Resurgent Devils hope to gain ground at Calgary

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

The climb out of the basement has only just begun for the New Jersey Devils, but at least they are moving up the ladder with the opportunity go up another rung when they visit the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

After a horrible start to the season -- winless in their first six games -- the Devils visit Calgary having won two straight games and boasting a 4-1-2 run.

"I think the group is still a little bit frustrated about the way we started, but we've turned a new leaf here with the way we've played and the way we know we want to play, so the results have been coming for us, which is great," New Jersey goalie Mackenzie Blackwood told

"Guys are happy, the vibes in the room are growing. There's a long way to go still, but at least we're headed in the right direction."

The Devils are coming off a 2-1 shootout victory in Winnipeg on Tuesday and have won the first two segments of a five-game road trip that also takes them to Edmonton and Vancouver.

It's a difficult road trip, but the team that went into the season with high hopes of a resurgence from a disappointing 2018-19 campaign. The Devils believe the are following the game plan well enough to pile up enough victories to become part of the playoff conversation.

"I think we knew in the locker room if we keep playing the way we can play, we'll get those wins, and now they're coming," New Jersey forward Nico Hischier said. "We've got a couple more road games ahead, so we've got to come out the same way like we did in the first period (in Winnipeg)."

The Flames are also coming off an extra-time win, a 4-3 overtime victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, a game they trailed 3-1 with less than four minutes remaining in regulation before mounting a late comeback.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Calgary leads the league with 34 wins when trailing after two periods, but coach Bill Peters doesn't like that formula being relied upon.

"I think there's lots to talk about," Peters said. "We need more. We need more out of some veteran guys. I just know that over time, this stuff evens out. It doesn't always have to be a Picasso ... but let's not be hanging our hat on (late comebacks) -- it's not a recipe for success long-term."

Goaltending was a big question mark surrounding the Flames going into the season, but if not for No. 1 netminder David Rittich, the Flames would be in big trouble. Rittich has been the team's most consistent performer, going 8-4-2 with a 2.79 goals-against average.

Rittich made 34 saves in the win over the Coyotes.

"He allowed us to come back, and he's been battling all year. He's been real good for us, so hopefully ... we can get this thing straightened out and tightened up so we don't have to rely on him so much," Peters said.

Peters added: "We have to start playing for each other, playing the right way. I don't think we're doing that right now. I don't see that. If we are, I'm missing it."

Calgary will have forward Milan Lucic back in the lineup against the Devils after he served a two-game suspension.

--Field Level Media