New Jersey Devils Could Fall into Dangerous Trap over the Next 3 Games

Carl Stoffers@@NHLwriterCorrespondent IINovember 23, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Petr Sykora #15 of the New Jersey Devils is congratulated after scoring a first period goal against the Florida Panthers on November 21, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils sit in fourth place in the tight Atlantic Division, just six points separating them and division leader Pittsburgh. The Devils are coming off a road trip in which they went 3-2, and their offense seemed to come alive while they were on the road.

They come home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets, statistically the worst team in the NHL and in last place in the Central Division, and then play a home-and-home against the New York Islanders. The Islanders are by far the worst team in the Eastern Conference and are just one point better than Columbus.

Three straight games against the NHL's worst, perfect for a team that could use a few easy wins after blowing a three-goal lead vs. Florida Tuesday night, right?

Not so fast.

The Devils matchups against the NHL basement-dwellers are classic "trap games." There is a clear danger in teams taking games like these too lightly, especially a club whose head coach said "stopped playing" after gaining a three-goal lead in the first period in Florida on Monday. The Panthers clawed their way back to win, 4-3.

The need for New Jersey to stay sharp and aggressive is obvious, and head coach Peter DeBoer is the man who needs to ensure there isn't a letdown in the team's readiness. On the heels of the Devils collapse in Florida, losses to the Blue Jackets or Islanders over the next three games could put the team into a tailspin that will be hard to recover from.

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