New Jersey Devils: No Need to Panic After Recent Pair of Setbacks

Roman UschakCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2013

Stephen Gionta had the Devils' only goal in Monday's loss to Ottawa
Stephen Gionta had the Devils' only goal in Monday's loss to OttawaBruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils won't get back to business until Thursday night when they visit the Washington Capitals. When they do, they'll be looking to snap a two-game winless streak, even though they did garner a point in Monday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The Devils' bump in the road started with Saturday's 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders—although to be fair, that game was scoreless until the Islanders broke it open with three goals in just over two minutes late in the second period.

So there is no need to go pushing any panic buttons just yet. This isn't 2010-11 again for the Devils—not even close, not with two-thirds of the schedule still remaining.

The Devils (9-3-4) have just three losses in their first 16 games of this labor-shortened season. They're tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins in points for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, although Pittsburgh has two more victories.

The Devils are 2-1-1 in their last four outings, including a win over the Penguins but had won five straight before falling to the Carolina Hurricanes by a 4-2 count on Feb. 12.

They also sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and would be tied for first with those same Penguins if division leaders didn't all get the top-three spots.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead against Ottawa on a first-period goal by Stephen Gionta, Monday but couldn't make it hold up. Actually, until their renaissance of sorts last year, that seemed to be the Devils mantra for quite a while following their last Stanley Cup crown in 2003—hold the opposition to one goal at most and try to win it with two.

Not any more, though.

Following their run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, the Devils have quite a few players who can put the puck in the net, even A.P (After Parise). Bobby Butler may be wearing No. 9 for New Jersey this season, but no one in their right mind is expecting him to replace Zach Parise's point production of the past several years.

No, New Jersey still has Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, who's healthy this year after missing most of the 2011-12 regular season with Achilles problems. Elias leads New Jersey with 19 points while David Clarkson is among the league leaders with a team-best 10 goals and second on the squad with 16 points, one point ahead of Kovalchuk.

Henrique, last year's Eastern Conference Final hero, has been recovering from thumb surgery but has scored four goals.

The Devils' fourth line of Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier, which was so effective in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, has chipped in with eight goals to date, with half of those coming off of Bernier's stick.

Martin Brodeur isn't close to applying for his AARP card just yet and has gone 7-2-3 in 12 appearances in goal to start the lockout-curtailed campaign, with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

John Hedberg didn't have a great night on the Island Saturday, but so far he's 2-1-1 (1.72, 9.35) in four starts.

The New Jersey power play was 10th in the league prior to Tuesday night's games and was clicking at nearly 20 percent, having connected 13 times in 16 games. The penalty killing could improve from just under 81 percent, though, as it sat in 20th place and had also surrendered three shorthanded scores.

Still, don't worry about the Devils. Even without the benefit of training camp, just like the rest of the NHL's 29 other clubs this year and even with the recent two-game hiccup, it shouldn't mean the start of any kind of downward spiral for them.