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The January Ahead for the New Jersey Devils

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While the performances have been uneven, this is a results-oriented business and a December 2009 record of 11-4 is definitely laudable.  Alas, the New Jersey Devils will not have the chance to savor their results.  In fact, the Devils won't really have an extended break until the Olympics.  From here on out, the largest  amount of time between games is two days.  This is true in not just January but also in the first half of Februrary, all of March, and April.

This month only has one more game than last year's January, which is a home game.  Still, the Devils will play 15 games just after a December where they played 15 games and the next full month of games (March) also has 15.  What makes January different is the sheer amount of road games.  The Devils will be away from the Rock for 9 of these 15 games and they will go on their longest road trip of the season: 5 games from 1/9 (Montreal) to 1/18 (New York Islanders).  At least the Devils only have 3 back-to-back sets this month, so there's a little respite from that as the Devils had 4 of those in December 2009.

If there is a respite, it's from playing "elite" teams.  The Devils will see Pittsburgh next in March, they're done with the Washington in the regular season, and they won't see San Jose or Chicago until March. Currently, the best record on the January schedule is held by both Buffalo (24-11-4) and Colorado (23-13-6).  Not that any of the 15 games will be easy, but the Devils won't be running into juggernauts.  They'll be facing some teams for the first and only time in Minnesota, Colorado, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

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In recent history, the Devils have done very well in January.  It's traditionally been a busy month for the team but the Devils come out with a positive record at worst and an excellent one at best.   Fatigue could be a factor, sure, but it can't be an excuse.  It certainly wasn't in recent seasons. 

In this month, I think the Devils should also get a boost from players coming back from injury. Dainius Zubrus will likely return from injury in this month, there is the possible return of Paul Martin later in January to look forward to, and hopefully the quick turnaround of David Clarkson and Bryce Salvador who have most recently been injured.

With the current team managing to avoid successive losses so far, 8-11 wins this month is entirely possible and should be a goal the Devils aim for.  As it is, the Devils are in a good position in the Atlantic Division with a 28-10-1 record; a solid set of results in January would help cement their spot when March and April comes around.