New Jersey Devils Slumping as They Enter Critical Portion of NHL Schedule

Carl StoffersCorrespondent IIMarch 3, 2013

Pete DeBoer's Devils have dropped four straight
Pete DeBoer's Devils have dropped four straightJim McIsaac/Getty Images

New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer is not one to panic. The notoriously even-tempered coach is as emotionless as the Sphinx behind the bench most of the time. But with his team mired in a four-game losing streak with no end in sight, one has to wonder what DeBoer has up his sleeve to right the ship.

One move was made on Sunday, placing Bobby Butler on waivers. Butler, who had success in Albany of the AHL this season, hasn't been able to produce the scoring spark that the Devils had hoped for, logging just two points in 14 games.

“I’ve said right from day one we’re going to shuffle guys in and out of those depth positions, so that we get energy,” DeBoer said, regarding Butler. “I’m not targeting him, I’m just trying to get wins.”

During the current losing streak, which began on February 23 with a 5-1 rout by the Capitals, the Devils have dropped to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, their 25 points just two games ahead of the Flyers. The major issue during this slump has been obvious: scoring. New Jersey has averaged just 1.75 goals over the course of the streak, a total that will not win many games in the NHL.

“We’re leaving a lot of points on the table,” DeBoer said after Saturday's loss to Buffalo. “We were the benefactor of that last year and this year we’re on the other side of it and I don’t have the answer to it. I’m not a big believer you can practice that. You just hope that it turns and we can get some guys that stick the puck in the net.”

With their offense sputtering and their goaltending sketchy, as the injury to Martin Brodeur continues to keep him sidelined, the Devils enter a crucial portion of their schedule on Monday in Toronto. They will play five games over the next seven days, including two back-to-back contests.

With the clogged Eastern Conference playoff picture getting more congested by the day, DeBoer knows the next week will be an indicator of how far this team can go in the spring.

“We’ve got to find a way to win some games,” he said. “I’m a big believer you make your breaks. You can’t wait around for a bounce.”