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Schwei: Devils’ Hot Start, Kovalchuk Climbs And More

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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By John Schweibacher
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The Devils are off to a 3-0-1 start, coming an OT loss shy of matching their best opening four-game stretch in club history.

Devils’ best starts through first four games:

•1991-92 4-0-0
•1993-94 4-0-0
•1995-96 4-0-0
•2012-13 3-0-1

Only one of the New Jersey teams that began its season 4-0 managed to remain unbeaten for more than four games, the 1993-94 club which began the season with seven consecutive wins.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime goal against the Washington Capitals last Friday was the 14th of his career, moving him to fifth all-time:

1. Jaromir Jagr 16
2. Patrik Elias 15
2. Mats Sundin 15
2. Sergei Fedorov 15
5. Ilya Kovalchuk 14
6. Steve Thomas 13
6. Scott Niedermayer 13

Kovalchuk scored his 3rd career penalty shot goal in four attempts in New Jersey’s 3-0 victory over the Flyers last Tuesday. It was also the Devils fifth shorthanded penalty shot attempt all-time:

·10/09/87 @NJ Mark Johnson vs. Pat Riggin Pit. SAVE

·11/11/98 @NJ Scott Niedermayer vs. Jose Theodore Mtl. SCORE

·10/31/09 @TB Jamie Langenbrunner vs.Antero Niittymaki TB SAVE

·10/21/11 @SJ Zach Parise vs. Antti Niemi SJ SCORE

Stefan Matteau may soon be returning to his Junior team but he did become the eighth-youngest player in Devils history at 18 years, 10 months and 27 days when he played in New Jersey’s season-opener.

Here is the list of the youngest players to appear in a game for the Devils:

· Scott Niedermayer 18 years, 1 month, 15 days

· Craig Wolanin 18 years, 2 months, 13 days

· Kirk Muller 18 years, 8 months, 4 days

· Brendan Shanahan 18 years, 8 months, 16 days

· Pat Verbeek 18 years, 9 months, 21 days

· John MacLean 18 years, 10 months, 15 days

· Adam Larsson 18 years, 10 months, 26 days

· Stefan Matteau 18 years, 10 months, 27 days

· Petr Sykora 18 years, 11 months, 9 days

· Corey Foster 19 years, 0 months, 23 days

· Craig Billington 19 years, 1 month, 15 days

Travis Zajac scored the Devils’ first goal of the season in their 2-1 opening night win against the Islanders. Zajac, who missed the start of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, also scored New Jersey’s first goal of 2010-11 in their 4-3 overtime loss against Dallas. Zajac is the fifth player in club history to score the Devils’ first goal of a season more than once:

· Zach Parise (3): 2011-12, 2008-09, 2006-07

· Brian Rolston (2): 2009-10, 1996-97

· John MacLean (2): 1995-96, 1987-88

· Stephane Richer (2): 1994-95, 1991-92

· Travis Zajac (2): 2012-13, 2010-11

Martin Brodeur’s 3-0 shutout against the Flyers last Tuesday was the 120th of Brodeur’s NHL career, extending his own league record, but according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the third time that Brodeur registered a clean sheet in one of his first two games of a season. He notched a shutout in his first game in both 1995-96 (vs. Florida) and 2006-07 (at Carolina).

The Devils take on the Bruins, Islanders (twice) and the Penguins this week. Former New Jersey head coach Claude Julien moved into a tie for third place on the Bruins’ all-time coaching wins last last week:

· Art Ross 361
· Milt Schmidt 245
· Claude Julien 231
· Don Cherry 231
· Gerry Cheevers 204

Only Jacques Lemaire (617) and the late Pat Burns (501) have more career coaching wins than Julien (349) among former Devils coaches.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Patrik Elias. The Devils’ all-time leading scorer has two goals and four assists in four games, including his 900th career point in Sunday night’s overtime loss in Montreal.

Minus: Habs Not. New Jersey’s OT defeat vs. the Canadiens ended the club’s eight-game winning streak in Montreal dating back to March 11, 2008.