After a riveting Olympic break that brought all hockey fans worldwide to the edge of their seats we come back to regular old NHL hockey. The Devils are sitting in an uncomfortable second place with the Pittsburg Penguins nipping on their heels. The teams play each other twice more and you can bet these games will be heated and gritty.
The Devils have some issues to address by the deadline in the form of a defenseman. Even though Paul Martin has been slated to come back after the break, the top six still need a good puck mover. The rumor mill says that James Wisniewski might be the one. He’s a good mover who will help out the ailing power play and does play with a physical edge. Both qualities the Devils greatly need. Fraser, White, and Salvador play with that physical edge but defensively can be exposed if made to play too many minutes. Martin is a great minute eater and defensively rock solid. This leaves Mottau who is neither physically strong nor defensively strong and should not be playing, period. Adding Wisniewski and removing Mottau would be a great improvement.
Today, the Thrashers traded for Evgeny Artyukhin. What is important about this is that he is a right wing who could be a replacement if Maxim Afinogenov is on the move. Kovalchuk did not really mesh with his Devil teammates and rumors say that Max might be traded for because of this. Afinogenov’s contract is a paltry sum of $800,000 and is an UFA at the end of the season. You bring him in to create offense with Kovalchuk for the rest of the season and you could have a winning combo. There is no word on who would the Devils would give up but it would seem that a draft pick would probably compensate for Afinogenov.
One last rumor is that the Devils may trade for Jere Lehtinen. He would be an improvement over Pandolfo, who has been terrible as of late. Lehtinen would bring even more veteran presence, great defense, and a little more of a scoring touch than Pandolfo.
For most of the season, this Devils team played with numerous injuries and played above expectations. AHL players stepped in and filled roles that they were not supposed to. However, the last month has not been kind and the Devils need a boost. Clarkson and Martin coming back should really help the team out. First of all, with Clarkson in you eliminate the need for ever playing Andrew Peters or Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. He might not fight as much as them or be a heavy weight but he has proven that he has found a scoring touch while retaining his ability to fight and do dirty work. As a whole, the Devils need to find themselves in the form of a strong power play, consistent offense, and that well known shutdown defense. Line chemistry needs to be created and sustained if the Devils want to make a strong showing into the playoffs.
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Written by Ben Petrino