Big Game Friday For Cellar-Dwelling Devils
ANAHEIM (AP) – It’s early in the season, but the New Jersey Devils are uncharacteristically at the bottom of the NHL. Their position may not change any time soon.
The Devils attempt to avoid their first four-game losing streak in 18 months when they visit the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
New Jersey (2-7-1) has spent the majority of the last 17 years battling for Eastern Conference supremacy while winning three Stanley Cups and nine Atlantic Division titles, including one last season.
The Devils are struggling to show they can match those lofty achievements in 2010-11, totaling a league-low five points during their worst 10-game start since going 1-9-0 in 1983-84.
New Jersey may find it difficult to begin turning this rough stretch around, as it visits Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago before returning home to face the rival New York Rangers next Friday.
The Devils’ losing streak reached three Wednesday after falling 5-2 at San Jose. They haven’t dropped four in a row since a six-game slide from March 22-April 1, 2009.
“We’ve got to regroup,” first-year coach John MacLean told the team’s official website. “No one is going to feel sorry for us.”
New Jersey is last in the league in scoring (17) and goals allowed (35). The club was the stingiest in the NHL last season, allowing 191 goals with Martin Brodeur leading the league with 45 wins and nine shutouts and ranked third with a 2.24 goals-against average.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner hasn’t come close to being that productive this season, going 2-6-1 with a 2.94 GAA and two shutouts. He gave up a season high-tying five goals on 39 shots against the Sharks.
Ilya Kovalchuk, a six-time 40-goal scorer, is also having a difficult time. The high-priced star has one goal in his last four games and didn’t have a shot against San Jose. His struggles also featured a surprise benching by MacLean, who gave no reason for the move ahead of Saturday’s 6-1 home loss to Buffalo.
Kovalchuk hopes a return to Anaheim can get him going. He netted a hat trick and added an assist in an 8-4 win with Atlanta on Feb. 15.
Brodeur also played a major role in the Devils’ only meeting with the Ducks (4-5-1) last season, making 31 saves in a 3-1 home win on Nov. 11. They haven’t visited the Honda Center since a 4-3 defeat on Jan. 11, 2009.
The Ducks are looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season. They salvaged a split of a four-game trip by beating Dallas 5-2 on Tuesday.
At 40, Teemu Selanne is still a major offensive force for Anaheim with a team-high five goals while assisting on five others. The right wing had one of each Tuesday, but his goal was the 611th of his career to move past Bobby Hull into sole possession of 15th place all time.
Selanne is 14 behind former Colorado teammate Joe Sakic for 14th place.
“When I read my name in the same story with Bobby Hull or somebody else, it’s a big compliment,” said Selanne, the Ducks’ all-time leader with 384 goals, 417 assists and 801 points. “I’m thankful for all these years.”
Selanne hasn’t managed a point in the last five meetings against New Jersey.
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