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Hartnett: Devils Climbing Eastern Conference Ladder

Devils Armed For Playoff Push
(credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

On February 2, the New Jersey Devils trailed the New York Rangers by 12 points in the Eastern Conference standings.  They sat in 8th place, even on games played but seemingly a world away from the 1st place Rangers.

In a short span of six days, the Devils gained valuable ground in the standings and have pushed themselves into 5th overall in the Eastern Conference.  Currently, they’re six points off the pace of the Rangers but have played an extra two games.

While I strongly believe that the Devils have little chance of catching the Rangers in the standings, it is clear that New Jersey is well on their way toward securing a playoff berth.  The most important thing the Devils proved over their five-game win streak is that they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with top Atlantic Division teams regardless of whether it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers or of course, the Rangers.

Martin Brodeur chatted with reporters after the Devils’ 1-0 victory on Tuesday night.

“We played a great hockey game.  I thought right from the start of the game we were pretty disciplined, we stuck to our game plan.  We thought this might be a dirty, probably 1-0 game we’re gonna win and that’s exactly want happened,” he stated.

Brodeur on the understanding between him and his defense:

He continued, “Last week has been good with beating the Rangers twice, Pittsburgh and Philly.  We seem to come through against these teams.  It’s nice to get a win today like we did today knowing we can win both ways.”

Brodeur spoke about the intensity of facing the Rangers, “It’s always fun to play well against these guys (the Rangers), it’s a big rivalry.  Shutouts on the road are always a little harder to get.  Even though I want to win games, it’s nice to be able to stab a shutout.”

David Clarkson scored the lone goal of the evening that came on the powerplay.   Zach Parise darted behind the Rangers’ net and found Clarkson with a laser-sharp pass.

Clarkson shared his thoughts on the victory, “We’ve been on a bit of roll and playing good hockey.  We’re doing a lot of good things.  I think at the end of the game there, we were really good in the neutral zone which is something we’ve been working on.  That’s a good team over there, so I think we did the things we needed to do and we’ll take the win tonight.”

Clarkson on the where the Devils need to be:

Brodeur gave his verdict on how far the Devils have come.  “It’s a work in progress.  We’re taking strides towards being more of an elite team but it’s going to take more efforts like we did today and against Pittsburgh.  Winning five in a row now, we staring feeling it but we have to continue it,” he said.

Clarkson also reflected on the Devils’ progress and the need to continue their momentum.  “We’ve got to believe in ourselves and we’ve got to keep that peddle down and working hard.  We’ve done some good things but the standings are close, the race is tight… we’ve got to continue to push,” he stated.

Devils fans, where do you see New Jersey finishing in the Eastern Conference standings and do expect their trend of beating rivals to continue?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.