Mike Halford

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach of the New Jersey Devils John Hynes handles ench duties against the Montreal Canadiens at the Prudential Center on November 27, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Canadiens defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Once-surprising Devils are now ‘hovering around mediocrity’

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After a 3-2 win over Detroit on Dec. 11, the Devils found themselves at 15-10-4 and holding the first wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

But in the two weeks since, plenty has changed.

The Devils have gone just 3-4-2 in their last nine games, the offense has started to sputter, they’re now three points back of the last postseason berth and, on Monday, head coach John Hynes fired a warning shot.

“Right now, we’ve been hovering around mediocrity,” Hynes said, per NorthJersey.com. “We’ve had trouble putting back-to-back games together. We haven’t necessarily liked how well we’ve played collectively whether it’s our shot totals, our total time in the offensive zone, being a difficult team to play against.

“So, we need better performances from a lot of guys.”

Among the guys New Jersey could use better performances from:

Adam Henrique, who has no goals in his last seven games.

Lee Stempniak, who has one goal in his last eight.

Mike Cammalleri, who has one goal in his last nine.

To that end, Hynes shook up his lines at Monday’s practice, possibly in an effort to spread out the scoring.

For the first couple months of the season, the Devils’ offense was coming primarily from Henrique, Stempniak, Cammalleri, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. In speaking to PHT a couple weeks ago, GM Ray Shero acknowledged that, eventually, points were going to have to come from somewhere else.

“We need some secondary scoring from some other people,” he explained. “At some point, those top guys that have produced for us will go cold, like anybody.

“We need guys to kick in and chip in some goals.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that both Shero and Hynes have lamented New Jersey’s lack of shots on goal. The team sits dead last in shots for per game — 25.0 — and there seems to be way too heavy a reliance on Cory Schneider to win games in which the Devils aren’t firing on the opponent enough:


Related: Shero: Schneider isn’t just Devils’ MVP, he ‘could be in the MVP voting for the league’

Goalie nods: Miller out another week, Markstrom starts third straight

Los Angeles Kings v Vancouver Canucks

On Monday, the Canucks announced starting netminder Ryan Miller will likely miss another week due to injury, meaning Jacob Markstrom would make yet another appearance when Vancouver hosts Los Angeles at Rogers Arena.

Which might not be a bad thing.

Markstrom has been a bright spot for the Canucks this year, going 3-3-2 with a .924 save percentage and 2.33 GAA. He’s also been very good over his last two outings — he stopped 32 of 33 shots in Saturday’s OT win over the Oilers, and 26 of 27 in a victory in Tampa Bay on Dec. 22.

All told, Markstrom has stopped 92 of his last 96 shots faced — a sparkling .958 save percentage.

No word yet on who the Kings will have in goal, though Jonathan Quick appears likely.


— The red-hot Braden Holtby will look to continue his banner campaign in Buffalo. Holtby has gone an impressive 7-0-1 in December with a 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage. Linus Ullmark will counter for the Sabres.

— Even though they picked up Ben Scrivens in a trade today from Edmonton, the Habs will stick with Mike Condon in goal against the Bolts. Tampa Bay is going with Ben Bishop, as per usual.

— Awesome matchup in Nashville tonight, as the Rangers go with Henrik Lundqvist while the Preds give Pekka Rinne the nod.

Petr Mrazek makes his second straight start in Minnesota, just two nights after helping the Wings beat the Preds 3-2 in Nashville on Saturday. The Wild will go with Darcy Kuemper, who has won each of his last three starts.

— Calvin Pickard makes his first start of the season when the Avs travel to San Jose. The Sharks are going with Martin Jones, who is looking for his second win over Colorado this season.

Fowler suffers knee sprain, Ducks recall ’13 first-rounder Theodore

Cam Fowler

An update on the injury that forced Cam Fowler from Sunday’s win over the Flyers — it’s a knee sprain and, in a related move, the Ducks recalled d-man Shea Theodore from AHL San Diego on Monday.

Fowler, who didn’t play after the 6:28 mark of yesterday’s game, was initially listed as day-to-day. The Ducks have since labeled his timetable to return as “TBD” and, according to NHL.com, he isn’t expected to travel on the club’s upcoming three-game Western Canadian road swing.

That absence could prove costly.

From the L.A. Times:

Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm played 28 minutes 3 seconds and 26:01, respectively, to fill the void. The Ducks were down to three defensemen at one point because of penalties and killed three penalties in the last half of the game.

“Hampus and Sami were instrumental in coming up with the win,” Boudreau said. “That’s a tough call for them, but they hung on and did a good job.”

Fowler, 24, is an integral part of the Anaheim defense, averaging 22:38 per night. He has 12 points in 34 games this year — decreased production compared to his last two campaigns, though all of Anaheim’s usual scorers have struggled this year.

As for Theodore, he has 16 points in 27 games with the Gulls. The former WHL Seattle standout was taken 26th overall by Anaheim in 2013.

Wild to healthy scratch Fontaine, who needs to ‘take a step in his career’

Steve Ott, Justin Fontaine

Justin Fontaine‘s tough season will take a difficult turn on Monday night — one that leads directly to the press box.

Per the Star-Tribune, Fontaine will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, after a stretch in which he’s failed to score a goal in nine straight contests.

“I want to see him take a step in his career because we have a lot of confidence what he can do and what he can be as a player,” head coach Mike Yeo explained. “He’s shown signs of it from game to game. In certain games, it’s just a matter of making sure the consistency is there night after night, shift and shift.

“That’s what he has to discover in his game.”

In Fontaine’s defense, his health has been problematic.

The 28-year-old was on the receiving end of a David Clarkson knee during the preseason, which forced him to miss the first two games of the year.

Then, in late October, Fontaine was ruled out 4-6 weeks with a sprained left MCL.

Prior to that second knee injury, Fontaine had been a pretty decent contributor with a goal and four points in eight games, averaging over 11 minutes per night.

That production came on the heels of a very solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored a career-high 31 points.

On the season, Fontaine has a respectable eight points in 21 contests, but it’s clear his offensive abilities don’t compensate for what Wild head coach Mike Yeo see as an incomplete overall game.

B’s leading scorer Krejci out week-to-week (upper body)

Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46), of the Czech Republic, skates slowly up the ice during a break in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The scoreboard was showing the score from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres score.  Pittsburgh beat Buffalo, eliminating Boston from the playoffs.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The next few weeks will prove crucial for the Boston Bruins.

Mired in a three-game losing streak, the B’s revealed on Monday that co-leading scorer David Krejci is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Though the nature of the ailment wasn’t revealed, Krejci was seen wearing a slight on his right arm following today’s practice.

The injury means it’s unlikely the 29-year-old will be able to participate in Friday’s Winter Classic against Montreal at Gillette Stadium. Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher are both currently sidelined as well; while Gallagher has hinted at a potential return in time for Jan. 1, Price is almost assuredly out.

But back to Krejci for a moment.

On pace for the best offensive campaign of his 10-year career, Krejci will be nearly impossible to replace. In addition to his offensive production, he also gobbles up ice time (over 20 minutes a night this year, for the first time in his career) and is one of the club’s busiest faceoff men, trailing only Patrice Bergeron.

At Monday’s practice, head coach Claude Julien unveiled what could be the solution in the wake of Krejci’s injury. Bergeron skated between Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly, while Ryan Spooner manned the 2C spot between Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson.

With Spooner moving up, Landon Ferraro — claimed off waivers from Detroit earlier this month — played on the third line with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes.

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that Boston has a relatively mellow schedule coming up. The B’s are off tonight, back in action on Tuesday (against Ottawa), then off ’til Friday for the Winter Classic.

After that, they’re off for four days — returning to action on Jan. 5 versus Washington — before setting off on a tough five-game road swing on Jan.