Devils Enter Early Crucial Two-Week Stretch of Season

The fans would certainly like to see more of these. - Drew Hallowell

The Devils have dug themselves an early hole this season, but they can still climb out if they can start putting together wins. The next two weeks loom large in New Jersey.

On Saturday, the New Jersey Devils were finally able to exorcise the goose egg residing in their win column in a game against the floundering Rangers. This came as a great relief to the team, as well as the fans. With that monkey now off their back, the Devils are certainly in no position to relax, though. The hole they dug for themselves the first two weeks of the season will take a bit of climbing to get out of. Jerry went thorough the importance of the first month of the season here last week. The verdict was that while being out of the playoff picture a month into the season isn't necessarily a death sentence, it really behooves a team to be in the thick of things at that point. So let's take a look at the situation.

Schedule

The schedule is a bit of a mixed bag over the next couple weeks, but it at least doesn't include a grueling road trip like the West Coast/Canadian one that smashed the Devils the two weeks prior. In the next six, the Devils will have three at home and three on the road. They have a little breathing room as the only back-to-back is in two weekends with the Flyers and Wild and the Wild are the only game they'll have to leave the Eastern Time Zone for.

Tonight, 10/22: @ Columbus Blue Jackets

This is a big one for the Devils as it's against a division opponent also trying to claw their way up into the playoff picture. Columbus has had their woes as well, but they were able to scratch out a win against a pretty good Canucks team in their last game. John has the in-depth preview here.

Thursday, 10/24: vs. Vancouver Canucks

The Devils will get a shot to exact some revenge for their first meeting against the Canucks, where they were outplayed for much of the game, including a brutal second period, but still managed to salvage a point in an OT loss. This time, it will be the Canucks on their own rough opposite-coast swing, so hopefully the Devils can take advantage of a road-weary team at home. Whether they have another Schneider-Luongo matchup here remains in the air, but this game should be a winnable one.

Saturday, 10/26: @ Boston Bruins

This will be a tough one, as the Devils will travel up to TD Garden to take on the Bruins, who look strong, as usual. They would probably prefer that this one doesn't fall into the 'must-win' category, so taking three or four points earlier in the week would take a lot of the pressure off them against likely the best team in this two-week stretch.

Tuesday, 10/29: vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa just received a serious bludgeoning at the hands of the Bruins, but otherwise, they've had a decent start to their season. They are a team with a plethora of offensive weapons, but question marks elsewhere. The question here will be if some of the Devils' defensive gaffes rear their head against a talented team.

Saturday, 11/2: vs. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers are one of few teams who have had a more disastrous start to the season than the Devils. They have already fired one coach and are still sitting on only two points after five games with the new one. Things could change a little bit by this game, but as bad as the Flyers look right now, this game is one the Devils would certainly like to put in the win column if they hope to return to the playoff picture.

Sunday, 11/3: @ Minnesota Wild

Their record is a bit mediocre, but most accounts of the Wild as well as the stats indicate that they are a pretty decent team this year. This game will mark the first time that the Devils take on their former captain, Zach Parise, so this game will have some revenge-based implications for the fans, in addition to the standings.

So the schedule doesn't look overly daunting for the Devils over the next two weeks. If they have any plans for being a playoff team this year, they should be able to bank at least a decent number of points. Going 3-2-1 over this stretch doesn't seem too farfetched, and that is probably what they'll have to do to, at the least, stay relevant. The win against the Rangers was a start, but now they have to build on it.

The Division

One bit of good news for the Devils is that the Metropolitan Division stinks out loud right now. Despite their miserable start, the Devils sit only one point back of fourth place, and three back of the third-place Islanders. If they were in any other division, they would be a minimum of 5 points out of fifth place at this point, so they have lucked out here, to an extent. If they can put together some wins going forward and the rest of their peers continue to struggle, they could end up within the playoff picture sooner rather than later, but that will have to start tonight against Columbus.

The bad news is that the Atlantic Division Flortheast doesn't stink nearly as much as the Metropolitan does. So for the time being, that means there will only be three playoff spots up for grabs in the Devils' own division. Still, though, the Penguins are the only team from the Metro that I would really call "good" at this point, as they remain the only team that has actually won more games than they've lost. So, despite the lack of available spots, things remain wide open. It's just up to the Devils to actually go and start winning some games now.

So do you think the Devils can start to get rolling now that they've actually won a game this season? How do you think the next two weeks will go and will the Devils be in contention by the end of them? Sound off in the comments below and thanks for reading.

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