Devils battling back

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

Just six weeks ago, on a snowbound night in Newark, Devils forward David Clarkson glanced around a near-empty Prudential Center, looked up at a 4-1 deficit to the Maple Leafs on the scoreboard and wondered how worse things could get for his team.

“We’ve come a long way,” the winger said Thursday morning at the ACC, before his team attempted an 11th win in its past 14 games. “It’s like when you back someone in the corner, we’ve come out swinging. We have confidence right now. Everybody is playing more like a group, whereas before maybe we were trying to do our own thing.

“But we have a long way to go. We need a favours from teams (ahead of us), but we have to believe we have a chance.”

Jersey has had cold starts before, but either Martin Brodeur found his game, the scoring returned, they remembered how to trap or general manager Lou Lamoriello made some kind of bold move to get back into the playoffs. But on Jan. 8, they were 10-29-2 and dead in the water.

“Last year, I got hurt, missed three months and said to my wife: ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through’,” Clarkson recalled. “After the beginning of this season, I went back to her and said: ‘Actually, it wasn’t that bad because this year has been even harder’. Every time you got on the ice, a goal went in against us. We had like 10 guys over minus-20. The majority of us haven’t been minus our whole career.

“We’re all starting to sleep better now, we’re having fun and we’ve got confidence.”

For a while, it looked as though the firing of head coach John MacLean was not going to have the desired effect. But Jacques Lemaire has not only turned things around — again — there is talk he will push back retirement plans to run the bench next season. Lemaire nudged his own record thiss season above .500 with Tuesday’s win over Carolina.

“I think Johnny Mac was a great coach, I don’t blame him for what happened,” Clarkson said. “I think it was in this room ourselves. Little mistakes that we were making.

“I think Jacques has come in, taught us little details. He’s a very smart man, knows the game very well. I think we’re just doing those little things that are making us a better team.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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