Devils' despair deepens

The Devils' record stands at 3-9-1. They have the fewest goals in the NHL. Their goal differential of minus-22 is almost twice as bad as the NHL's second-worst mark (Anaheim at minus-13). Zach Parise is preparing for exploratory surgery. Veterans are raising questions about their playing time and their playoff chances. Oh, and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks lie in wait Wednesday to cap the Dev's six-game road trip.

These be some dark days for Devils fans. Considering all news has been bad news for the Jersey boys lately, Tuesday has been mercifully quiet, but some postgame quotes from Monday's loss to Vancouver have raised some ominous questions.

For starters, just how upset is Jason Arnott over his limited playing time? The veteran center took just three shifts in the third period Monday night and told the Star-Ledger's Rich Chere that he had "no idea" why his ice time was reduced. Arnott says he's not injured and didn't recall doing anything that would merit the benching. In reference to playing time, Arnott added, "It's been a little weird this season."

You can infer what you like from that quote about the team's early comfort level under rookie head coach John MacLean. (MacLean said he "didn't really notice how much [Arnott] sat," according to Chere's report.) More obvious is the growing sense of concern in the New Jersey locker room that this team will be playoff-worthy.

Within the Star-Ledger's game recap, Arnott and his teammates voiced some doubts. "We're at the botom right now. If we don't turn this around, it's going to be real hard to (make the playoffs)," Arnott said.

Martin Brodeur's two cents: "It's one thing to slide, but now we're putting ourselves so far behind the eight ball." But, Brodeur doesn't think the team is behind repair just yet.

When asked if he really thinks the team would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96, the stellar stopper stated: "No, I don't think so. I don't see that at game 13. But it gets tiring mentally and physically."

With players under-performing and injuries, tension and losses mounting, New Jersey sure could use a few wins to staunch the bleeding. However, between the injury bug, no-movement clauses and a shortage of cap space, it likely will be up to the ragged remaining roster to redouble their efforts and earn those elusive victories. With that bleak reality, it's easy to see why optimism is in such short supply.