The Devils return from the 2014 Olympic break with ground to make up in the standings, where they sit three points behind in the race for the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. With seven weeks remaining until the end of the regular season, here are the storylines to watch:
1. Will the Devils remain in playoff contention?
Currently on the outside looking in, the Devils face a tough task, but it’s not impossible. Though they are seventh in the Metropolitan Division, they trail the Red Wings by only three points for the final playoff spot. New Jersey dropped five of its last seven games to sputter into the Olympics on a sour note, but there’s still plenty of time to gain some traction.
The Devils don’t have a particularly tough schedule the rest of the way, and they have a five-game homestand in March that could be critical to their playoff hopes. General manager Lou Lamoriello has made some solid, underrated moves at the trade deadline in years past to help his team -- not always the sexiest pickups, but shrewd moves nonetheless.
2. Will Martin Brodeur be traded?
In all likelihood, it will have to be Brodeur himself who asks for a trade if he’s going to play anywhere else besides New Jersey, but the 41-year-old netminder has said multiple times this season he’d be open to the idea under the right scenario. With some teams rumored to be interested -- the Wild, to name one -- and Cory Schneider already firmly in place as the heir apparent, Brodeur might be tempted to explore the possibility now.
Brodeur is not going to get many more kicks at the can, so it would be hard to fault him if he wants one more shot at winning with a real playoff contender.
3. How do the veterans fare down the stretch?
Jaromir Jagr has been sensational this season, leading the team in both goals (17) and points (49) -- which is pretty remarkable considering the future Hall of Famer just recently celebrated his 42nd birthday. Fellow Czech veterans Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky have also been vital in providing a large chunk of the Devils' offense.
All three played in Sochi and came back uninjured (Elias did miss time with an illness), but it will be interesting to see exactly how much they have left in the tank. Coach Pete DeBoer is certainly aware of this, and may look for spots to get them extra rest.