Devils-Oilers Preview

Struggles on the road and surprisingly poor play from Martin

Brodeur have dropped the New Jersey Devils out of the Atlantic

Division lead. A meeting with the NHL-worst Edmonton Oilers might

be coming at the perfect time.

The sputtering Devils look for their third win in 13 road games

Sunday night when they visit Edmonton for the first time in over

two years.

New Jersey (38-22-3) returned from the two-week Olympic break by

opening this three-game trip in impressive fashion with Tuesday’s

4-3 win over Pacific Division-leading San Jose. However, the Devils

followed that up Friday by allowing five straight goals in a 5-3

loss to Calgary, which entered ranked 29th in scoring.

New Jersey is second in the division after holding an

eight-point lead on Pittsburgh on Jan. 12, while also sitting atop

the East four days later. That gap evaporated and the Devils are

also fourth in the conference, which is led comfortably by

Washington.

The Devils’ fall is due to a 6-11-2 stretch that includes a

2-9-1 road record after opening the season with 16 wins in their

first 21 games away from home.

Brodeur, the NHL record holder for wins (592) and shutouts

(108), has also been a major culprit of the collapse, going 6-10-2

with a 3.04 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage. The

four-time Vezina Trophy winner has been even worse on the road,

posting a 2-8-1 record and 3.39 GAA after making 20 saves against

the Flames.

His poor play even carried over to the Olympics, where he was

replaced by Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo after being heavily

criticized for his performance in Canada’s 5-3 loss to the United

States in the group phase. Luongo went on to help Canada win the

gold by beating the U.S in overtime.

Brodeur’s return to league play wasn’t very strong either, as he

made 17 saves against the Sharks.

“It doesn’t happen often but lately, the puck’s definitely not

hitting me,” said Brodeur, who has started 41 of the last 42

games.

Perhaps a visit to Edmonton could help. The Oilers (20-38-6) are

last in the league with 46 points and their 2.41 goals per game

rank at the bottom of the West.

Brodeur is 5-1-0 with a tie and a 1.82 GAA in seven starts at

Rexall Place. However, he hasn’t faced the Oilers since stopping 20

shots in a 3-1 win there Dec. 21, 2007.

Brodeur was rested for a 2-1 home loss to the Oilers in the most

recent matchup Nov. 9, 2008.

Edmonton is looking to build on Friday’s 2-1 shootout win over

Minnesota for just the club’s second win in nine games and fifth in

32.

“It’s always fun when you win, you can kind of smile again,”

said center Mike Comrie, who scored for a second consecutive game

before netting the decisive shootout goal against the Wild. “We

played hard and changed the tune, got a win, and it’s a lot more

fun winning. When you’re battling and playing hard and not getting

the wins it get frustrating, they add up.”

Dustin Penner, Edmonton’s leader with 24 goals and 48 points,

has six goals and six assists in 32 games and just two of each in

the last 12. The left wing has one goal in three games against New

Jersey.