Forget about records and playoffs and any possible general manager moves that may or may not occur in the next 10 days because, in my opinion, game-wise, these next five games that the Devils play are the most important psychologically for a team that's about to hit dire straights if it cannot turn itself around soon.
The Devils stand at a miserable 5-12-2, certainly not where any experts predicted them to be at the beginning of the year. With the recent news of Martin Brodeur's inflammed elbow likely to sideline him for ten days, the Devils will rely on Johan Hedberg and recent callup Mike McKenna to anchor the net.
Tonight versus St. Louis, the Devils face a test that is very winnable. St. Louis won last night at home but lost their previous five games. The Devils have been playing much more sound defensive hockey of late but are killing themselves with meaningless penalties. Because these teams face each other only once a year, the Devils may be able to take advantage of that "we really don't know you" mentality and steal a rode game.
On Monday vs. the Caps, the Devils really have a chance to give themselves some momentum. Beating the perennial President's trophy contenders can give any team momentum and raise the morale. It's going to be tough, but playing at home, the Devils can win.
On Wednesday, the Devils play at the Rock versus the Flames. I hope the veteran Devils will show up to play and want to stick it to returning former coach Brent Sutter. "Homesick" Sutter, as we all remember, essentially retired because he was sick of coaching only to sign on with his brother Darryl in Calgary. The Flames have been inconsistent of late, and this game is also very winnable.
Then, the Devils play back to back at Long Island on Friday and home against Philly. These are the first times these two teams will play against one another this season, and the Devils have the ability to beat both of these teams.
I realize that every game, especially in the NHL is "winnable", but if the Devils can establish some momentum early in this five game stretch, I believe that they can get going on a little role. It will be tough without Brodeur, but in hockey, going 5-0 or 4-1 or even 3-2 for a team that is struggling can get a team going and start a run that defines a season. If the Devils can do this, they may be sitting with a 9-13-2 mark that certainly is not as treacherous as a 6-16-2 mark.
In Lou We Trust