BOSTON — These are not your father’s New Jersey Devils, who invade TD Banknorth Garden tonight for a match-up with the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins tonight.
These Devils have played most of the season without future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. These Devils won’t shatter your bones with a Scott Stevens open-ice check or bury you with a Brian Rafalski slap-shot goal on the power play. These Devils actually score from all areas — ranking eighth in the NHL in goals scored per game (at a shade more than three) and second (to Boston) in 5-on-5 goal differential.
What’s not different about this band of brothers from Jersey is their ability to win. The Devils lead the Atlantic Division with 63 points, which are the third-most in the East right now. When you consider what they’ve accomplished thus far and look ahead to a healthy return by Brodeur some time between now and the playoffs, you realize the Devils will be a dangerous foe down the stretch and in the postseason.
Season series: Tim Thomas shut out the Devils Dec. 23, 2-0. David Krejci and Milan Lucic scored the goals. The Bruins and Devils will meet twice more after tonight’s tilt.
What they’re writing: Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger tells us that Burlington, Mass., native Jay Pandolfo will probably be a healthy scratch tonight. That’s how deep the Devils are, they can’t even get the veteran into the line-up these days. Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record looks back at goaltender Scott Clemmensen: The Boston College Years. And in the New York Post, Mark Everson looks at the Brodeur situation.
New Jersey Player to Watch: He’s sixth in the league in goals-against average (2.25) and eighth in save percentage (.923), and he’s getting his first chance to start in the NHL at 31. You might call Clemmensen a modern-day Thomas. Or you might call Clemmensen a future millionaire. Playing this season for just a half a mill, Clemmensen has proven himself a legit NHL netminder. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer and teams will bid for his services. The Bruins might even have token interest should one of their two UFA puck-stoppers walk and the brass decide that they need one more veteran around to hold the fort until Tuukka Rask’s ready.