In this week’s Q&A, Ken Daneyko talks about the Devils’ recent run of games, Drew Stafford, the team’s relationship with the New York Riveters and the return of a fan favorite.
MSGNetworks.com: We said it last time we talked that the upcoming stretch of games for the Devils was going to be difficult, and while they had a couple of losses, they also were able to record some exciting wins. What was your take on the recent slate of games?
Ken Daneyko: The Devils are continuing their good start to the season. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pick up those final two points before the break against San Jose, but that was under difficult circumstances. It was the tail end of a back-to-back after an overtime win in Ottawa the night before.
But that’s not to make excuses, they worked hard against the Sharks and it wasn’t a terrible game. They were just spinning their wheels and hit a few posts. Things didn’t materialize, the Sharks played a good game and that’s the NHL.
Overall, you have to be really pleased with their work ethic, their resiliency, and certainly their offense. This week is a good week for the team to work on some things, whether it be in their end, the penalty kill or a little better discipline. They have to be confident and feel good about their team, but they must continue to improve. These guys have a good attitude, they’ll have a good week of practice and they’ll get right back at it.
MSGNetworks.com: The Devils are certainly in a good place with a 6-2-0 record after the first eight games. Is it a disadvantage to have a long break so early on in the year?
Ken Daneyko: I don’t know if it’s an ideal situation, but it is what it is. You try to take advantage of it and you don’t get much practice time during the season. That’s tough, too, because early in a season, camps are short and there are things you want to work on. There are certain elements of your system you want to hone in on, whether it’s the penalty kill or defensive zone coverage. So you try to look at it in a positive manner: it’s a time where you can really work on things that are important this time of year.
The players probably don’t love it, but it’s all about how you approach it and have to approach positively. This can be a real good work week of repetition to get things exactly how the coaching staff wants from these guys.
MSGNetworks.com: The coaching staff may work on some things this week, but they have to be pleased with the way the Devils’ offense has performed early on. In two games last week, the Devils came from behind to pick up two points against both the Lightning and Senators. Can you talk about the team’s ability to come from behind, we haven’t seen that in recent years.
Ken Daneyko: To be successful in this league, you have to be able to come from behind. There are more goals this year and the front office has followed the direction of the rest of the league. They have more skill and creativity. The Devils believe they’re never out of a game and you’re right, in the past, it was a lot more difficult and frustrating for the players on the team.
These guys believe that have some pretty good balance and they’re getting contributions from all over the lineup, including the fourth line. Even in the last game against San Jose, they weren’t able to score, but they did generate some great scoring chances, including on the penalty kill. They had three great opportunities and with any puck luck, it’s a different game.
That just shows me the mindset, the Devils want to be more of an attack-minded team. When they get the opportunity on the penalty kill, they’ve got guys who can create chances to score. Those are all great signs and coach [John] Hynes has done a great job.
MSGNetworks.com: We’ve talked about some of the big names on this team stepping up, but recently, an under-the-radar player, Drew Stafford, has stepped up. Can you talk about him and what he brings to the table?
Ken Daneyko: When [Devils general manager] Ray Shero was looking for pieces to the team, he felt that Drew Stafford was a guy who was proven in this league. He’s a few years removed from when he scored 31 goals with the Sabres in 2010, but that shows he’s got the offensive ability.
New Jersey seems like it’s a really good fit for him. He’s motivated and he’s played really well. He’s got really good hands around the net and, along with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall, they’ve formed a nice line of some real skill and speed. Stafford’s good hands around combines well with Hall’s great speed and Nico’s creativity. You’re hoping those guys continue to grow as a line.
Ken Daneyko: Obviously, Brian has a reputation for being a good leader. More importantly, it’s great to see that his health is coming along.
I think the team could really feed off of the spirit of Brian Boyle and there’s no question that he’s going to help the team. He’s a great penalty killer, a big guy and does a lot of the little things that help you win hockey games. He’ll help out in the defensive zone and he’ll contribute offensively, too.
I think his addition gives them that much more depth and competition. That’s a good thing during the season, to have guys really push each other. The team is going to start getting healthy, with guys like Boyle and eventually Travis Zajac coming back. It just keeps you hungry and on edge to continue to perform. You’re going to need everybody, even guys in the minors, who can step in, flourish and help the team win.
MSGNetworks.com: We wanted to get your thoughts on the Devils’ new relationship with the New York Riveters of the NWHL. How do you think will benefit both sides?
Ken Daneyko: It’s great to see the Devils being the first team to do this and promoting women’s professional hockey.
We’ve always tried to promote women’s and girls hockey. The game itself has grown tremendously, both male or female. They’re going to be great role models for young girls so that they’ll want to play. To have that support and relationship with a women’s professional team is great. I certainly hope to get to a couple games, starting with Saturday with a day/night doubleheader – Riveters during the day and the Devils night. I’m going to watch them and give them support.
MSGNetworks.com: Finally, with so much going on with the Devils, we overlooked the fact that Glenn “Chico” Resch is back with the Devils as the radio analyst. Chico is a favorite for Devils fans, is it great to see him back on the road with you all?
Ken Daneyko: Yep, Chico is quite the personality and loved by the fans. It’s nice to have him around and he has a bubbly spirit. He’s going to help with the alumni and he’ll certainly be an ambassador as well. It’s great for Chico and it’s good to have him back.