The Devils experienced turbulence in their first 48 games. They find themselves in unfamiliar territory, just barely holding onto the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, while their first opponent after the five-day All-Star Break has the second-best record in the NHL.
It is enough to make a captain speak his mind.
“We wanted to have a good homestand and it didn’t happen,” Zach Parise said following the Devils’ early skate at The Rock. The Devils were 1-3-0 in their 16-day homestand at the Rock prior to facing the Rangers. The stretch concludes following Thursday night’s visit from the Canadiens.
“It was disappointing. It was frustrating because we played good teams and weren’t able to score. We have to do a much better job in the offensive zone. Our ‘D’ has to do a much better job of getting shots through and getting in the rush. The five guys on the ice have to do better and do better to create offense.”
Parise blew off a suggestion that the Devils were snake-bitten in the three losses.
“I guess we hit some posts and I missed a couple open nets, but at the same point, three goals in three games. How much can luck come into that?” Parise asked rhetorically.
It’s not just on the ice where the Devils have struggled this season. The Devils are in the midst of an ownership sale and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Vice President Bill Daly admitted during the All-Star Weekend that the league is financially helping the franchise.
Devils’ player rep David Clarkson was asked if the state of the league’s financially weaker franchises could potentially be discussed when the NHL and NHLPA begin to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I think everything figures itself out, somehow,” Clarkson said. “The thing I know is that our locker room is the exact same as it was before. It doesn’t affect us as players. We just have to go out and continue to do our job.”
Break time is over
The Rangers and Devils have not agreed on much in the Atlantic Division rivals’ 29-year history. However both sides concurred that the second of the six games the teams would play would possess the requisite amounts of emotion and energy.
“It’s good for us because after the break we want to establish [that] we don’t miss a beat,” Brandon Prust said. “Do it against a rival team gets the blood pumping right away.”
Prust, who noted the five days off allowed players to recuperate from nagging physical ailments along with the game’s mental stresses, acknowledged the grind that will be the Rangers’ final 34 games of the regular season.
“I think that’s kind of how the season works; it’s a new season within a season,” Prust said. “We’re getting close to playoff time here and that’s where you start separating yourself [from the middle-of-the-pack].”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.