The New Jersey Devils look like they’ll be facing the Ottawa Senators without Ilya Kovalchuk after he injured his shoulder sliding into the boards on Saturday. If they need any proof that they can win without their star forward, they need only look at the team they’re playing.
The Senators have lost countless pieces that seemed integral to their success. Erik Karlsson is one of the most exciting defensemen in the game and seemed irreplaceable, but the Sens continue to win. Jason Spezza is their most dynamic forward, but lost for the season and Ottawa continues to find a way without him. Craig Anderson‘s absence means the top player on offense, defense, and between the pipes has suffered a long-term injury. The Sens are still a playoff team, despite injuries that threatened to derail playoff momentum.
New Jersey did not handle the loss of a key player very well earlier this year. Before Martin Brodeur returned two games ago, the Devils dropped nine of ten in his absence, including a six-game skid. The loss of Ilya Kovalchuk brings the opportunity for the Devils to prove they’re more resilient than they’ve shown.
Even the Florida Panthers team that the Devils defeated when Kovalchuk went down can attribute their failures this season to injury. Excuses won’t work for the Devils if they want to make a run at defending their conference championship.
Adversity can sometimes bring out the best in people. This is evidenced by the play of the Senators as they continue to defy hockey critics everywhere. The Devils appear to be a team that fails to respond to adversity, but Monday’s game in Ottawa is the perfect opportunity to prove otherwise. The Devils are without their biggest offensive weapon, but they still have depth and production they can count on. Other players need to rise to the occasion, but the Devils can certainly win on the road.
Can I say with confidence that the New Jersey Devils are going to travel to Ottawa and upset a streaking Senators team? No. I do, however, think they have a shot with Marty back in net and the rest of the team starting to play better. This is not the Devils team that lost nine of ten, but it’s also not the Devils team that cruised to the top of the conference earlier this year. Expect something in between for the next 2-4 weeks without Kovalchuk.
Devils 2 – Senators 1