Adam Henrique

Lamoriello: We’re here to win Cup, not just make playoffs

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The New Jersey Devils used to be a juggernaut, but this will be the third time in four seasons that they have fallen short of the playoffs. The one exception was when they went to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

Of course, they then lost to the Los Angeles Kings, but Devils GM Lou Lamoriello still used it as a pretext to look on the bright side.

“I’ll look at a positive. If you can say one out of every four years you’d be in the Stanley Cup Finals, would you take it?” Lamoriello asked, per the Star-Ledger. “Approach it from a positive standpoint. We’re here to win the Stanley Cup. We’re here to win, not to just get into the playoffs.

“You can (take) that answer any way you want about three out of four years (missing) the playoffs. If it means missing the playoffs to do certain things to win the Stanley Cup, then that’s what it means. That’s mediocrity just getting to the playoffs.”

The problem is that’s the argument a franchise uses when they’re embracing a rebuilding process where the team is willing to endure losing seasons in the hope of building a squad with a chance to seriously compete for the Stanley Cup.

That’s not what the Devils have been doing though. They do have some young talent like forward Adam Henrique, but the core of this team are players in or past their prime. They lost Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk in back-to-back years and responded over the summer by signing 31-year-old Ryane Clowe, 34-year-old Michael Ryder, and 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Do those sound like the guys you go after when you’re focused on the future rather than present?

Of course, there’s a reason why they would try to win now even after losing two of their best offensive players: Because the Devils didn’t have a draft pick in 2014. They lost it as part of their punishment for their original attempt to sign Kovalchuk to a long-term deal. The NHL has since partially reversed that decision so that the Devils will get the 30th overall pick. That’s better, but doesn’t compensate them for their shortcomings this season.

Maybe Lamoriello’s statement is an indication of what’s to come for the Devils though. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t fully embrace a rebuilding process ahead of a season where they didn’t control their first round pick. Going forward, they won’t have that issue.

Devils to enter Saturday’s game without Elias, Henrique, Josefson

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The New Jersey Devils managed to dig deep and gut out a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals on Friday, even with injuries piling up. They won’t get much time to take a breather, either, as they turn around to a Saturday game against the Carolina Hurricanes with those bumps and bruises forcing lineup changes.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the Devils will be without the services of Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson tonight because of injuries suffered during last night’s game against the Capitals.

The Devils will skate with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Tim Sestito slide into their places.

Head coach Peter DeBoer tried to put a positive spin on the situation while noting that the Devils decided a minor league call-up wouldn’t be worth it.

“Same thing we dealt with last night,” DeBoer said. “The nice thing is we have some fresh legs going into the lineup with Bernier and Gionta and Sestito. In a back-to-back situation that’s not a bad thing. Obviously we’re missing some key people but I like the idea we’re getting some fresh legs in.”

Elias, 37, suffered an upper-body injury thanks to this unfortunate break:

Josefson seemed to suffer a leg injury while Henrique’s issue is undisclosed.

The Devils must soldier on anyway, and the Hurricanes – while uneven – present some upset threat. They thwarted the playoff-desperate Dallas Stars 4-1 on Thursday, for one.

Often brutally honest Jagr ‘proud’ of Devils

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New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr doesn’t feel inclined to always put a positive spin on things. The latest example of that came on Monday when Jagr bashed the Devils’ “preseason” effort in a game they won 6-3.

So when he does praise his teammates, as he did after the Devils’ critical 2-1 victory over Washington, you can take his statements as genuine.

New Jersey’s win was particularly impressive because the team lost Patrik Elias in the first period. Forwards Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson were also hurt during the contest.

“That’s probably the toughest and best win we’ve had so far, the way I look at it,” Jagr told the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. “When we have to win, guys went down, we have a lot of new guys and we did it.

“I’m proud of our team tonight.”

The Devils have gotten nine out of a possible 12 points over their last six games, with all of their missed points stemming from shootout losses. The hole they put themselves in was massive though and they are consequently still three points out of a playoff spot with just five games left.

Still, it wasn’t long ago that they looked dead and they’ve managed to hold onto a glimmer of hope. The Devils will play against Carolina tonight.

Get your game notes: Caps at Devils

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New Jersey Devils hosting the Washington Capitals starting at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

—- Washington has lost four straight (0-2-2) for the fourth time this season; New Jersey has earned a point in five straight games (2-0-3 record) but has lost three of its last four (all shootout losses). The Devils are in danger of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they went five straight without an appearance (1982-87). The Capitals’ consecutive playoff streak is also in jeopardy, having last missed the playoffs in 2006-07 (6 straight seasons).

—- The Devils have six games remaining and a chance at a 7-0-1 finish if they can run the table. Twenty-six years ago, the 1987-88 Devils – led by goalie Sean Burke – mounted a 7-0-1 season-ending charge to grab the final Patrick Division playoff spot on the season’s final day, the team’s first playoff berth in New Jersey. The Devils went on to win two playoff rounds, falling one victory short of the Stanley Cup Final.

—- Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in points (64) this season followed by Patrik Elias (51 pts.) – the two are the only Devils with 50+ points this season (Travis Zajac & Adam Henrique – 43 pts. each are next). Washington is even more top-heavy – Nicklas Backstrom leads in points (73) with Alex Ovechkin right behind him in scoring (72 pts.). Joel Ward is next on the team with 43 points.

—- Three of New Jersey’s last four games have ended in shootout losses (vs. PHX, at NYI, at BUF – with a win over FLA between the Islanders & Sabres game), dropping the Devils to 0-11 in shootouts this season, and to a league-record 15 straight SO losses dating to last March 15. New Jersey’s skaters are a combined 3-for-39 on shootout attempts. Since the NHL instituted shootouts in 2005-06, only three teams have completed a season without winning one, none with more than five losses.

—- If games ended in ties – shootouts removed from the standings equation – New Jersey currently would be tied with Columbus, at 80 points, for the East’s second Wild Card, 1 pt. behind Detroit.

—- Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the last tie game in the NHL (April 4, 2004) – Carolina tied at Florida, 6-6. The Flyers and the Islanders also tied 3-3 earlier in the day.

—- Ovechkin (48 goals) and teammate Troy Brouwer (23 goals) lead the league in goal differential among a team’s first- and second-highest goal-scorer, +25, a difference of 10 more compared to the next-largest margin – Montreal’s Max Pacioretty (35) & Tomas Plekanec (20), +15.

—- Ovechkin’s -36 rating is the worst in the league; Alexander Edler (VAN) & Nail Yakupov (EDM) have the second-worst at -33. Ovechkin can become the first player ever to lead the league in goals and come in last in plus-minus.

—- New Jersey is 14-9-4 vs. the Metropolitan Div. this season while Washington is 10-14-3 in the division.

—- The Capitals rank first in the league in power-play percentage (23.7%), while the Devils rank first in penalty-kill percentage (86.9%). New Jersey has killed off 12 of 13 power plays in its last four games; Washington is 2/12 on the power play in its last three games including going 0/5 in its last game.

NHL on NBCSN: Devils host Capitals as both try to keep playoff hope alive

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New Jersey Devils host the Washington Capitals at the Prudential Center at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

People say desperate times call for desperate measures. If that’s the case tonight in Newark, the Devils and Capitals will both be reaching deep into their respective bags of tricks.

The Capitals are currently four points behind Columbus for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and the Devils are five points back. Both teams need a win tonight to keep their fading hopes alive of reaching the playoffs and, likely, facing the Boston Bruins in the first round.

Both teams have had their issues lately.

For Washington, much of the grumbling has centered around Alex Ovechkin’s struggles at even strength. The reigning league MVP went the month of March without an even-strength point and has been getting crushed for his league-low plus/minus rating of minus-36.

While Ovechkin has 48 goals this season, he’s done the bulk of his damage on the power play. If the Capitals are going to stick around in the playoff race, they have to find a way to get Ovechkin and the rest of the top line working 5-on-5.

For now, at least, he won’t have Jay Beagle centering his line as coach Adam Oates has put Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom with Ovechkin. It’s the ultimate “put all your eggs in one basket” move.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s $10 to join and first prize is $200. Starts Friday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

The Devils have their own problems to worry about. Despite Cory Schneider having played outstanding for most of the season, he’s been cold lately. With Martin Brodeur there to back him up, that would ideally mean things stayed steady. Instead, Schneider’s play has been equal with Brodeur’s and that’s not a good thing considering the future Hall of Famer is nearing the end of his career.

What that’s meant for New Jersey is they’ve needed to score more goals. That task has been fine for the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique but contributions from others have been a bit scattered. Travis Zajac netting a hat trick against Florida was a good sign, but they need more and from many others.

One thing the Devils have to find a way to do is avoid going to the shootout. They’re 0-11 in shootouts this season and while they’ve lost three of the past four games, all three losses came in the skills competition.

The biggest “What if” question Devils players and fans could wind up asking themselves is, “What if they won half of those shootouts?” If they did, they’d be right in the mix for the postseason with Columbus and Detroit instead of desperately needing a win to stay in the hunt.