Devils-Red Wings Preview
While they made news for the player they decided to keep, the New Jersey Devils also picked up a veteran forward just before Wednesday’s trading deadline.
Tuomo Ruutu will try to use a change of scenery to regain his scoring touch and aid the Devils’ playoff push beginning with Friday night’s visit to fellow Eastern Conference contender, the Detroit Red Wings.
With the decidedly younger Cory Schneider on the roster, New Jersey (27-23-13) was rumored to have future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur on the trading block but decided to keep him Wednesday.
The Devils, though, didn’t stand pat and acquired Ruutu from Carolina for Andrei Loktionov and a third-round pick in 2017.
"Our intention certainly was to try and get a top nine forward with a lot of grit, who competes and who has a habit of playing in big games," general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "We’ve played against him enough over the years. We feel good about it."
Ruutu scored 81 goals in his first four-plus seasons with Carolina, including a career-high 26 in 2008-09. He’s netted a combined nine goals in the past two seasons, and had 16 points in his 57 games in 2013-14 (five goals, 11 assists).
"I think I’ve been playing better lately. I hope I can get some results as well," Ruutu said after his first practice with New Jersey on Thursday.
The winger will try to help the Devils in a competitive race for one of the East’s final playoff berth. Detroit (28-21-13) and Columbus each have 69 points after the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado on Thursday and the Blue Jackets’ 6-1 loss in Chicago.
Detroit currently holds the eighth spot on the tiebreaker because it has one game in hand, but New Jersey is among four other teams within six points of the pair.
The 11th-place Devils are just two points back and have aided their playoff push by winning three of four, including a 4-3 home win against Detroit on Tuesday. Stephen Gionta scored the tiebreaking goal with 36.6 seconds left in that game, capping a three-goal third period for New Jersey.
Brodeur got the start in that win, but Schneider is expected to be in net for this game. Brodeur is slated to start against Ruutu’s former team Saturday in New Jersey.
Schneider is 1-2-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average in three career starts against the Red Wings, who are 5-2-2 in their last nine and 5-1-2 in their past eight home games.
Detroit missed out on two points again Thursday when it couldn’t hold on to a one-goal lead in the third period against Colorado and lost 3-2 in overtime.
"Through two periods, we could have already had the game put away, but we didn’t," coach Mike Babcock said. "That’s been the theme all year."
The Red Wings have split two games against New Jersey this season, both on the road, and won 3-1 on Dec. 6. Detroit limited the Devils to 11 shots, matching their fewest in a home game in franchise history.
Jonas Gustavsson was in net for that game but might start Friday’s rematch with the Red Wings playing back-to-back nights. Gustavsson is also 4-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA in his last five matchups with New Jersey.
Howard was charged with all four goals in Tuesday’s loss, and New Jersey outshot Detroit 29-23 (14-4 in the final period).
The Red Wings’ Johan Franzen had a goal and an assist in that game, and has four points in his last four matchups (three goals, one assist). Ruutu has one assist in his last eight meetings with Detroit.