By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils are finishing 2013 strongly, with points in six of their last seven games (4-1-2), climbing back to the .500 mark for the season at 16-16-8.

Travis Zajac’s goal with just under seven minutes remaining in the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and proved to be the game-winner in the Devils’ 2-1 win over the Islanders Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Zajac has scored seven goals this season, matching his total from last season. But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, five of them have been recorded in the third period (five) or in overtime (one). Elias also notes that none of Zajac’s seven goals for New Jersey last season came in the third period or overtime.

New Jersey lost to Columbus, 2-1, in the shootout last Friday night, setting an NHL record with its 10th consecutive shootout loss, dating back to last season’s March 15 defeat at Philadelphia. The Devils had tied the record (accomplished three times previously) on December 4 vs. Montreal.

Here is a recap of the 10 straight shootout defeats:

·       12/27/13 vs. Cbj, 2-1 (lost shootout 1-0)

·       12/4/13   vs. Mtl, 4-3 (lost shootout 2-1)

·       11/8/13   at  Tor, 2-1 (lost shootout 1-0)

·       10/24/13 vs. Van, 3-2 (lost shootout 1-0)

·       10/7/13   at  Edm, 5-4 (lost shootout 2-0)

·       10/4/13   vs. NYI, 4-3 (lost shootout 1-0, 6th RD)

·       4/7/13     at Buf, 3-2 (lost shootout 1-0)

·       3/29/13   at TB, 5-4 (lost shootout 2-0)

·       3/25/13   at Ott, 3-2 (lost shootout 2-1, 4th RD)

·       3/15/13   at Phi, 2-1 (lost shootout 2-1)

New Jersey has gone a combined 3-for-32 on their shootout attempts during the 10-game losing streak with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zajac and Reid Boucher being the only Devils to score shootout goals in the 10 tiebreaker defeats.

Here is how all of New Jersey’s shooters have fared during the 10-game shootout skid, including those players who are no longer with the Devils:

·       Patrik Elias: 0/7

·       Travis Zajac: 1/7

·       Adam Henrique: 0/3

·       Jaromir Jagr: 0/3

·       Ryane Clowe: 0/3

·       Damien Brunner: 0/2

·       Michael Ryder: 0/2

·       Reid Boucher: 1/1

·       Ilya Kovalchuk: 1/1

·       Andrei Loktionov: 0/1

·       Steve Sullivan: 0/1

·       David Clarkson: 0/1

Patrik Elias’ last shootout goal was the deciding one in New Jersey’s last shootout victory, 3-2, over Winnipeg back on April 10, 2013, in Newark. Johan Hedberg got the victory.

Martin Brodeur has dropped seven straight shootout decisions dating back to March 27, 2012, a 2-1 win over Chicago in five rounds at Prudential Center.

Here is how Brodeur and the other Devils goalies have fared in the 10-game shootout losing streak:

·       Martin Brodeur: 0-6, 9 GA/20 Shots

·       Cory Schneider: 0-3. 4 GA/8 Shots

·       Johan Hedberg: 0-1, 2 GA/3 Shots

The Devils close out 2013 against the Penguins Tuesday afternoon at Prudential Center. New Jersey comes into the game with an overall record of 35-35-18 this calendar year, combining this season’s record with their 19-19-10 mark in the lockout-shortened, 48-game 2012-13 season, which did not begin until January. The Devils’ 88 points rank 23rd in the NHL for 2013 with two days left to go in December.

Best NHL records in the calendar year:

·       Chicago Blackhawks: 63-14-12, 138 pts

·       Pittsburgh Penguins: 65-23-1, 131 pts

·       Anaheim Ducks: 58-19-11, 127 pts

·       St. Louis Blues: 55-24-7, 117 pts

·       Boston Bruins: 54-25-8, 116 pts

Worst NHL records in the calendar year:

·       Florida Panthers: 30-47-11, 71 pts

·       Buffalo Sabres: 32-45-10, 74 pts

·       Edmonton Oilers: 32-46-11, 75 pts

·       Calgary Flames: 33-43-10, 76 pts

·       Nashville Predators: 33-41-13, 79 pts

·       Carolina Hurricanes: 33-41-13, 79 pts

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Captain Back — Bryce Salvador returned to the lineup in the win against the Islanders, his first appearance since October 22 at Columbus. Salvador, who had missed the previous 30 games due to a non-displaced stress fracture in his foot, had five hits and a pair of blocked shots in 23:36 minutes played, including 5:25 of the 6:00 the Devils spent on the penalty-kill.

Plus: Clowe Back — Ryane Clowe finished with a team-high four hits and one blocked shot in 10:38 of ice time against Columbus in his first game since October 13. Clowe had missed the previous 32 games due to a concussion.

Minus: No Shot — New Jersey was outshot, 37-12, in their 5-2 loss last Monday night in Chicago. The Devils’ 12 shots on goal matched the team record for fewest on the road (October 22, 1982 at Winnipeg) and were their second-fewest this season (11 on December 6 vs. Detroit).

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