Struggling Devils host Bruins (Jan 02, 2017)
The season started so promisingly for the New Jersey Devils. They were 9-3-3 and didn't suffer a regulation home loss until Dec. 9, a sign that they may have been ready to improve on last season's middling results.
But as they welcome the Boston Bruins to Prudential Center on Monday to start 2017, the Devils have lost 10 and 12 are coming off a 6-2 blowout loss to the Washington Capitals at home.
"Every team in this conference is a challenge for us, and everyone is playing good hockey, including the Bruins," Devils winger Luke Gazdic. "So, we need to execute better than we have and cut down on our mistakes. We will definitely be better (than Saturday). I can promise you there will be a better effort on Monday."
The Bruins are coming off a home-and-home sweep of the Buffalo Sabres and bring the NHL's second-best penalty kill to New Jersey. They have thwarted 87 percent of penalties this season, which is something that doesn't bode well for the reeling Devils.
The Devils went 0-for-9 on the power play against the Capitals and are 1-for-22 with the man advantage over the past four games.
"It's a combination of things right now," Devils coach John Hynes said. "It's a lack of execution. It's a lack of not making the right puck decisions. Our puck support needs to be better; and our battle level when we get into battles needs to be stronger. So, we have a little bit of a perfect storm right now with the power play. We have to work our way out of it."
The Bruins will be without forward David Backes, who is out indefinitely with a concussion he suffered Thursday against the Sabres. He has nine goals and 19 points in 33 games after signing a five-year, $30 million contract in July.
"I haven't talked to him in two days," said coach Claude Julien to the Boston Globe about Backes. "I talked to him on the plane (home from Buffalo). He has been told to stay home. He has been told to stay away from TVs and shouldn't be texting."
While the Bruins have won two straight, they were anything but hot before those wins. They had lost eight of 11 and had allowed the first goal in four of their previous six games before beating the Sabres on Saturday.
"I think (the win) tells you a lot too. When you start the game the right way, you don't put yourself in a bad spot," said Patrice Bergeron to CSN New England. "We showed some character lately getting back in games, but it's not good enough when you play for 40 minutes. Tonight, was a perfect example. When you start the right way, it makes a huge difference."
With the Bruins looking for a third straight and the Devils sitting in next-to-last place in the Eastern Conference, a good start could lead to an easy win against a New Jersey team that's confidence appears shaken.
"Guys are trying. Guys are battling hard," Devils captain Andy Greene said. "Unfortunately, sometimes things just don't go your way, and that's happened a lot lately; but it's not for lack of effort. Sometimes it's lack of execution; but it's not a lack of effort."