Stafford Back With Devils on a PTO Agreement for Training Camp

Drew Stafford will be back for next season with the Devils. But only if he makes it out of training camp. The 32-year-old right winger today agreed to a professional try out (PTO) with the Devils and has been invited to training camp.

Stafford did not exactly set the world on fire last season with the Devils. He had eight goals and seven assists (15 points) over 59 games in 2017-18. He played in two games of the Devils’ five game loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the playoffs as well.

According to the press release on the matter, the Devils initially signed him to a one-year, one-way contract on August 25, 2017. He was a free agent following this past season.

He has played in a total of 784 games at the NHL level with the Sabres, Jets, Bruins and Devils. The press release notes his career totals as 191 goals and 224 assists for 415 points to go along with 397 penalty minutes.

While some fans might not be happy with this, feeling that Stafford is done as an NHL player, you never know what you are going to get with a PTO. He could conceivably have something left in the tank and last year could have been an aberration. But you take a flyer on someone and if he makes the team, that means he showed management something. Otherwise, he does not make the team and likely retires. We will find out when training camp kicks off next week.

Devils Come Back, Beat Flyers in Shootout

Taylor Hall had two goals versus the Flyers. His second came after missing 16 minutes of the second period. Photo:

The Devils needed this, no doubt about it. They came into Philadelphia on a four game winless streak, were victimized (again) by a rough call in the Boston game (the second Bruins’ goal – late in the first period – that may or may not have crossed the goal line) and were taking on a hot divisional opponent. The Flyers were winners of four straight and 20 of their last 30.

But the Devils, who did play well against the Bruins on Sunday, had some fight in them and were able to come back from being down a couple of times, including by two goals twice, to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat in a shootout, winning 5-4.

Some injury news for the Devils. First, Cory Schneider has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to January 23 with a groin/hip issue. He will resume skating next week, but will not be available for this stretch of games. Brian Boyle (shoulder) and John Quenneville (knee) are also out. Nick Lappin was called up from Binghamton as a result of the injuries. Mirco Mueller was the healthy scratch for New Jersey while John Moore slotted back in on defense.

The Flyers were without their starting goalie as Brian Elliott had surgery on an injured core muscle and will miss a few weeks. The goaltending woes continue for Philadelphia. Michal Neuvirth got the start for them, making 32 saves on 36 shots and grabbing one of two shots in the shootout.

The Devils went back to Keith Kinkaid after the debacle in Columbus last weekend. He would stop 31 of 35 and get all three Flyers attempts in the shootout. He played well, coming up big at key times in the third period and overtime.

One other item of note for the Devils was that the NHL awarded Taylor Hall an assist on the lone Devil goal from Saturday in Columbus. That meant that his point streak was intact, putting him at 14 games coming into tonight. He would extend that further.

The Devils got behind the eight-ball early once again in a Keith Kinkaid start when Travis Konecny scored from Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere at 1:54 into the game. The goal was scored on a partial breakaway following a nice tape-to-tape backhand pass from Giroux. It would remain 1-0 Flyers for more than twenty minutes, as the score held up into the intermission and then the Devils would get on the board 4:06 into the second.

Taylor Hall had hit the post twice in the first period and things did not seem to be going his way tonight. This was soon to change.

The goal came when Sami Vatanen hit Hall with a pass through the neutral zone. Hall sped into the Philly zone and skated behind the goal line. He fired a shot that bounced in off of Neuvirth’s backside and in. There was initially no referee signal on the play, and they would review it, but Toronto said that the goal was good and it was 1-1. Hall was hit hard by Radko Gudas behind the net after the goal went in. Hall mentioned in the postgame that the hit was clean, Gudas was just finishing his check and as he (Hall) fell back, his head it the boards and Hall lost his helmet.

Hall would leave the game for 16 minutes in the second period, going off for concussion protocol. Once he was deemed OK, he would return for the third period to play a huge role.

In the meantime, the Flyers would score the next two goals to take their first two goal lead of the night. Scott Laughton scored at 4:49 of the second to make it 2-1. He got assists from Michael Raffl and Andrew MacDonald. Gudas would score at 10:36 from Valtteri Filppula and Dale Weise to make it 3-1.

Following the third Philadelphia goal, a scary moment as Miles Wood took a slash to the foot and seemed to be injured. He was not and continued on.

The Devils would start chopping away at the Flyer lead beginning at 13:17 of the second when John Moore scored just after a power play had expired to make it 3-2. It came when Travis Zajac skated the puck from down low along the near boards. He gave to Moore at the near point as he was coming up. Moore fired a slap shot that found its way into the net with Lappin providing a screen in front.

Following that goal, Giroux would put the Flyers back up on top by two. His power play goal at 15:59 from Jakub Voracek and Gostisbehere would make it 4-2. Zajac was serving a cross checking penalty to setup the power play. Overall, The Flyers were 1-for-5 on the man advantage with four shots while the Devils were 0-for-3 with three shots.

The Devils would cut the lead to one before the end of the period when Nico Hischier scored at 16:09 of the second. It came when Nico grabbed a Philly turnover in the neutral zone and broke in with Jesper Bratt on a 2-on-1. They played give-and-go and Nico finished by beating Neuvirth over the glove side to make it 4-3, Flyers. It was a beautiful goal and had the Devils feeling good about themselves heading into the final minutes of the period.

Then a setback. As has become requisite for a Devils game: controversy. Travis Zajac was hit with a Flyer high stick and was bleeding from the mouth. That would usually net a high sticking minor at least, a double minor because there was blood. Instead, both referees somehow missed the play and no call was made. Never before, it seems, has a team been this affected by bad officiating as the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils.

But the Devils pushed on. They had numerous chances to tie things up throughout the third period but could not execute. Keith Kinkaid was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game for the extra attacker and it would pay off.

At the 18:39 mark of the third, Hall would net his second of the game, making his grand comeback, to tie things up at four and force an overtime period. It developed when Zajac won a faceoff deep in the Philly zone. He won it to Will Butcher, who went low with it and gave to Hall behind the goal line. Hall centered to Hischier, who shot. Neuvirth made the save, but left the rebound just to his right and Hall jumped on it, firing it home to tie the game with 1:21 left in the game.

It was a nice play, Hall’s team-leading 23rd goal of the year. The Devils were able to weather a final onslaught from Philly to go to OT, gaining at least a point in a game that seemed at times to be all but lost. Once in the extra session, the Flyers pushed the play, keeping control of the puck and not giving the Devils much possession time. That is where Kinkaid came in, as he stoned the Flyers on a few plays, closing the door and forcing a shootout once time expired in the OT.

Jordan Weal went first for the Flyers and was stopped by Kinkaid. Kyle Palmieri missed for the Devils to complete the first round. In the second round, Konecny was stopped by Kinkaid and Drew Stafford scored for the Devils. This made Voracek’s try on Kinkaid crucial to keep the game going for Philadelphia. Kinkaid stopped him and the Devils came away with the two points. It was New Jersey’s 28th win of the year, equaling their output from last season.

Drew Stafford had the GWG in the shootout. Photo:

Stat wise, Hall led in shots by a large margin with seven, despite missing most of the second period, which proves his impact as a player for the Devils. Vatanen led in time on ice with 27:53, Moore led in hits with three, Andy Greene led the pace in blocks with five and Zajac had the most takeaways with three. The Devils won 48-percent of faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils return home on Thursday for another key divisional matchup, this time with the suddenly-surging Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils have yet to see the Canes this season and will be looking to take another two points in a big Metro Division showdown.


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Hischier the Hero as Devils Outlast Flyers

Philadelphia has a Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, but tonight the Flyers traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to renew their rivalry with the Devils. And the Devils were able to outlast – more like survive – the Flyers tonight as they won the game 4-3.

It was Pride Night at Prudential Center, part of the NHL’s You Can Play initiative, which strives to make the sport inclusive to people of all ethnicities, orientations and creeds. Proceeds from sales of special rainbow Devils logo t-shirts went to local LGBTQ organizations in the Newark area.

The Devils were coming off a 3-1 win in Buffalo which got them out of their pre-All-Star funk. The Flyers were playing the second half of a back-to-back, they were in Washington last night and lost 5-3 after jumping out to a 2-0 lead. They gave up five straight goals in that game as they took the loss to the Capitals.

In Devils injury news, Cory Schneider skated on his own and Marcus Johansson is working out off ice. There was no update on Brian Gibbons pre-game. New Jersey went largely with the same lineup they iced in Buffalo, going with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Jimmy Hayes and Steven Santini were the healthy scratches.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid (who equaled his win total from last year with the win in Buffalo) made his second straight start for the Devils. He made 22 saves on 25 Flyer shots. For Philadelphia, Alex Lyon was making his first NHL start tonight. He came on in relief against Washington last night, but this was his first start. He made 18 saves on 22 shots against.

The first period was a wild one to be certain, as the fists flew and four power play goals were scored between the two teams. It started 3:42 into the period when Kyle Palmieri (who was celebrating a birthday) scored to make it 1-0. It came when Nolan Patrick was called for hooking Nico Hischier and went off. The Devils had put a new wrinkle into their power play attack, as the MSG announcers kept talking about in Tuesday’s game in Buffalo. They did not get to show it there, as they did get a power play opportunity, but they did tonight. The play developed when the puck was wound around the boards in the Flyers’ zone to Taylor Hall at the far half wall. He made a nifty little pass to Pavel Zacha inside the far faceoff circle. Zacha then fed Palmieri at the far faceoff dot. He fired and beat Lyon to give the Devils the early lead.

The Devils got into some penalty trouble. First, at 5:31, Mirco Mueller was called for interfering with Jordan Weal. While the Devils were on the penalty kill, Travis Zajac was called for cross checking at 6:31 to put the Flyers up 5-on-3. Claude Giroux scored on that power play to tie the game up at one. That goal came at 6:47 off assists to Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.

Then came the shenanigans. First, Radko Gudas laid a big hit on Palmieri and was called for interference. Palmieri was slow to get up and replays showed that while Gudas did not seem to want to make a dirty hit on him, he did leave his feet while colliding with Palmieri. Gudas went off for his infraction. Meanwhile, a scrap broke out between Damon Severson and Brandon Manning which resulted in five minute fighting majors for them while Voracek and Hall got into it resulting in roughing calls on them. When it was all said and done, the Devils would be on the power play due to the Gudas interference call. All of those penalties came at 12:47 of the first period.

On that power play, New Jersey converted when Drew Stafford scored at 13:49. It came when Sami Vatanen faked a shot at the blue line and went point-to-point with John Moore. Moore shot and Stafford was there to redirect the puck into the Philly net. The Devils had retaken the lead at 2-1.

But the Devils were still seething about the Gudas hit on Palmieri. It was part of a bigger picture with the Brad Marchand hit on Johansson in Boston and other liberties that have been taken with the Devils’ star players lately. Travis Zajac decided to take matters into his own hands.

He went one-on-one with Gudas and thoroughly beat him, winning the fight but taking the instigator penalty along with it. The Flyers were on another power play at 14:48. It was Zajac’s first fight since March 23, 2017 when he fought future teammate Brian Boyle.

It did not take Philly long to connect on their power play as Simmonds scored at 15:46 from Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere. The game was tied again, this time at two.

All told, the power play totals for the game saw the Flyers go 2-for-3 with six shots while the Devils were 2-for-4 with four shots. The Devils had come into the game 0-for-11 on the power play in their last four games, so hopefully this will get them jumpstarted in that department.

Following the crazy first period, there would be only one other penalty called the rest of the game: a Travis Konecny tripping call against Philadelphia in the second period.

But that was not it for the goal scoring. The Flyers took their first lead of the night when Gostisbehere scored on a shot that went in off of Damon Severson’s skate at 7:01 of the second from Valtteri Filppula and Taylor Leier to make the score 3-2.

But Severson would redeem himself as the Devils began the comeback in the third period. At 11:00 of the final frame, The Devils won a puck battle along the boards in the far corner. The puck squirted out to Zacha, who fed Severson in the slot. Severson did not miss and just like that, the Devils had tied things at three.

But they were not done yet. Knowing they did not want to go to overtime and give up a point to a Metropolitan Division rival, the Devils needed the win. Enter Nico Hischier. At 18:33, Ben Lovejoy moved the puck up to Blake Coleman. He skated into the Flyers’ zone and cut wide before finding Nico crashing the net. Hischier got a stick on the puck just enough to redirect it through Lyon’s five hole as Hischier was falling. It was a highlight reel goal but also a crucial one. The Devils were up 4-3 with about 2:30 left.

The Flyers would pull Lyon with about a minute to go in the game, but it was to no avail. The Devils held on and avoided losing their first three games of the year to the Flyers since 1983-84 – coincidentally the last time the Flyers have swept a season series with the Devils.

It was a big win for New Jersey. They kept pace in the division, as the Rangers also lost to the Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes defeated the Canadiens in games featuring other Metro teams. They also did not give up a point to Philly, who were only two points behind them coming into the night.

Stats-wise for the Devils, Andy Greene led in ice time with 20:22, a few seconds more than Hall, who led the forwards with 20:17 (he was being double shifted late in the game). Shots on goal was a four-way tie with Hall, Boyle, Stafford and Zacha all having three. Boyle also led in hits with four and Miles Wood led in blocks with two. Boyle also led in takeaways with two. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up for the Devils, Saturday at home against the Penguins. The Pens have been surging up the Metro Division standings and will also be playing the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday (they have Washington on home ice on Friday). This will be a good chance for the Devils to continue their momentum and pick up some points in the Metro Division race.

Devils Prevail in OT, Finally Beat Washington

The Devils wanted to give the Washington Capitals “a game.” The team felt that they had not played the Caps well at all in their twin 5-2 losses in two games against them this season and for the most part, they were right. Tonight, the Devils conceded a point to the Metropolitan Division leaders, but took the full two by defeating the Capitals 4-3 in overtime. Washington is definitely one of the elite teams in the NHL and the Devils wanted to show that they could skate with them.

The Capitals had had some travel problems getting into Newark. They had just come off of their bye week and could not get into New Jersey in time for a practice yesterday, due to weather problems in DC. They just got in a morning skate earlier today.

Some roster moves for the Devils first, as the lineup remained largely the same as the one that defeated the Islanders Tuesday night in Brooklyn. Some good news for the Devils on the injury front as Mirco Mueller is back and was sent to Binghamton of the AHL on a “conditioning assignment.” Blake Coleman and Jimmy Hayes were the healthy scratches along with Steven Santini, who had been optioned to Binghamton to make room for backup goalie Ken Appleby. But Cory Schneider was back – although he did not play tonight – and, thus, so was Santini.

Cory did not start tonight, not because he was still sick, he is better, but because he had lost five pounds in one-and-a-half days and has not skated. So Keith Kinkaid made a back-to-back start coming off of his win in New York Tuesday. It was a relatively light night for him as he made 16 saves on just 19 shots total against. Going against him was Braden Holtby, one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL right now to be sure. He made 28 saves on 32 shots against. Kinkaid was the last Devils goalie to defeat Washington with a 2-1 shootout win last season.

One of the main themes of the night was the special teams. In their two other games against the Devils this season, the Caps were 4-for-7 on the power play total. Tonight the Devils certainly gave the Capitals the chances, but limited them to 0-for-5 on the night with just five shots. The Devils were 0-for-3 with three shots on goal. It was dicey, but the penalty killing unit really came through for New Jersey.

The Devils took the early lead 8:01 into the first period when alley-ooped a pass to Drew Stafford behind the Washington defense. Stafford skated in on Holtby, went backhand and beat him with Devante Smith-Pelly backchecking hard all over him. Just like that, the Devils had the 1-0 lead.

However, it would only take about four minutes and nine seconds for the Caps to respond. Brett Connolly scored at 12:10 from TJ Oshie and Brooks Orpik to tie the game up.

The next goal came within a milestone game. Andy Greene was playing in his 750th NHL game (and coming off of his first NHL fight in his 749th game) and would put the Devils up by one just 3:33 into the second period. It came when Taylor Hall gained the Capitals’ zone before stopping and putting the puck on Nico Hischier’s stick in front of the Caps’ net. Hischier had the presence of mind to simply tap it over to Greene, cutting in back door and Greene put it between Holtby’s left arm and the goal post to make it 2-1 Devils.

New Jersey got a lift when Brian Boyle came to the aid of Brian Gibbons. Gibbons had absorbed a hard hit from Capitals’ tough guy Tom Wilson. Boyle dropped the gloves with Wilson and the two had a spirited bout. Unfortunately, Boyle took the instigator penalty along with five for fighting plus a ten minute misconduct. The Devils would be killing off the instigator penalty and be without the services of Boyle for ten minutes. Wilson only got a five minute major for fighting.

The Devils would kill that penalty off and tack on an insurance goal at the 10:55 mark of the second when Miles Wood used his speed to create a goal. It happened when Hischier won a defensive zone draw back to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen looped the puck up ice to Wood, who snuck in behind the Washington defense on a breakaway. His shot trickled through Holtby’s five hole to put the Devils up 3-1.

The Washington comeback began quickly, however. Dmitry Orlov scored less than a minute after the Wood goal. He got assists from Alex Chiasson and Jay Beagle. That would make it 3-2, New Jersey.

Then the other shoe would drop. It would take until the 16:12 mark of the third period, but Connolly scored his second of the game from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Wilson to tie things up at three. The Capitals had spent a lot of offensive time in the Devils’ zone at that point and the ice certainly looked tilted in their favor.

Time would expire in regulation and, although the Devils had gained at least a point against Washington for the first time this year, there was still a bit of a let down throughout the Prudential Center. But all it would take was 34 seconds of overtime to end things.

Vatanen chipped the puck free to Hall, who slipped past Kuznetsov and was off to the races. He beat Holtby glove side on the breakaway and the Devils had gotten the 4-3 win. Hall notched his team-leading 17th goal of the year on that play and the Devils got two points against the Capitals for the first time this year. Hall was also named the game’s first star, Connolly the second and Wood the third.

Stat-wise, Greene led in time on ice with 23:39 while Hall and Wood tied for the shots lead with four each. Ben Lovejoy led in hits with six and in blocks with three. The Devils won 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

So the Devils pick up a point on the Caps, but Washington still leads the Metro Division by four points with 60, but the Devils closed the gap a little bit by getting points 55 and 56.

Next up, the Devils take on the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. This will be the second meeting between the Turnpike rivals this month. The Flyers have been coming on strong in the Metro. How will the Devils fare in this 1 PM matinee? We will find out Saturday afternoon.

Devils Fall to Flyers in Battle of Special Teams

The first meeting this year between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers was a study in quality versus quantity. The Devils may have had more power play opportunities on the evening, but the Flyers showed them that it is all in how you use it that gets you to the promised land. Philly won the game 5-3.

New Jersey had seven power play situations and converted on two of them while Philadelphia had just two power plays and were a perfect two-for-two. On the way, the Devils dropped their sixth straight.

It being the first meeting of the year between these two rivals, it was also the first ever meeting between 2017 first overall draft pick Nico Hischier and second overall pick Nolan Patrick. The head-to-head stats between these two very young stars read Nico with an assist, a shot on goal, an even plus/minus and one giveaway and one takeaway. Patrick had a minus-1 plus/minus, four penalty minutes and three shots on goal. Both have many battles ahead of them and both have room to develop in this rivalry.

The Devils had Drew Stafford back in at forward and scratched Jimmy Hayes, Stefan Noesen and defenseman Steven Santini. Of note for the Flyers, they were missing Shayne Gostisbehere due to illness. Defenseman Mirco Mueller practiced with New Jersey on Friday and should be returning to the lineup soon.

In goal, the Devils were back to Cory Schneider who stopped 20 of the 25 shots he faced, including four on the power play. In goal for Philly was Brian Elliott, who made 26 saves on 29 shots, including only seven shots on the power play – which was indicative of the anemic Devils power play. For Elliott, it was his 17th start in the Flyers’ last 18 games.

The Devils have 20 of their remaining 41 games against Metropolitan Division opponents, so here we go.

The Devils got on the board first when Jesper Bratt notched his 11th at 5:43 of the first period. It came when Hischier chipped the puck into the Flyers’ zone to Taylor Hall. Hall gave back to Nico at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. He found Bratt sneaking in behind the play and Bratt buried it to make it 1-0. Hischier and Hall had the assists.

Speaking of Taylor Hall, congratulations to him as it was announced that his Ontario Hockey League team, the Windsor Spitfires, would be retiring his number 4 on February 25, the day after Patrik Elias gets his number 26 retired here in New Jersey.

The Devils had the lead, but before the end of the first, Sean Couturier scored from Jordan Weal and Andrew MacDonald to tie things up at one. It was Couturier’s first of two goals on the night.

The Flyers had started getting into penalty trouble in the first period, taking three in the first. They took two early in the second and the Devils would finally capitalize on one. Patrick had taken his first of two consecutive high-sticking penalties and Kyle Palmieri made Philly pay. At 1:46, Brian Boyle won the offensive zone faceoff back to Will Butcher. Butcher slid it to Hall along the halfwall, who gave it back to Butcher at the point. Butcher then found Palmieri at the near faceoff dot for the one-timer. Palmieri pulled the trigger and beat Elliott cleanly to make it 2-1 Devils.

From there, the Flyers power play took over. On the game-tying goal, John Moore had been called for hooking, giving Philly the man advantage. Wayne Simmonds redirected a Claude Giroux shot on that one at 11:53. Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist.

The next power play was set up when Brian Gibbons went off for interference right off of a faceoff at 16:58. Couturier notched his second of the game from Giroux and Ivan Provorov at 18:16 to give Philly their first lead of the night, 3-2.

The Flyers’ Travis Konecny was called for slashing at 19:17 of the second period to give New Jersey 1:18 of power play time on fresh ice in the third. The Devils, however, true to form on the night, were not able to convert.

The Flyers actually scored another goal that could almost be considered a power play goal when Konecny scored at 4:28 of the third from Provorov and Couturier on a delayed penalty call against the Devils. He scored on a breakaway where he put his own rebound home to make it 4-2.

Michael Raffl wrapped up the Philadelphia massacre at 12:04 when he scored from Voracek and Valtteri Filppula to make it 5-2.

The Devils added a meaningless power play goal set up when Robert Hagg was called for tripping at 18:51. On the man advantage, John Moore hit the post and the puck bounced to Damon Severson’s stick. He got it along the near halfwall and fed Drew Stafford in the slot. Stafford put it home at 19:15 of the third to make it 5-3. And that would be your final.

Devils stat leaders saw Sami Vatanen rule ice time with 22:22, Miles Wood and Palmieri lead in shots with four apiece, Blake Coleman lead in hits with four and Hall, Boyle, Palmieri, Brian Gibbons, Wood, Marcus Johansson and Moore all tie with one blocked shot. Boyle and Coleman each had two takeaways to lead the team as well. The Devils won 49-percent of their faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils will face the team that sent them into their five day bye period: the Islanders. They will meet on Tuesday at Barclays Center with the Devils still looking for their first-ever win in Brooklyn in the three years the Isles have been there. We will find out then if the Devils can get off their slide and back on the winning track, making up some points in the tight Metro Division race.

Boyle Scores, But Devils Fall to Oilers in OT

For the second time in less than a week, the Devils faced off with the Edmonton Oilers. Last week, they got blown out on Rogers Place ice. Last night they were at Prudential Center, and although the Devils played a much tighter game against the Oilers this time, they still fell, 3-2 in overtime.

I was present at The Rock for this game and that nickname for the Prudential Center was never more appropriate than tonight. It was WWE Night for the Devils, with retired WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan attending the game and participating in the t-shirt toss and other festivities. There were also many WWE themed things on the big board, including a WWE emoji cam and videos with the Devils players talking about wrestling.

As for the game itself, while the last game against St. Louis was against a more “heavy” team that wears you down physically, Edmonton is a more skilled team with Connor McDavid and friends being able to skate and move the puck, as well as put it in the net.

But it was the Devils who largely pushed the pace of the game. They outshot the Oilers 34-32 and largely played well. A few lucky breaks here and there and they would have most likely won the game. But those bad breaks piled up and the Oilers dealt the Devils their fourth straight loss, even though New Jersey did pick up a point.

Some good news for the home team came when Kyle Palmieri made his return to the lineup. Pavel Zacha was a healthy scratch up front to make room for Palmieri, who missed the Western Canada swing with a lower body injury. Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches on defense.

As mentioned, Brian Boyle scored his first goal as a Devil in being named the game’s first star. It came at 5:33 of the first period when John Moore cut off an Edmonton clearing attempt in the neutral zone. He swatted the puck up to Boyle, who shot on goaltender Cam Talbot. The rebound came to Brian Gibbons and he shot, his rebound dribbled out to Boyle who drove it home to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. This was also his first goal since his cancer diagnosis and was a really emotional moment for the Devils crowd.

New Jersey would take that lead into the first intermission, but just 6:50 into the second, the Oilers would tie it for the first time when Anton Slepyshev scored to make it 1-1. Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had the assists on that goal.

The Devils would fight back to retake the lead before the end of the second period, however. It came at 18:25 of the second frame when Drew Stafford netted his fifth of the season. It came when Adam Henrique and Stafford played a bit of a give-and-go. Stafford passed to Henrique, who was standing at the Oilers’ blueline. Stafford then broke for the Edmonton net, taking a pass and making a nice deke to beat Talbot and give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Defenseman Mirco Mueller had the secondary assist on the goal.

In the first meeting between the these two teams, Edmonton did not have a penalty called against them in their building. Tonight, the Oilers two four consecutive penalties (including two in the second period to former Devil Adam Larsson) after the Devils took the first two of the game in the first period. These are some of the missed opportunities the Devils had. They were 0-for-4 on the night with the man advantage with five shots on goal. Edmonton was 0-for-2 with four shots.

Back to the action at hand, the Oilers would tie things back up in the third period when Lucic notched his second point of the game, scoring from Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian. That goal came at 3:21 of the third and that is how it would end in regulation.

In the overtime, Leon Draisaitl would end it with less than 20 seconds remaining off a nice pass from McDavid and Kris Russell getting the secondary assist. The real news for the Devils was that Nico Hischier appeared to have been injured in OT. He was laboring and had a tough time getting to the bench. He could have just been gassed, I could not, admittedly, really tell from the stands. But he seemed to be in some pain and the other fans around me seemed to think he was injured. We will keep an eye on that, as losing Nico for any length of time is not something the Devils can afford right now.

So the Devils lost 3-2 in OT to fall to 9-4-2. Cory Schneider made 29 saves on the night and Talbot made 32. Taylor Hall led the Devils in ice time with 23:43 TOI. Palmieri was the leader in shots, with five and Blake Coleman led the team with four hits.

Next up, a Veterans Day tilt at home against the Florida Panthers. The Devils homestand continues on Saturday against the Cats as they try to get back in the win column for the first time since Vancouver.

Devils Come Away With Point in Calgary

Tonight was a wild one, that much is certain. The Devils fell in Calgary to the Flames, 5-4 in a shootout. But it took a lot of twists and turns to get to that final.

Let’s start with some injury notes. Steven Santini was out with an upper body tweak. His sitting out was merely precautionary. Marcus Johansson was also still out with a concussion. Ben Lovejoy would slot back in on defense while Stefan Noesen came back in up front. New Jersey went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen for this game after having the extra d-man on the bench for Edmonton. The Devils had followed up their first two losses of the season with victories, tonight netted them a point, but not the full two.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Saddledome as well as a homecoming for Taylor Hall, who was born and spent the early part of his youth in Calgary. And it was Hall who would pot the first goal of the game. It came at just 1:34 of the first period when Nico Hischier streaked up the wing and took a shot on Flames goaltender Mike Smith. The rebound came right to a trailing Hall and he did not miss, putting it behind Smith. Just like that it was 1-0 Devils.

The Devils held that lead until the 11:07 mark when Michael Frolik scored shorthanded for Calgary. The Flames were killing off a Brett Kulak holding call when Frolik got his second of the season from Mikael Backlund. That would tie the game at one and from there, the craziness set in.

Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, making his first start in nine days had to fight off a Flames penalty shot when Stefan Noesen hauled down Michael Ferland at 13:15 of the first period. Ferland did not convert and it remained 1-1. Kinkaid came up big all night, including late in the first period when he stopped Sam Bennett coming out of the penalty box after serving a minor penalty. He was sprung on a breakway and Kinkaid made the big save there. He also stopped Mark Jankowski in close with seconds remaining in the period.

The second period began with the Devils retaking the lead when Hischier took a shot coming up the wing and the rebound popped out to Ben Lovejoy. In almost a carbon copy of the game’s first goal, Lovejoy deposited his first goal since December 6, 2016 to make it 2-1 Devils. That goal came at 1:56 of the second and Jimmy Hayes had the secondary assist.

Calgary would net the next two, first when Michael Stone got his first of the year from Kris Versteeg and Frolik at 11:11 to tie things up at two. The goal found twine through traffic in front of Kinkaid. Sean Monahan gave the Flames the 3-2 lead when he scored from Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau at 12:27. That seemed like it would deflate the Devils, but just ten seconds after the Monahan goal, Brian Gibbons scored his seventh of the year unassisted to tie it up at three. That came when Gibbons cut off the puck as Smith was winding it around the boards. He shot from a sharp angle, almost from the goal line and beat Smith, tying the game once again.

Despite that gaffe, Smith was good too. He stopped the Devils on a 3-on-2 late in the second period, stoning Hall. and made a great reaction save early in the third period on Nico Hischier off a shot by Lovejoy.

The third period saw more action as Ferland scored 6:54 into the final frame to make it 4-3 Calgary. He got assists from Gaudreau and Monahan. The Devils seemed dead to rights then, but would again come back when Andy Greene scored his first goal since February 14, 2017 at 11:11 of the third period. That one came when Jesper Bratt fired a puck that came to Greene along the far half wall. Greene fired from that spot and beat Smith to tie things up at four. Lovejoy had the secondary assist on that goal, giving him two points on the night.

Then, more craziness as, at the 13:54 mark of the third period, Matt Bartkowski held Miles Wood on a breakway, which resulted in the game’s second penalty shot. Wood would shoot wide on the penalty shot, and we moved on in the game towards overtime.

And in that OT session, both teams played it very cautiously, opting for puck possession instead of the big play to get the win. We ended with the score still tied up at four. It was time for a shootout.

Taylor Hall led off for New Jersey and Smith stopped him. Sean Monahan scored on his first chance for Calgary. Jesper Bratt was stopped by Smith and then Kris Versteeg was stopped by Kinkaid. Drew Stafford needed to score for New Jersey to keep things going and he did. But Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk scored to end the game, giving the Flames the 5-4 win in a shootout.

As mentioned, both goalies had monster games: Kinkaid made 30 saves on 34 shots (one of Calgary’s shots came on the power play – they were 0-for-3 on the man advantage – one also came shorthanded) while Smith was 26-for-30 (the Devils had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot – the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play).

Greene led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 23:56, while Hall led the forwards with 22:32. Hischier led all Devils with five shots on goal and was named the game’s second star with his two assists.

Next up, the Devils look to get back in the win column back at home when they take on the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center on Tuesday. We will see you then.

Devils Get By Canucks in Vancouver for Best Start in Team History

It was best put by Steve Cangialosi in the waning moments of the Devils’ 2-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena tonight. He said (paraphrasing): “this proud franchise that has won the Stanley Cup three times has never had a 9-2 start until the 2017-18 edition!”

The Devils really battled tonight in a game that the Canucks really dominated a lot of, with goaltender Cory Schneider coming up big time and time again. But the Devils also had a secret inspirational weapon on their side. Brian Boyle, after going through training camp and the Leukemia diagnosis, was back in the New Jersey lineup tonight. He was playing in his first game as a Devil and his first game of the season. It was his first game since last season’s playoffs, when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Congratulations to Brian Boyle for making his great comeback.

Boyle had a great game in his return, but the Devils were without a few other key parts. Kyle Palmieri was missing his second straight game with a lower body injury. He was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to mid-October. In addition, Marcus Johansson, just 28 seconds into his first shift of the game, fell awkwardly, face-first, into the end boards in the Vancouver zone and did not return for the game. We will find out more on his condition in the coming days.

One place you knew that Boyle would really help the Devils was in the faceoff department. The Devils had largely been lacking in that part of their game missing Travis Zajac and Boyle, both of whom are key faceoff guys. Sure enough, with the veteran back in, the Devils won 57-percent of their draws with Boyle personally winning 67-percent of his.

In addition to the injuries mentioned, the Devils moved Dalton Prout and Ben Lovejoy out of the lineup on defense and Stefan Noesen was a healthy scratch up front.

Cory Schneider was the real story of this game, though, as he was named the game’s first star. In getting the shutout, he made 37 saves (including six on the power play). In fact, the Devils shut down Vancouver’s power play (they went 0-for-4) while they themselves were stymied (going 0-for-1, but with three shots on goal with the man advantage). But getting back to Cory, he made some key saves including an amazing series with about three minutes left in the second period that allowed New Jersey to weather the storm on a Canucks barrage and keep the game 1-0 Devils.

That goal had come at 10:09 of the second when Jimmy Hayes scored. That developed when Taylor Hall took a breakout pass and skated up the near wing and fired a shot. The rebound came out to Jimmy Hayes at the top of the far faceoff circle. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom did seem to have a chance to reset himself, as Ken Daneyko noted on commentary, but could not and Hayes’ shot ripped past him to make it 1-0 Devils.

And that, for all intents and purposes, was it. The Devils added an empty netter with sixteen seconds left in the game by Drew Stafford. Hall also had the assist on that one, as he had a two point night and was named the game’s third star. The empty net goal was reviewed by Toronto for a possible offside, but was called a good goal and your final was 2-0 Devils.

The second star of the game was Vancouver goalie Markstrom. He made 24 saves on 25 shots faced, the Devils finished the game with 26 shots on goal. Aside from that one goal, he also played a good game. But the resilient Devils were the ones coming away with the two points against a tough team to get points out of (Vancouver was also off to a good start at 6-3-2 coming into tonight’s action).

The next stop for the Devils on their Western Canadian tour is Edmonton where they take on a struggling Oiler team that will be desperate. We will be with you here when that game goes down on Friday.

Devils Return From Six Day Layoff With Shootout Win Over Sens

The Devils had six days in the middle of the season to practice and recharge. In a long season, the six day “non-bye week bye week” is a welcome thing. But the fact that it came so soon in the season with the team on a roll as they had been early on, could be troubling.

But New Jersey used the six days to their full advantage and came back better than ever against the Ottawa Senators last night at Prudential Center. They last saw Ottawa exactly eight days ago, last Thursday, which the Devils won on a John Moore goal in overtime following Nico Hischier’s first two goals of his career.

Some roster news for the Devils saw Kyle Palmieri sitting out with a lower body injury. Deb Placey on the Devils MSG pregame show said that he was seen wearing a boot and did not practice this week with the team. Cory Schneider also missed the game, but for a better reason. Cory’s wife gave birth yesterday afternoon to a baby daughter. Congratulations to the Schneider family on their new addition. Keith Kinkaid would get his second straight start (albeit with six days in between them) with Scott Wedgewood backing him up. Mirco Mueller and Dalton Prout were healthy scratches. Ben Lovejoy and Steven Santini slotted back in on defense.

THe Senators were coming off of a win last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, so this was the back half of a back-to-back for them. Kyle Turris was out with an illness and Bobby Ryan was missing with a broken finger.

Ottawa jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, putting the Devils behind the eight ball early on. Mike Hoffman scored at 7:58 of the first period, off assists from Christopher DiDomenico and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to make it 1-0. Former Devil (many moons ago) Johnny Oduya made it 2-0 when he beat a screened Kinkaid from Erik Karlsson and Zack Smith at 17:14.

The Devils were in a hole early, but started the big dig out with just under two minutes left in the first. That happened when Santini broke Pavel Zacha out of the Devils zone. Zacha then skated the puck through the neutral zone and fed Jimmy Hayes who beat Senators goaltender Mike Condon glove side to make it 2-1 before the end of the period.

From there, New Jersey took over the scoresheet. At 9:50 of the second period, Ottawa took a bench minor for a faceoff violation. That set up a Devils power play where Adam Henrique tied it up at two. It happened when Taylor Hall gave the puck to Jesper Bratt. He settled it down along the half wall and spun around to avoid a Sens defender, dishing to Will Butcher at the point. He fired and his rebound came right out to Henrique, who buried it behind Condon. That goal came at 10:52 of the second period.

The Devils grabbed the lead at the 18:07 mark when Brian Gibbons notched his fourth of the year from Zacha and Jimmy Hayes. It came when Hayes and Zacha worked the puck along the boards at the near half wall. Zacha spun and backhanded a pass to Gibbons, who snapped the puck by Condon to put the Devils ahead 3-2.

But the Devils needed an insurance goal and that would come at the 14:10 mark of the third period when defenseman Damon Severson found twine for the first time this year from Hall. This came when Hall made a great one-man effort to work the puck out of the corner, stickhandle it to the point, switch sides with Severson, slide the puck to Severson at the opposite point, only for Severson to fire, beating Condon cleanly for the 4-2 lead.

That should have been it, but Ottawa is a tough out. Coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon twice late in the third, getting the extra attacker on, which resulted first in a goal from Mark Stone (assists to Hoffman and Dion Phaneuf) at 18:45 to make it 4-3 New Jersey. Once the Sens took control of the puck off of the ensuing faceoff, the Senators would pull Condon again with DiDomenico scoring this time to tie things up at 19:23. With that blown lead, the Devils would run out the remaining time and take it to OT again against the Senators.

There were no heroics here, as the teams came close, but did not score in the extra session, taking us to a shootout. And that is where things got really crucial. The Devils shot first, with Condon making a save on Hall. Kinkaid then stopped DiDomenico while Nico Hischier missed on his try. Ottawa’s Tom Pyatt beat Kinkaid to make Drew Stafford’s try a must-score situation. He would convert to tie things up. Erik Karlsson missed for Ottawa and it was up to Jesper Bratt, who deked Condon out of his pads and cooly skated the puck around him to put the Devils up. The contnuation of the shootout was on Hoffman, who had gotten the scoring started for the Sens, but Kinkaid stopped him to give the Devils the 5-4 win.

With that, the Devils improve to 7-2-0. The Devils were able to improve in an area that had been hurting them: they only took two minor penalties on the night, keeping Ottawa 0-for-2 on the power play. The Devils themselves were 1-for-3.

In net, Kinkaid made 23 stops on 27 Senators shots, including one save on one power play shot. Princeton University product Mike Condon made 21 saves on 25 Devils shots, the Devils had five of those shots on the man advantage.

John Moore led the Devils in ice time with 25:34 while Hischier, Henrique, Blake Coleman and Santini all tied for the shots lead with three each.

On a side note, congratulations to the Prudential Center, which opened ten years ago to the day on October 27, 2007 with a game between the Devils and these Ottawa Senators. Two men in this game also played in that, Devils’ captain Andy Greene and the Sens’ Johnny Oduya (who was with New Jersey back then). Patrik Elias assisted on Brian Gionta’s goal (the first Devils goal in the history of the building) that night and was in attendance tonight. When shown on the big board, the crowd gave him a lengthly standing ovation, as is deserving of the legend who will have his number retired this February.

The Devils finish their back-to-back with a game later tonight at home against the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have struggled this early part of the season, we will see how the Devils do against them.

Two Stafford Goals Power Devils in Shootout Win Over Bolts

The Devils knew it would be a big mountain to climb. The Tampa Bay Lightning are tops in the league in points, the very early favorites to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final and feature superstars Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov had scored in six straight games to start the season and was looking to add to that total tonight (more on that later). It was a steep climb, but the Devils were up to it, coming back from one goal deficits two different times to win the game, appropriately, in a shootout 5-4.

It was New Jersey’s lone appearance on NBCSN national television for the regular season and it was a doozy. The Devils made a huge showing. They showcased their new, high-flying offense in front of a nice-sized crowd (especially for a Tuesday night when the Yankees were playing game four of the ALCS over in the Bronx).

Cory Schneider started the game off with a great paddle save on Tampa’s Brayden Point. And that set the tone for the game. But it was the Devils who got on the board first at 2:45 of the first period when Will Butcher spun around at the Devils’ blueline to shake off a defender and skated up ice. He gave to Nico Hischier, who passed to Drew Stafford along the near half wall. Stafford snapped one from the top of the faceoff circle that hit Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj in the arm and bounced down through his legs to give the Devils the early 1-0 lead.

Tampa would score the next two with precision passing. First Vladislav Namestnikov scored to tie it at one at 7:33 from Kucherov and Stamkos. Then, the Bolts took the lead at 12:21 of the first period on a goal by Ondrej Palat (assists to Tyler Johnson and Mikhail Sergachev) on the power play.

That lead would last until the 16:19 mark of the first when Kyle Palmieri tied things on the power play. It was set up when Ryan Callahan was sent off for roughing Jesper Bratt after Bratt took a swipe at a loose puck in the Tampa crease before the whistle was blown. On the ensuing man advantage, Taylor Hall weaved out of trouble in the far corner and found a passing seam to Palmieri at the top of the near faceoff circle. Palmieri fired a slap shot and beat Budaj to tie things up at two. Adam Henrique had the secondary assist on the goal. Special teams would go on to play a very important role in this game with the Lightning going 1-for-5 on the man advantage while the Devils were 2-for-4.

The scoring barrage continued in the first period at the 19:08 mark when Brian Gibbons scored to give the Devils a 3-2 lead going into the first break. It happened when Miles Wood got the puck to Steven Santini at the point. Santini fired the puck just wide of the Lightning net, banking it perfectly to Gibbons, who buried it to give New Jersey the lead.

From that wild period, the game settled in a little bit by the second. Kutcherov would extend his goal scoring streak to seven games to start the season (assists to Stamkos and Sergachev) to join Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as players to do that. Not bad company there. That goal also knotted the game at three. That came at the 14:02 mark of the second and just 3:21 later, the other Tampa superstar, Stamkos, would net one to give them the lead (lone assist to Yanni Gourde). It was 4-3 Tampa Bay heading into the third period.

At the 13:57 mark of the third, Andrej Sustr was called for tripping and the Devils were back on the power play. The tripping call came against Nico Hischier, who had a great game but just could not solve Budaj who seemed to have his number all night.

On the power play, Drew Stafford would pot his third of the year and second of the game at 15:54 when Stafford, Severson and Hischier worked the perimeter before getting on net where Stafford hammered it home. Right before that goal, Will Butcher made a game saving play on a 2-on-1 odd man rush for the Lightning. That goal would tie things at four, but the drama would not end there.

At the 18:02 mark of the third, Pavel Zacha came to the aid of Gibbons, who was hit high and took a roughing penalty on Jake Dotchin. The Devils would have to go on the penalty kill for the remainder of the game plus two seconds into the overtime, should the game get that far.

And it did. The Devils killed off Zacha’s penalty to make the beginning of OT a four on four affair. Nearly the entire five minutes elapsed before a Tampa offside brought a whistle and the teams shifted back to three on three. But it would soon be a four on three as Adam Henrique was called for tripping with 48 seconds remaining in the extra session. The Devils would need to kill another crucial power play opportunity for Tampa if they wanted to get this to a shootout.

Once again, the PK came up big, stopping Tampa even after losing the first faceoff coming off the call and the game was headed for the skills competition to settle things. Drew Stafford would go first, as Budaj made the save. Brayden Point was the first shooter for the Lightning and would miss the net. Taylor Hall made one fancy move too many and Budaj made the save on him. Kutcherov’s shot was stopped by Cory Schneider and it was now on the stick of Kyle Palmieri to put the Devils ahead. He would connect to put the Devils in the “hit” column and the game came down to Ryan Callahan to keep it going for Tampa Bay. His shot was saved by Cory and the Devils came away with the two points and the improbable win.

Goaltending-wise, Budaj made 30 saves on 34 Devils shots, including three saves on the power play (New Jersey had five PP shots). Schneider made 33 saves on 37 shots, including going 10-for-11 on the power play and was brilliant at times, keeping the Devils in a game they might have had no business being in.

After that great win, the 5-1-0 Devils next hit the road as they head to Ottawa to take on the Senators. This should be another great test for New Jersey on Thursday as they try to take two more points from an Eastern Conference rival.