Devils Notebook: Playoff race coming down to its conclusion

Head coach Peter DeBoer
Head coach Peter DeBoer is still pushing for the playoffs.
Credit: Getty Images

The numbers do not lie.

Entering the 70th game of their season, the Devils were 11th in the East and sixth in the Metropolitan Division with 71 points. The Devils trail Columbus by five points for the last wild-card spot.

Should the Devils miss the playoffs, they can point to their season-long inability to win overtime and shootout games. The Devils entered Thursday night’s game against the Wild with a 29-27-13 record. Of their 13 losses, eight have come in the shootout.

Another issue has been their record away from The Rock. The Devils have a 13-18-6 road record this season.

But there are some reasons for Devils fans to hold out hope for a playoff berth. The Devils have a 16-9-7 record at home, where they will will play eight of their final 12 games of the season.

Another has been the suddenly hot play of top-line center Travis Zajac. Zajac has eight points (four goals and four assists) in the last seven games.

He has recorded 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 67 games this season.

“Travis is Travis,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer said after the Devils’ morning skate at the Prudential Center. “You get the consistent game and effort out of him. Pucks are going in for him. I don’t see a big change in what he brings to the rink. He gives you what he’s got.”

Still, for a team that’s built on the collective group instead of an individual star, the Devils need more. That’s why Jacob Josefson skated on a line with Dainius Zubrus Thursday morning.

“We’re looking at some different options for the lineup,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to make some game time decisions. That’s where we are right now.”

When pressed about Josefson, DeBoer said there’s a “good chance” the center would be in the lineup. Josefson has one assist in 21 games this season.

That was as much as DeBoer was willing to disclose about his lineup.

“I’m not trying to be evasive here,” DeBoer said after a chuckle. “We’ve got some decisions to make on some guys. We’re going to take the time to do that.”

Mixed reactions

The Devils were acutely aware that last night’s game marked Zach Parise’s return to New Jersey.

They also had an idea what kind of response their one-time captain could expect from the fan base.

“Probably mixed emotions,” Patrik Elias said with a wry smile. “I’m sure there will be people respectful for what he’s done [for the Devils,] and there will be people upset at him [for signing with Minnesota]. That’s life. That’s hockey life.”

“The fans, for sure, are not pretty pleased with his decision to leave us, especially being the captain,” added Martin Brodeur. “The only drawback is that he went home to Minnesota.”

Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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