Cam Janssen’s move back to New Jersey one he says is to make him less comfortable

When enforcer Cam Janssen signed on as a free agent this summer with the New Jersey Devils, it was a homecoming of sorts for him. After all, Janssen came up through the Devils system going back to his days with the Albany River Rats and on to his NHL career with the Devils. Going back to where you started is sometimes a great thing and provides a comfort zone.

That comfort zone aspect, however, is something Janssen was looking to shake up after deciding to leave St. Louis through free agency. Janssen being a St. Louis native and playing for the hometown Blues proved to be a good thing for a while for the six year NHL veteran, but as he tells Jeremy Rutherford of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it proved to make things a bit too comfortable for him in the end.

Saying this week that he’s both ecstatic to become a Devil again and sad to see his days with the Blues end, Janssen admitted that it was time to move on.

“I felt like I was spoiled here,” Janssen said. “I’m living next to my parents. I have my friends here. It’s hard to explain. It was reality, but it was not reality, too. To play in your hometown, you have distractions. It takes a toll on you, it really does. That’s the life you live as a professional hockey player, don’t get me wrong, but it’s magnified in your hometown.

“It was the best time of my life, but it was time for a change, it really was. I think everybody saw that.”

Janssen isn’t what you’d call an integral player on an NHL roster. Over his career he’s averaged just 4:49 of ice time per game and when your role on a roster is as an enforcer, ice time these days in the NHL is tougher to come by. While some teams have moved completely away from having tough guys on the roster (Detroit and Tampa Bay) others seem to treat enforcers like a side sow production to put them out there against other brawlers so they can do their business.

For Janssen, even playing that role was made a bit trickier in front of the hometown fans as well as for his parents, Denny and Amy Janssen, watching him as well.

Janssen was familiar with the faction of fans who felt he shouldn’t be in the lineup. They cited his lack of production — seven points in 165 games.

“I take everything to heart, I really do, and sometimes that hurt me,” Janssen said.

Denny and Amy heard the criticism in the stands at Scottrade Center.

“It was a little hard because not everybody is a Cam fan,” Denny said. “Sometimes you hear things like ‘Hey Cam, just cause you’re from Eureka’ … that kind of stuff,” Denny said. “That kind of hurt. My wife was always like, ‘Let it go, let it go.’

For Janssen now, he heads back to New Jersey where he cut his teeth in the NHL and while you can’t fully expect to see his ice time grow exponentially, the Devils made themselves a bit meaner by adding Janssen and former Thrashers tough guy Eric Boulton.

Whether that helps make the Devils more of a pain to deal with in the rough going Atlantic Division and back into the playoffs is debatable, but with that brand of hockey back in Newark, the Devils surely won’t be an easy team to handle in a lot of ways. With Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scoring goals and Boulton and Janssen punching lights out, the Devils figure to be a major thorn in the side.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.