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Devils Alley: Patience Is Becoming A Theme For The New Jersey Devils

Parise
Patience is a virtue.

The New Jersey Devils have made patience a new trend in 2011, as many of their star players have struggled to find consistency despite a 12-9-1 record.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have combined for only 10 goals through 22 games, and the team has relied on the leadership of Patrik Elias and rookie Adam Henrique to carry the goal-scoring thus far. Parise has not found the net in his last five games, and his frustration was shown on Saturday after his late game-tying goal was waved off with 2.1 seconds to go.

"It’s hard as a player when you’re going through something like that where you feel like you’re doing the right things out there. Pete (DeBoer) talked to me about that too," Parise told The Record.  "It’s just not going in right now and that’s hard, but you have just have to keep trying to get through it and work through it because it will end. The important thing is how you keep your frame of mind while that’s going on and not let yourself get deeper and deeper into it.”

The Devils have also been patient with goaltender Martin Brodeur, who has been battling a number of injuries and has only played in half the team's games this season. Johan Hedberg has filled in for Brodeur on a number of occasions, but Brodeur has shown signs of improvement over the last few weeks.

After 11 starts, Brodeur is now 5-5 with a 2.81 GAA and .899 save percentage. However, Brodeur has made at least 30 saves in three of his last five starts and has been called "one of the team's best players" in a number of those games by DeBoer. His starts have also increased lately, as he has been in net for four of the team's last five games.

The powerplay unit has also tested the patience of many fans this year, as it currently ranks 26th in the league at 12.8 percent. With Kovalchuk out with injury, the unit went 0-21 at one point and gave up more shorthanded goals  in that span (2) then they actually scored. However, the team has improved from 10 percent to 12.8 in the past few weeks, and DeBoer seems to have found a way to get the puck in the net.

Despite all these issues, the team has still managed to post a winning record and are hanging tough in the Eastern Conference standings. Fans must remember that a majority of the players that are struggling right now either battled injury last season or suffered some kind of set back this year. Kovalchuk has only played in 17 games, while Parise is coming off major knee surgery that kept him out most of 2010.

If the team can stay healthy and continue to play hard, it is only a matter of time before everything starts to click and the team pulls off a couple of wins in a row. DeBoer seems to have found his lines for the season, with the Sykora-Elias-Zubrus line finding success whenever they are on the ice and the Tedenby-Carter-Clarkson line showing signs of improvement as well.

The Devils will also get back all-star center Travis Zajac around Christmas time, which will add depth to the center position that has been crippled by injury all season. Zajac has missed the entire 2011-2012 season so far, but his ability to pass the puck may open up more scoring chances for the Devils veterans like Parise and Kovalchuk.

It is uncertain where Zajac will play when he returns now that Henrique has been a force on offense, but either way the Devils will improve their offensive game when they have him back. Whether he is on the top line with Parise and Kovalchuk or he moves down to the third line with Tedenby and Clarkson, his chemistry with these players will no doubt improve the team in some way.

So be patient Devils fans. There's still 60 games left in the season, and it seems that although the team is 12-9-1, there is still a lot of potential that can be reached down the stretch.

Follow Joe on Twitter @jkuchie and check out Devilsalleyhockey.wordpress.com

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