Right wing David Clarkson found the net two more times and added an assist Tuesday night, carrying the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win over the archrival New York Rangers in Newark, N.J. It was Clarkson's sixth and seventh scores of the young season, good for the team lead.
The 28 year-old is coming off a career year in 2011-2012, which saw him score 30 goals and notch 16 assists, and he appears to be picking up where he left off last spring.
"The more years you play in this league you get more comfortable you start to make more plays," Clarkson said after the victory over the Rangers. "Patty's [linemate Patrik Elias] a pretty easy guy to play with, so I can't take too much credit playing with a guy like that."
Regardless of Clarkson's modesty, no one can deny that he's grown into a potent force on the ice for New Jersey. Always considered a power forward, he was a borderline enforcer early in his seven-year career, all with the Devils.
With the 30-goal explosion last season, opponents know they now need to worry more about Clarkson's scoring ability than his fighting prowess.
“He’s picked up right where he left off last year,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think the big test for him was to prove he wasn’t a flash in the pan, 30-goal guy, that he could do that on a consistent basis. I think he’s proving that.”
Clarkson's offensive production is a big reason the Devils have been able to keep pace with a tough Pittsburgh team near the top of the Atlantic Division, but scoring goals isn't the only contribution he makes.
He's second on the team in assists, with five, has a plus-two rating and has played an aggressive style on the forecheck. He's also logged one fighting major, proof that he's still willing to drop the gloves.
“He’s a kid that really loves playing the game,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “He’s well prepared and he takes care of himself a lot to be the best he can be. He’s not the most talented player, but he’s a guy that puts himself always in good situations and he’s not a guy that’s scared to be in the middle of things. Clarkie's just doing a lot of good things."
Clarkson has worked hard to prove that last season wasn't an aberration, and so far, he's silencing his critics. He's on pace to record 37 goals in this shortened season, and while continuing on such a torrid pace is unlikely, he's shown that his ascent to NHL goal scorer isn't a fluke.