions have had an up and downseason, including dropping all six games to the Devils. Can the defending champions repeat their performance and hoist Lord Stanley again?

Forwards:

When healthy, the Penguins have arguably the best two lines in the N.H.L. The top two centers, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, consistently rank near the top of the league in scoring. As of today, Sidney Crosby leads the scoring race, tallying 47 goals. But it’s not only the top two lines who can score. Jordan Staal continues to improve year in and year out, and has 21 goals on the season. Deadline day acquisition Alex Ponikarovsky can move the puck and set up teammates, leading to his 29 assists. And he plays on the fourth line. This depth is one of the strengths of the Penguins. Good scorers, like Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, fly under the radar because of their depth. I believe that, without a doubt, the Penguins arguably the best depth among their forwards, ranking with Washington atop the conference.

Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins with 47 goals for the season. Pittsburgh, who ranks second, will look to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Photo credit: Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

Defense:

The blueline is where things get interesting. Sergei Gonchar, one of the Pittsburgh’s best defenseman, has only played in 57 games this season. Gonchar, who’s one of the leaders on the powerplay, has far underperformed the team’s expectations. After finishing sixth in goals against last season, they’re currently ranked in the 20th. Kris Letang has taken a backseat this year, and the rest of the defense is underwhelming. They also don’t have a big, physical presence on the blueline. The Penguins lack of depth could hurt them in the playoffs. They’re going to lean on their forwards to succeed, and this strategy isn’t the best.

Goalie:

Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the solid goaltenders in the N.H.L. In 62 games, Fleury is 35-19-6, with a 2.65 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Fleury can always make the great save, and his presence in net brings a calming influence to the defensive zone. In the past few years, he’s began to deal with injuries. It seems that Fleury is good for at least one injury per season, which is an added worry in the playoffs. When healthy, Fleury can steal the Penguins a few games. But he needs to remain healthy to give the Penguins an added edge.

So, what can we expect from the Penguins come playoff time? The team is going to play hard, gritty hockey. They’re forwards are clearly the strength, but they do have questions along the blueline. They’ve also struggled against the top teams, losing all six games to the Devils and struggling against the Capitals. Not only that, but significant players have missed time with injury. But they are the defending champions, and the will still be champs until someone knocks them out of the playoffs. Even with their problems, Pittsburgh will be a tough opponent in any playoff series.