Could the Devils become the second team since the lockout to win it all after falling just short?

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It’s extremely hard for any defending Stanley Cup champions to repeat, but it’s just as difficult for the the club that fell just short to bounce back in the following campaign. They suffer from the same short summer that the winners have, minus the euphoria that comes with victory.

Since the lockout, the Edmonton Oilers are the only team to outright miss the playoffs after losing in the finals during their previous campaign, but only one team managed to redeem themselves after falling just short one year prior.

That would of course be the 2008-09 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. They got off to a rough start in their comeback campaign, but they got hot after head coach Michel Therrien was replaced with Dan Bylsma and never cooled down.

The Penguins’ story might offer hope for the Devils in more ways than one. After all, Pittsburgh in 2008 had a particularly rough summer too.

Pittsburgh, in its early stages of what has been an ongoing saga to find elite wingers to work with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, acquired Marian Hossa during the 2007-08 campaign. However, their attempt to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent that summer failed. Instead Hossa, along with their backup goaltender Ty Conklin, decided to leave Pittsburgh in favor of the team that had just beat them in the Stanley Cup finals: the Detroit Red Wings.

The New Jersey Devils will also be looking to win just a couple more postseason games in 2012-13 despite the loss of an elite player in Zach Parise.

Naturally, the circumstances are different. For one thing, Hossa’s stint with the Penguins was brief while the Devils are losing their team captain and a man they drafted nearly a decade ago. However, like the Cup-winning Penguins, the Devils have a wealth of talent beyond the player they lost.

The New Jersey Devils are clearly worse off without Parise, but they still have Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson, and Travis Zajac to give them a pretty solid offensive core. Their power-play might also get a boost from Adam Larsson, who might take a step forward in his sophomore season, and a full campaign with Marek Zidlicky. Their goaltending is a significant wild card, but even at his age, it’s hard to ever dismiss Martin Brodeur.

I wouldn’t call the Devils’ Stanley Cup favorites going into the playoffs, but they certainly look like a team that can get through the massive blow of Parise signing with the Minnesota Wild.

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row.

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.

Who could take Taylor Hall’s place if he has to miss the All-Star Game?

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With Taylor Hall set to miss the next couple of games due to a hand injury, and with that injury putting his All-Star Game prospects in jeopardy, we look at the players who are worthy of replacing the New Jersey Devils forward if he has to miss this weekend’s festivities.

Two names that immediately come to mind are Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel and Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

There was already an argument that Kessel deserved to be at the ASG over Sidney Crosby. He was leading the Penguins in points then and two weeks later, he continues to pace Pittsburgh with 21 goals (tied with Evgeni Malkin) and 54 points, three more points than Crosby.

Couturier has already smashed his previous career highs in both goals (26) and points (47). He’s been part of the reason that Claude Giroux is already headed to the ASG and deserves to be there himself.

At third would have to be Sebastian Aho. The talent in the Metropolitan is evident with his snub. He’s clearly the best player on the Carolina Hurricanes this season (no disrespect to Teuvo Teravainen).

Aho is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie-season totals and a big reason why the Hurricanes are three points back of a playoff spot.

Beyond those three guys, there’s a few that certainly deserve the honor:

  • Anders Lee has 27 goals this season, seven off the pace he set last season with half the season to go.
  • Jakub Voracek leads the NHL with 45 assists, four more than teammate Giroux.
  • Evgeni Malkin. Not having a bad year.

It’s important to remember that the at-least-one-player-per-team rule goes out the window when it comes to replacing another All-Star.

There are certainly some very deserving names that didn’t get the first call.

But life’s about second chances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks

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Projected Lines

Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikita KucherovBrayden PointTyler Johnson

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosChris Kunitz

Alex Killorn — Matthew Peca — Yanni Gourde

Michael Bournival — Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Jake DotchinAnton Stralman

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi

Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Out of sync’ Lightning look to end three-game losing skid against ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Patrick SharpNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatArtem AnisimovRyan Hartman

Tomas Jurco — David Kampf — Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik Gustafsson — Brent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Jeff Glass