NEWARK - Nothing much has been happening on the score sheet for Nathan Horton lately. The big right winger is paid to put up points and be a physical presence, but he has delivered a whole lot of nothing over the last 3-4 weeks, save for a power-play goal in the first period of last night’s 6-1 win against the Devils.
Going into last night, the 26-year-old had a measly 4 points (2-2-4) in his last 11 games. He landed only seven shots and delivered all of nine hits over that stretch.
Not a problem, said coach Claude Julien, who prefers to focus on what Horton did last year and how optimistic he is that he’ll deliver the same goods in 2012.
“We think he can,’’ said Julien. “And we know he will.’’
Julien, after first saying to the media after the win, “I can see where this is going, ‘Pick on Nathan,’ ’’ said Horton is “a player who is capable of giving more. Physically, he has to be more involved. I’d like to see him shoot more. He has a great shot, but he’s been looking to pass . . . but it’s going to come.’’
The shot for the goal was the only one Horton recorded all night. Two others were blocked. He once again failed to record a hit.
If the rest of the lineup wasn’t delivering points, Julien would be left with little option but to drop Horton from the club’s so-called No. 1 line and hold auditions to work the right side with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Horton needed weeks to get his game going last season, but he finished with a fairly impressive stash of 26 goals and 53 points, short of his career highs but solid, even promising. He then delivered 17 points in his first 20 playoff games before being smacked upside the head by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. The concussion ended Horton’s postseason, and he said early this season that his slow start was due, in part, to lingering issues related to the big belt.
When asked after the game if he feels he has fully recovered from the concussion, Horton said, “It was a big thing I went through last year. I don’t want to keep talking about it . . . but it wasn’t easy.’’
Be it bad head, bad hands, or just an overall bad game, Horton needs to get in gear. If he wasn’t playing on his current line, he would have to skip on down the order, likely to the No. 3 line, where he would join Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly.
The Devils have a bona fide Rookie of the Year candidate in 21-year-old center Adam Henrique. The second-year pro, chosen 82d overall in the 2008 draft, entered last night’s action with 10 goals and 28 points centering the No. 1 line between Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Not bad company.
A product of Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, Henrique was expected to make the varsity last season right out of junior, but was demoted to a full year of seasoning at AHL Albany, where he collected 50 points in 73 games.
He was expected to hitch on at this year’s training camp, only to underwhelm new coach Peter DeBoer, leading to a brief AHL refresher before he was called back to fill in for the injured Jacob Josefson (fractured clavicle).
Oilers sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, injured over the weekend, led all freshman scorers with 13 goals/35 points. Henrique was second, followed by Nashville’s Craig Smith (25 points) and Philadelphia’s Matt Read (22).
An ugly outing
New Jersey defensemen Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder each finished with ugly minus-4s for the night . . . Johnny Boychuk did not pick up a point for the Bruins, but he did finish a team-high plus-3 . . . Lucic and Cam Janssen led the way with four hits apiece . . . The Devils made some costly giveaways, 17 total, compared to only 7 by the Bruins. Rookie center Adam Henrique handed over four pucks . . . Kovalchuk was all over the ice (does Kovalchuk mean Zamboni?), but did little for all his travels. He put three shots on net over his 21:37 in ice time and he also gave the puck away three times. If he is not scoring (something he usually isn’t with the Devils), he’s not much of an asset.
Bucyk’s wife dies
Sad news to report from the Bruins’ extended family. Anne Bucyk, who was married to Hall of Fame winger John Bucyk for 53-plus years, died yesterday in Topsfield after a brief illness. Bucyk, in her 70s, was diagnosed last year with a rare form of colitis, according to a family friend. John Bucyk, 76, the club’s coordinator of road services, returned home to Boston yesterday to be at his wife’s bedside.