Devils ends first half with strong run

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Expectations were about as low as they could be for the New Jersey Devils after Ilya Kovalchuk left them and their 0-4-3 start to the campaign did nothing to change people’s minds.

Lately though, they’ve managed to turn things around. With their 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh this afternoon, the Devils are now 5-1-2 in their last eight games. They also only lost two contests by more than a single goal in the month of December.

“We’re doing a good job staying in games and getting points,” Martin Brodeur said, according to the Star-Ledger. “And, as of late, winning games also. For sure omce in a while we’re going to have off games. When you do, it’s how you respond.

“Early on we didn’t respond very well to some of the adversity. We seem to be a little more fit for it now.”

They still have a lot of work to do with half their season now in the books. Their offense is still a weakness and they’ve been relying heavily on Jaromir Jagr, 41, to lead the charge. If he slows down as the season wears on, they could be in serious trouble.

Devils fans also have to hold their breath as they await for news about forward Patrik Elias, who left Tuesday’s contest due to an injury. Devils coach Pete DeBoer said that he would have an update tomorrow.

At the same time, the Devils have the benefit of playing in the Metropolitan Division. If they were in the Western Conference, they’d have a daunting uphill climb ahead of them from their current 17-6-8 record. As it is, they’re tied with the Flyers in terms of points for third place in their division, although Philadelphia has played in two fewer contests.

In other words, with half the season left, the Devils still have plenty to play for.

This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

“Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience:

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.