Game 30: Red Wings-New Jersey Enotes

Someday, in the not-too-distant future, the Red Wings will be leaning on players named Tatar, Nyquist and Andersson on a regular basis. They will do for this franchise what guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen are doing today.

Someday, the smooth hands of Gustav Nyquist and the nose for the net of Tomas Tatar will combine consistently and whoever gets to play with them as the third wheel will reap the benefits.

Tonight, with Z, Dats and Darren Helm out with injuries, Nyquist and Tatar were the best players on the ice.

The Red Wings beat the New Jersey Devils, 3-1, for their 10th road win of the year. Tatar, Johan Franzen and Andersson scored for Detroit (15-8-7). Franzen’s goal was the result of a wicked through-the-crease pass from Nyquist.

But it wasn’t just the points that the kids put up. It was their tenacity, their hard play in the offensive zone, and the general nuisance they made of themselves against the Devils.

Jonas Gustavsson remained undefeated in goal this season, stopping 10 of 11 Devils shots.

That’s right—the Red Wings only allowed 11 shots, total, on the road.

Tatar, who has 6 goals and 7 assists, seems to be getting better every game. And his knack for finding the puck in goal-scoring lanes is uncanny. Or maybe the puck is finding him. Regardless, it’s working.

“To be honest, I feel really good on the ice,” Tatar told FSD’s Trevor Thompson after the game. Tatar had a goal and an assist.

Franzen, on another one of his hot streaks, told Thompson that “the kids” (Tatar and Nyquist, with whom The Mule played tonight) bring energy to the team and the older guys feed off that.

Coach Mike Babcock said, “In this league you have to skate. We aren’t as quick as we’d like to be as a team, but those kids skate and play hard.”

Tatar was magnificent defensively and tenacious on the forecheck all night.

As for the undefeated Gustavsson, the puck keeps hitting him. And the Red Wings keep winning when Gus is in net.

The Red Wings did get Todd Bertuzzi back in the lineup after he missed seven games with an upper body injury.

Maybe the Red Wings ought to start wearing their white jerseys at home for awhile, until they start winning consistently at Joe Louis Arena again.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Red Wings beat the Devils at their own game, clogging up the middle all night.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: It’s exciting to see young guys like Tatar, Nyquist and Andersson seize the opportunity being presented to them now, with the big guns out of the lineup. Confidence is high for these guys right now. Babcock agreed with Franzen’s assessment of the energy factor that trio of players brings to the party.

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Spotlight on the Opponent: Jaromir Jagr

What: Detroit at New Jersey
When: Friday, December 6, 7:00pm (TV: RDS, FSD)

Jagr

The leading points-getter for the New Jersey Devils is 41 years old and is running away with team scoring honors. It is debatable whether this is a feel-good story or a tragedy for the Devils.

Jaromir Jagr is a Hall of Fame-bound player, but it wasn’t expected that he would be, far and away, the most prolific scorer for the Devils this season, when New Jersey signed him to a one-year deal on July 22, 2013.

That’s usually not what you hope for when you sign 40+ year-old players to one-year contracts.

But Jagr, who has played in every one of the Devils’ 29 games this season, has 11 goals and 11 assists, and his 22 points is only challenged by 37 year-old Patrick Elias, who has 15 points (6g/9a).

In fact, the Devils’ top six scorers are, in age, 41/37/36/31/33/35 years old, respectively. That’s an average age of over 35.

It also may partially explain the Devils’ 11-12-6 record thus far this season.

But back to Jagr.

This is a man who disappeared from the NHL for three years (2008-11) while he played for Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. He did so while being paid the equivalent of $5 million US dollars per year.

Jagr’s exile was self-imposed after he couldn’t come to terms with the New York Rangers after the 2007-08 season. Stating a need to take a break from the rigors of an 82-game NHL schedule, Jagr at age 36 left the league and played overseas, enjoying lots of success in the KHL. He was named Avangard Omsk’s team captain in 2009.

But despite eventually being away from North America for three years, it only took Jagr one year of KHL hockey before he professed an interest to return to the NHL. Still, Jagr didn’t ink another NHL contract until July, 2011, when he signed  a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Red Wings were among the teams that were kicking the tires on Jagr when he came back from exile. Jagr proved he could still play NHL hockey, scoring 19 goals in 73 games with the Flyers.

In 2012, Jagr signed yet another one-year deal, this time with Dallas. But the lockout meant that Jagr would only play 34 games with the Stars (14g/12a) before Dallas traded him to Boston on April 2, 2013.

So here we are, with Jagr operating on still another one-year deal—the Devils being his fourth NHL team in a little more than three years.

By his production so far, it is apparent that no. 68 still has a nose for the net, and that even at age 41, Jagr is still a load with his 6’3″, 240-lb. frame.

But expect those scoring numbers to fall off, as Devils coach Peter DeBoer went on record earlier this week stating that the team was playing Jagr too much.

Jagr is averaging nearly 19 minutes of ice time per night, but has played several games lately at over 20 minutes.

“I didn’t expect he’d be able to take the kind of work load we’ve given him so far,” DeBoer said. “Frankly, in my mind, we’re playing him too much. We’re overplaying him and a few other forwards, partly because of depth and injuries. We need some secondary guys to step up and help some of those guys out.”

Factor in that Jagr is a prime candidate to play in the Olympics in 2014, and you can see why DeBoer is cautious about Jagr’s workload with the Devils.

Regardless, DeBoer can’t say enough about the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer.

“He’s been a great surprise. He’s been great to work with, a good team player. He’s bought into our system and our style of play and our identity. He makes other players better.”