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Schwei On Ice: Negative Numbers

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

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By John Schweibacher
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The Devils’ rookie head coach, John MacLean, has his team off to its worst start since his rookie season as a player. New Jersey is 1-4-1 so far in 2010-11, the club’s poorest record through six games since they began the 1983-84 season 1-5-0. The Devils have also gone 0-3-1 in their first four games at Prudential Center, their worst start on home-ice since dropping their first six contests at the Meadowlands during that same ’83-84 campaign.

The Devils actually have had equally bad or worse starts through six games in franchise history. As the Colorado Rockies from 1976-77 through 1981-82, the club had three 1-4-1 starts. The dubious distinction of worst start ever came back in 1974-75 when, as the Kansas City Scouts, the team posted an 0-5-1 record in its first six games ever in its expansion season.

The Devils have scored just 10 goals in the first six games, a new all-time low surpassing the 11 goals through six games in what turned out to be their first Stanley Cup Championship season in 1995. New Jersey has given up 21 goals, the most they have allowed in six games to begin a season since 2001-02 when they gave up 22.

17’s first. Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime goal, his first of the season, gave New Jersey their first win of the season, 1-0, over the Sabres in Buffalo. It was just the 4th time in Devils history that they won 1-0 in overtime:

· 12/2/02 Devils 1 at Flyers 0 Brian Gionta

· 12/10/03 Devils 1 vs. Islanders 0 Patrik Elias

· 12/23/07 Devils 1 at Calgary 0 Patrik Elias

· 10/13/10 Devils 1 at Buffalo 0 Ilya Kovalchuk

The Devils also had a 1-0 overtime win in the post-season back on May 12th, 1995 on Randy McKay’s goal in sudden-death against the Bruins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Meadowlands.

18 or less. The injuries to Brian Rolston and Mark Fraser have at least temporarily gotten the Devils out of their salary cap roster issues. New Jersey played two games with less than the full complement of 18 skaters last week, losing to the Penguins and defeating the Sabres. Back in the 2006-07 season, New Jersey played six such games with less than 18 skaters and  went undefeated in those contests, winning three of them in shootouts:

· Date Game (Number of skaters)
· 11/9/06 Devils 2 vs. Blackhawks 1 (SO) (17)
· 3/8/07 Devils 4 at Penguins 3 (SO) (16)
· 3/10/07 Devils 3 at Sabres 2 (17)
· 4/1/07 Devils 3 vs. Bruins 1 (17)
· 4/3/07 Devils 2 vs. Senators 1 (SO) (17)
· 4/5/07 Devils 3 at Flyers 2 (17)

19 or under. Jacob Josefson made his NHL debut for the Devils this past Friday night against Colorado. Josefson and Alexander Urbom, who played his 1st NHL contest on opening night for New Jersey, are the youngest players to appear in a game for the Devils since Petr Sykora back in
1995 and Scott Gomez in 1999:

· Petr Sykora 10/28/95 vs. Penguins 18 years, 11 months & 9 days.
· Jacob Josefson 10/15/10 vs. Avalanche 19 years, 7 months & 14 days.
· Scott Gomez 10/2/99 at Atlanta 19 years, 9 months & 10 days.
· Alex Urbom 10/7/10 vs. Stars 19 years, 9 months & 18 days.

20 again: Matt Taormina registered both his first NHL assist and goal this past week for the Devils. Taormina, who will turn 24 this week, signed with New Jersey as an undrafted free agent out of Providence College in August of 2009 and had 10 goals and 40 assists for John MacLean and the AHL Lowell Devils last season. Taormina is wearing uniform number 20 which belonged to Jay Pandolfo from 1996 through last season. The last New Jersey Devils player to wear number 20 prior to Pandolfo was Scott Pellerin, who wore 20 for six games during the 1995-96 season.

The Devils begin a stretch of seven out of eight games on the road this week when they visit Montreal, host Buffalo and make their first trip of the season to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers.

New Jersey took three of the four meeting against the Canadiens last season. Ex-Devil Brian Gionta was named the 28th captain in franchise history this season, joining Chris Chelios as just the second American-born player to wear the “C” for the Habs. There are no other former Devils who are currently the captain of any NHL club but three one-time New Jersey players are alternate captains; Scott Gomez in Montreal, Johnny Oduya in Atlanta and Steve Sullivan in Nashville.

New Jersey hosts the Sabres Saturday night at Prudential Center. The Devils’ 1-0 win last week in Buffalo was Martin Brodeur’s 111th career shutout but just his 3rd against the Sabres. Brodeur had just one shutout (a 0-0 tie against Dominik Hasek in 1996) in his first 51 career outings against Buffalo but has now posted two in his last four games against them, including last season’s 3-0 win in Buffalo on December 7th which tied Terry Sawchuks’ NHL record of 103.

The Devils face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. New Jersey went 3-2-1 against their cross-river rivals last season, taking two of the three games played in New York. These two clubs met just two and a half years ago in the 1st round of the NHL playoffs but just seven of the 19 Rangers who appeared in those five games are currently with New York while just 10 players (including the injured Bryce Salvador) out of the 21 who appeared for New Jersey still play for the Devils.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Minus: David Clarkson. Zero points in six games.

Minus: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. Instigator penalty and suspension worsened Devils roster situation.

Plus: Matt Taormina. Three points in six games are second only to Washington’s John Carlson’s six as the most among rookie defenseman in NHL.