2005-12-30 / Sports

Martin Making Strides On Devil Blueline

By Derek Felix


New Jersey Devils defenseman Paul Martin, right, shoots the puck wide over the shoulder of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour during first period NHL action on Monday, Dec. 26, 2005 in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Nathan Denette)
New Jersey Devils defenseman Paul Martin, right, shoots the puck wide over the shoulder of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour during first period NHL action on Monday, Dec. 26, 2005 in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Nathan Denette) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ- With Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer gone from the blueline, Devils defenseman Paul Martin is one player they’re looking for to step up this season. In his second year, the 24-year-old former Golden Gopher has been given plenty of responsibility- logging over 23 minutes-per-game including the power play.

Recently, the Devils have failed to connect on the man-advantage. After a 2-1 defeat at Toronto Monday in which they misfired on all six, they were four for their last 100 heading into tonight’s game against Washington. In a 1-0 loss to the Thrashers Friday night, they failed on eight chances.

“We got the puck to the net” Martin remarked. “We got some rebounds but we just didn’t have anyone put it in. Finish.”

Despite the team’s power play slide, 11 of Martin’s 14 points (2-12-14) this season have come while on it. His 14 points in ‘05-06 put him on pace to establish new career highs. The Minnesota native scored a power play goal in a 4-2 loss to the Islanders last Wednesday. Ten of his 12 assists have also come via the PP. That figure paces all Devil defensemen and is second to Scott Gomez’ 11 power play assists.

After starting the season paired with Dan McGillis, Martin saw some time with number one defenseman Brian Rafalski under former coach Larry Robinson. However, after Robinson resigned due to health-related issues, President and GM Lou Lamoriello took over on an interim basis. Since then, the former 2000 second round draft pick has been paired with Richard Matvichuk.

“They’re trying to find combinations that work and we play the best together,” he pointed out.

While at The University of Minnesota, Martin was part of back-to-back NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003. In ‘02-03, he posted nine goals and 30 assists for 39 points in 45 games. For his three-year Gopher career, he finished with 20 goals and 77 assists for 97 points in 127 games. Aside from winning two national titles, Martin was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team, NCAA West Second All-American Team and WCHA Second All-Star Team in ‘03. An impressive list of accomplishments for a young player.

Signed by New Jersey prior to the ‘03-04 season, Martin continued his development by sticking with the big club. As the season went on, he adjusted well to the NHL growing as a player. By the conclusion of his rookie season, he took part in 70 games finishing with six goals and 20 assists for 24 points plus a respectable plus-12 rating. Martin showed so much promise that he was selected as a late addition by Team USA to participate in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Though Team USA fell short of repeating their ‘96 success, Martin distinguished himself- pairing up with New Jersey teammate Rafalski to form an effective duo which moved the puck and jumped into the play effectively.

As Martin continues to improve, Devil fans should have much to be excited about when it comes to the soft spoken defenseman. He has a good head on his shoulders and knows where expectations should be. With the Devils on a three-game losing streak, Martin understands why Lamoriello is changing things up.

“You’re going to mix it up and try something new when things aren’t going the right way.”

For Martin and the Devils, it can’t come soon enough.

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