You often have to wonder how the New Jersey Devils do it. Their
goaltender is 40, and their best player departed during free agency, yet the 2012
Stanley Cup Finalists rarely show signs of slowing down. With 19 points and an
8-2-3 record, the Devils sit atop the Eastern Conference once again.
It’s early, but New Jersey seems to be getting along just
fine without Zach Parise so far. The trio of David Clarkson, Patrick Elias, and
Ilya Kovalchuk have been able to shoulder the load just fine, with Clarkson in
particular breaking out for nine goals already – tied for fourth in the NHL.
And Martin Brodeur just keeps on ticking for the Devils in net, off to a 6-2-2
We already know they can still shut down the Flyers. In the
third game of the season back on January 22, New Jersey blanked Philadelphia
3-0 in Newark, a losing effort that cost the team Scott Hartnell. The Flyers
dominated much of the first period, but were still trailing by two goals when
it was over, and Brodeur shut the door from there.
Marty stopped 24 shots, while the Devils got two of their
three scores from Clarkson and Kovalchuk.
It would be fair to say they’ve had the Flyers’ number going
back to the playoffs last season. Philly stole game one of the Eastern
Conference semis in overtime, then proceeded to flat-line for the remainder of
the series, dropping the next four in what amounted to an extended sweep of
The problem of late has been their inability to sustain and
sometimes even generate offensive chances against New Jersey’s backcheck. The
Flyers averaged 2.2 goals per game against the Devils last postseason, and
obviously they were shutout in their first encounter in 2013.
That theme could continue on Friday night. Philadelphia is
tied for 21st in goals per game (2.49) and ranks 20th in power-play percentage
(16.9%), while New Jersey is tied for fifth in goals against average (2.08) and
eighth in penalty killing (84.1%).
The offense has shown some signs of improvement, as it looks
like Peter Laviolette may have found a solid combination in the tandem of Jakub
Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Tye McGinn. We’ll see if the young guns can keep
up the pressure against a gritty division rival.
In other words, we may need another stellar performance out
of Ilya Byrzgalov to carry the Orange & Black, although they could get a little help should Sean Couturier return from a touch of the flu. Puck drops at 7 p.m. as the
Flyers search for their second win of their season-long six-game road trip.
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