New Jersey Devils right wing Michael Ryder, left, moves the puck down the ice as Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly covers in the third period of the Avalanche's 2-1 shootout victory in an NHL hockey game in Denver on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

NHL on NBCSN: Devils fight to stay in heart of playoff race vs Avs


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New Jersey Devils host the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Going into the season, not much was expected of the Devils or Avalanche. That’s where the similarities between their seasons end.

The Colorado Avalanche, fresh off making Joe Sakic the team’s executive vice president and Patrick Roy the head coach, became the talk of the league when they kicked off their campaign with a 14-2-0 run. They’ve hit a couple bumps in the road since then, but haven’t dramatically slowed down. They’ve only endured a single three-game losing streak and one four-contest slump on their road to a 35-14-5 record.

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Rookie Nathan MacKinnon has been everything they could have hoped for after being selected with the first overall pick, but their roster isn’t substantial different from the one that finished last in the Western Conference in 2013. Instead, they have succeeded largely by getting more out of the same guys and goaltender Semyon Varlamov in particular.

Varlamov has rebounded from a rough 2013 campaign thanks in part to Roy and goalie coach Francois Allaire’s guidance. Colorado recently rewarded Varlamov for his comeback with a five-year, $29.5 million extension.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils’ roster is substantially different from what it was even last season with far more mixed results. To be fair, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello can’t really be blamed for that. From a short-term perspective, the single worst thing to happen to New Jersey over the summer was Ilya Kovalchuk deciding to “retire” to get out of his contract and move to the KHL.

The Devils were forced to scramble to overcome the offensive void he left and while Jaromir Jagr has done a remarkable job, especially at the age of 41, they were struggling to find the back of the net even before Kovalchuk left.

Even a strong season out of goaltender Cory Schneider hasn’t been enough to turn the tide. All he’s been able to do is keep them afloat so that while they’re shy of a Wild Card spot, at least they’re still very much in the race.

In fact, given that only two points separate second and sixth place in the battle for Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference, every game is still critical for the Devils. At the same time, the Avalanche could use a win as they try to stay in the battle for the Central Division title against the formidable St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks.

Derek Roy signs in Swiss league

Derek Roy, Jeremy Smith, Chris Kelly
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Derek Roy has finally found work — but it’s not in the NHL.

Roy, who spent the entire preseason in Washington’s camp on a PTO, has signed with SC Bern of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Friday.

The news comes after Roy narrowly missed out on making the Caps roster, and just one year after he had something of a bounce-back campaign in Edmonton, scoring 22 points in 46 games while developing chemistry with young winger Nail Yakupov.

A 12-year NHL veteran, Roy is one of the more prominent names to be squeezed out of work this season, and head overseas. The 31-year-old has scored over 500 points in 738 career contests, and has twice represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships.

With Bern, Roy will play on one of Switzerland’s stronger teams, alongside a trio of ex-NHLers: Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ebbett and Cory Conacher.

Lehner’s injury ‘doesn’t look like it’s short term’

Robin Lehner
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Robin Lehner might not be back anytime soon.

Making his debut with the Buffalo Sabres, the 24-year-old goaltender couldn’t complete Thursday’s game against his former squad, the Ottawa Senators, due to what has now been revealed to be a right leg injury.

When he left the arena, he was wearing a walking boot on that nearly went up to his knee.

“It doesn’t look like it’s short term,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “It’s more than day-to-day at this point, but we need to evaluate further.”

It’s a rocky start to what’s an important campaign for Lehner. He has been given an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s ready to be a starting goaltender after being acquired by the Sabres over the summer, but it looks like that will have to be postponed.

While he’s sidelined, Chad Johnson is likely to be leaned on heavily.