Devils Continue Signings on Busy Day

The Devils continued to sign free agents despite most of the big names being off the table, adding pieces for the team for here while also stocking Binghamton of the AHL.

Bracken Kearns comes to the Devils from the Islanders organization, signing a two-way contract. The contract is worth $650,000 at the NHL level. Kearns is a 36 year old, 6-foot, 195-pound North Vancouver, British Columbia native. The forward has skated in 35 NHL games (with Florida, San Jose and the Isles) with 25 of them coming in 2013-14 with the Sharks, according to the press release put out by the Devils. He worked his way up from the University of Calgary in Canadian collegiate hockey to the Toledo Storm of the ECHL and on to the AHL and NHL. He is an eleven year pro.

In the AHL, he has skated for the Cleveland Barons, Milwaukee Admirals, Norfolk Admirals, Rockford IceHogs, San Antonio Rampage, Worcester Sharks and most recently with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Islanders affiliate). His totals at the American League level show 110 goals and 156 assists for 266 points in 473 games. He also has 496 penalty minutes.

The Devils also re-signed one of their own. Brian Gibbons, who played last year at Albany of the AHL, signed a two-way pact with the organization worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

Gibbons, a 29 year old, 5-foot, 8-inch, 175-pound forward has played in the Pittsburgh, Columbus and Rangers organizations prior to coming to the Devils. He has played 66 NHL games for the Pens and the Blue Jackets. The Braintree, Massachusetts native went to Boston College before turning pro six years ago.

Last season, the Devils’ press release says that he had a career high in goals (16) and points (36) and tied for the Albany team lead with 72 games played. He was originally a Pittsburgh free agent signee out of college and played for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, where he was coached by John Hynes.

The other late signing by the Devils was Brian Strait, who got a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level. He comes to the Devils from the Winnipeg organization. where he spent time with the Jets and the Manitoba Moose of the AHL last season.

The 29 year old, 6-foot, 1-inch, 205-pound defenseman from Waltham, Massachusetts played at Devils coach John Hynes’ alma mater of Boston University. He later played under Hynes at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in 2006 according to the Devils’ press release.

He, like a lot of recent Devils signees, has Pittsburgh roots. He was drafted by the Penguins 65th overall in the third round in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft accoding to the press release. He has spent time in the Pens, Islanders and Jets organizations prior to his signing today.

Last year, with the Moose, he played in 58 games and scored two goals and 12 assists for 14 points total. He played in five NHL games last year for Winnipeg and had two assists.

In news going the other way, Devils restricted free agent Jacob Josefson (who was not tendered an offer) has signed a one year contract with the Buffalo Sabres worth $700,000. Good luck to Josefson in Buffalo.

The Devils signings are largely at the AHL level and are to fill out the Binghamton roster. But maybe one of the signings can bear fruit and one of these veterans can fill in when injuries hit or even make the team out of training camp.

Devils Win Big in Columbus

The Devils have had a knack for punching above their weight this season. They defeated Minnesota when they were the overall best team in the NHL, they have beaten Washington (by a shootout) and tonight they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets – a team that at one point this season had a 16 game winning streak and currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division behind only the Capitals – by a score of 5-1. Columbus was 16-3-1 at home coming into tonight’s game in their last 20 games at Nationwide Arena.

The Devils came into the night just seven points behind the Flyers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With the win and Philly’s 1-0 overtime loss to Los Angeles earlier today (meaning they only gained one point), that deficit moves to just five points.

Some roster news to get to right away as it broke just prior to the game that the Devils had sent Vernon Fiddler to the Nashville Predators (where he began his NHL career) for a fourth round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Also, John Moore has resumed skating; he could be back as soon as Monday’s game against Buffalo or, more likely, after the five day bye week after the Buffalo game. He felt that the bye week coming up was a bad thing for him, as he will not be able to practice with the team for five days (teams on their bye cannot have any official contact with each other throughout the week) and that that would set him back.

The Devils lineup remained largely the same, save a few defensive pairings changed (Andy Greene skated with Ben Lovejoy while Damon Severson was paired with Seth Helgeson). Healthy scratches for the Devils were Devante Smith-Pelly and Karl Stollery. Sitting for Columbus were Josh Anderson, Dalton Prout and David Savard.

Between the pipes, the Devils went back to Cory Schneider and he made 31 saves on 32 Blue Jacket shots. The Jackets also went back to their number one, starting Sergei Bobrovsky, who was 25-for-29 on the night.

The Devils got off to the start that they wanted on the road, notching the first goal of the game. It came at 3:29 of the first period when Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall dug the puck out of the near corner in the Devils’ zone. Zajac headmanned to Kyle Palmieri, who fed Zajac streaking back towards the Columbus net. Zajac quickly dropped the puck to Taylor Hall, who deked around the Columbus defender and backhanded the puck glove side by Bobrovsky. It was 1-0 Devils just like that.

New Jersey knew that they could not tempt fate and take a lot of penalties against the Blue Jackets, as Columbus has the top rated power play in the NHL. Instead, it was the Jackets who went 0-for-2 with the man advantage and the Devils were 1-for-2. Columbus even had a breakdown in discipline when Brandon Dubinsky took a game misconduct at the 11:15 mark of the third period. Columbus had all of their power plays in the first period (a tripping call to Jacob Josefson and an interference call against Ben Lovejoy) and played a pretty clean game after that.

The game stayed 1-0 into the second period when Josefson scored his first of the year to double up the Devils’ lead. It came at the 1:49 mark when Josefson won the offensive zone faceoff back to Andy Greene. Greene shot and Josefson tipped the puck by Bobrovsky to make it 2-0. Almost immediately after that goal, Cory Schneider made a huge save on the Jackets’ Cam Atkinson, preserving the 2-0 lead.

The Devils’ power play goal was set up at 17:35 of the second when Boone Jenner was called for roughing, putting New Jersey on the power play. The Devils would convert when, at 18:58 of the period, Hall and Damon Severson played catch with the Jackets’ blue line. Hall passed down low to PA Parenteau in the slot. He got a shot off and Adam Henrique took a hack at the rebound. The puck popped up and Zajac batted the puck out of the air and into the net to make it 3-0 Devils.

Last night versus Calgary, the Devils took a one goal lead into the third period and could not hold on to it, eventually losing in overtime. Tonight, they had a three goal lead taken into the third period, how would they fair?

At first, it seemed, not too well. At the 19:35 mark of the period, the Blue Jackets had seemingly cut the lead to 3-1. Devils coach John Hynes immediately challenged for goalie interference. It looked like the right skate of the Columbus player in the crease had impeded Cory’s chance to make the save. The referees agreed and said that there was significant evidence that there was goalie interference. With that no goal, the Devils dodged a bullet.

The Devils’ streak of good luck seemed to be continuing when Boone Jenner was called for tripping Andy Greene and Dubinsky went off with the misconduct at 11:15 of the third. Columbus, it seemed, was getting desperate. But they stayed cool and Matt Calvert scored a shorthanded goal at 11:35 of the third from William Karlsson. It was now 3-1 Devils.

The Blue Jackets pulled Bobrovsky with 3:15 left in the third and the Devils jumped right on it, as Taylor Hall scored an empty netter from Ben Lovejoy at the 16:48 mark.

But the Devils were not done there. With 29 seconds remaining in the game, Seth Helgeson scored his first NHL goal when Adam Henrique gave to Steven Santini at the far point. He slid the puck across to Helgeson, who fired a wrist shot that beat Bobrovsky cleanly. It was 5-1 Devils and that is how it would end up.

So, the Devils head into Super Bowl Sunday having won six straight on the road. They will now fly back to Newark, enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow and then get ready to take on the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. Buffalo is in a similar position as the Devils, so it should be a crucial two points up for grabs. Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone and see you Monday!