The Devils look to close the book on a forgettable pre-All-Star portion of the 2010-11 season on a high note Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. As the Devs go in search of their fifth win in a row, here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops. Fans of alliteration and ‘S’ words (That’s for you, Sean Connery.) will enjoy.
Four straight wins? Points in their last seven games? Who is this team?
The Devils certainly seem to have snapped out of the funk that dominated the start of the season. Leading the way over the past seven games: Brian Rolston. You remember him, right? The player the Devils put through waivers twice in the hope that another team would take him and his salary cap hit off their hands. Well, no one did and he’s been making the most of his continued stay in the Garden State. He’s posted a team-high 10 points over the seven-game stretch, including seven assists. Coming into that hot streak he’d amassed just five points and a pair of goals all season long. He carries a four-game point streak into tonight’s game.
The Devils’ turnaround hasn’t come against teams teetering on the cellar stairs either. Over the past seven games, New Jersey has bested Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay twice, the Atlantic-leading Philadelphia Flyers and the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s true the Pens were missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but no one in New Jersey should be looking that gift-horse in the mouth.
Jacques Lemaire’s club catches another break tonight with the Red Wings. Detroit will be absent Chris Osgood, Danny Cleary, Mike Modano, Brad Stuart and Pavel Datsyuk. The losses on the bench have led to some losses on the ice (four of their last six games) and even made their victories a little iffy. The Wings haven’t won in regulation since a Jan. 4 W over Edmonton.
The most impressive part of the Devils’ surge has come in the offensive end. In addition to Rolston, both Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk have averaged over a point per game over the last seven contests. Collectively they’ve averaged four goals per game while shooting 15.7 percent. That’s a rather sizable improvement over the 1.7 goals per game and shooting percentage of 5.7 through Jan. 8.