As the now Arnott-free Devils roll along into March, they sit in thirteenth place in the Eastern conference; nine points separate them and the eighth place Carolina Hurricanes. To have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, the Devils need at least a little help from the teams positioned in front of them. So, as loyal fans, it is our job to root for those opponents to crash and burn. On to the next few days of games.
The Devils have 58 points with 20 games remaining on their schedule and five teams they must jump over to get into the playoffs: The Panthers (1 pt ahead), Thrashers (5 pts ahead), Leafs (5 pts ahead), Sabres (7 pts ahead), and the Hurricanes of course. Clearly, some help from Western Conference teams and East teams with secure spots would be much appreciated by the boys in red.
Panthers at Hurricanes: I know everyone is eager to see the Devils hop another team in the standings, but the Hurricanes are obviously at the top of the "we need this team to lose" list. The truth of the matter is, team which is now effectively David Booth and the Rochester Americans aren't much of a threat to anyone after they went old-school fire sale on everyone at the deadline; so the Devils will likely hop them at some point even if they tumble back to Earth. The Panthers selling point for season tickets is currently that they won't be locked out for next season. Ouch. Rooting for: Panthers.
Sabres at Rangers: With two games in hand on the Canes and being only two points behind (not to mention fresh off the acquisition of underperforming, yet still dangerous forward Brad Boyes), the Sabres could be poised to become the new public enemy #1 for the Devils playoff push. Unfortunately, the team across the ice will be Our Hated Rivals and a team which would bring me great glee by failing and falling out of the playoffs. Alas, someone needs to win this game and I think I must be begrudgingly root for (gulp) the Rags. Like it or not, those clowns in blue do not currently stand directly between us and a spot in the playoffs and - at least against CAR and BUF - at the moment, a win for them is the best scenario for the Devils. I will personally be rooting for injuries. Nothing serious... just a little knee tweak or groin pull here or there... I'm not a monster. Rooting for: Rags.
Canadiens at Thrashers: Finally, an easy one. The Habs did us a favor over the weekend by beating the Canes and we will be rooting for more of the same this week. The Thrashers were sellers of sorts and had a busy deadline, but nothing quite like the implosion in Sunrise. The Devils, despite having more wins than ATL, are actually 5 points behind them due to the Thrashers apparently being awesome at losing in overtime. Lets hope the Habs can beat them in 60 minutes. Rooting for: Canadiens.
Penguins at Maple Leafs: The only time ESPN bothers to discuss hockey is to tell us how much it sucks without Sidney Crosby; so seeing as he is still out, I'm not sure why I'm bothering to write this. But I suppose that I will suck it up and trudge on through this Crosby-less wasteland. The Leafs were cooled off over the weekend by the Thrashers and Pens, but unfortunately both losses came after regulation. Three point games are bad. Rooting for: Penguins.
Sabres at Hurricanes: Just the worst. This is the problem with having five teams in front of you... they are always playing each other. Easy answer is to say we need a regulation win from one of them at the very least, but I'm going to just go ahead and make a pick. Could change based on Tuesday and Wednesday's results, but if things shake out the way I think they will, I'm gonna have to go with the Sabres. Just wanna keep that threshold for the playoffs as close as possible: Rooting for: Sabres.
Wild at Rangers: Can't wait to start hating Brad Richards after he inevitably signs with the Rags this offseason. Sorry Brad, you seem like a nice guy but that's just the way it goes. Rooting for: Wild.
Maple Leafs at Flyers: Rooting for the Flyers right now is like getting a root canal. Sure it's terrible, but it's a necessary evil. I would root for the Flyers to win every remaining game if it means the Devils get an opportunity to embarrass them with a first round exit. The Leafs are tough to figure out right now but they have points in nine of ten games, so they need to be taken seriously. Rooting for: Flyers.
Senators at Thrashers: Since heads began to roll in early February, this team has actually become moderately respectable again. The Sens are 4-2-1 since GM Bryan Murray kicked things off by giving F Mike Fisher the boot for some picks. The Thrashers just ended a five game skid on Sunday against the Leafs and could continue to struggle with a few more call-ups likely joining the party after the deadline. Hopefully this adds up to a good result for the Devils. Rooting for: Senators.
Canadiens at Panthers: Montreal is not necessarily a lock for the playoffs, but I'm going to treat them as such unless they enter a tailspin. The Panthers and their nearly $43 million (!!!) of cap space for next year will hopefully be in the rear-view mirror soon for the Devils. Rooting for: Canadiens.
Enjoy the week, and go Devils.