Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Monday, February 11, 2013
Need to know: Those Devils are riding high

By Scott Burnside


• The New Jersey Devils, surprise leaders of the Eastern Conference, dumped Pittsburgh in a home-and-home series on this snowy weekend, defeating the previously red-hot Pens by identical 3-1 scores. The Devils have won five in a row and David Clarkson continued his terrific start with his eighth and ninth goals in Sunday’s win. He is tied for second in the NHL in goal scoring. Johan Hedberg, the once-upon-a-time Penguin, did the job Sunday as he turned aside 23 of 24 shots for the Devils, who are tied for third in goals allowed per game. The Penguins had been riding a five-game win streak before the lost weekend against the Devils, and a lack of discipline and timely scoring has set them back on their heels.

• So, how good are the Chicago Blackhawks? One quarter of the way through the season and the Blackhawks have yet to lose in regulation in spite of playing only two games at home. Chicago completed a six-game road trip Sunday with a 3-0 whitewashing of the Nashville Predators and Tuesday will begin a seven-game homestand. Patrick Kane continued his hot start with his ninth goal of the season while Corey Crawford (Canadian Olympic team, anyone?) stopped all 17 Nashville shots as the Blackhawks improved to 10-0-2. Chicago is tied for third in goals allowed per game and second in goals scored. Given the paltry shot total Sunday, it’s no surprise the Predators are dead last in the league in goals per game.

• In a terrific tilt Sunday afternoon in Detroit, it looked like the Kings were going to get rewarded for some hard work before Jonathan Ericsson and Jimmy Howard combined to crush their hopes. Howard, who has played in all but one of the Red Wings’ 12 games, stopped 45 of 47 shots. Then, after Alec Martinez tied the game at 2 with less than a minute to play in regulation and an extra attacker on the ice, Ericsson squeezed a shot through Kings netminder Jonathan Quick with 4.5 seconds left to give the Wings a 3-2 win, their third in a row. The Kings are following last season’s script when they struggled through the first half, unable to produce offense. The defending champs are 25th in the league in goals scored per game and 27th on the power play. Their eight points are tied for last in the Western Conference.

• Even when the Bruins decide to give No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask a break, it doesn’t matter. With Anton Khudobin getting a rare start, Boston shut down hard-luck Buffalo 3-1 Sunday to move their record to 8-1-1 on the season. The victory, Khudobin’s second in just his second start, was the Bruins’ third win in a row. They also improved to 4-0-1 on the road. The Sabres, meanwhile, continue to struggle to find any kind of scoring depth and fell to 5-7-1.

• The New York Rangers welcomed Dan Girardi back from injury by whipping the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Sunday night. The Bolts, whose game Saturday in Boston was postponed because of heavy snowfall that buried the East Coast, have lost four straight, and after playing well early in the season with a heavy home schedule have fallen back to 6-5-0. They have been outscored 14-6 during this four-game slide, the last three of which have come on the road. The good news for the Lightning is that they play four of their next five at home.

• One thing about the youthful Edmonton Oilers is that they are an opportunistic lot. Despite ranking 23rd in goals per game, they are fifth in power-play efficiency and sixth while killing penalties. Sunday they got a short-handed goal from Magnus Paajarvi that stood up as the winner in a 3-1 victory over the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets that ended a five-game winless streak (0-2-3). The Blue Jackets are 2-7-1 in their past 10 and have just two regulation or overtime victories, tied with Los Angeles for the fewest in the league.