Thrashers vs. Devils Preview
Newark, NJ (AP) - Despite winning all but two of their games over the past three weeks, the New Jersey Devils have made up only two points in the race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
They will also have to pass four teams for the final playoff spot, but can at least pull even with the Atlanta Thrashers with a regulation victory.
The Devils look to beat the Thrashers for the second time in five days and take the season series Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Devils -193 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Thrashers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 55% of more than 11,232 bets for this game have been placed on the Devils -193.
New Jersey (32-32-4) has been making an incredible playoff push for months, going 22-3-2 in its last 27, but that strong play has gone mostly unrewarded lately. The Devils were 10 points below the playoff cutoff Feb. 21, and despite going 7-2-0 since, they're eight points out.
Those last nine games were all decided by one goal, and the last two contests have been overtime victories.
Travis Zajac scored his second goal of the game on a power play in the extra period of a 3-2 win in Atlanta on Friday. Anssi Salmela followed that up by recording his first goal of the season 3:09 into overtime in a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
New Jersey was 9-22-2 when coach Jacques Lemaire took over Dec. 23. Despite the stunning surge, the Devils still have a lot of work to do to get into playoff position.
We have to just keep playing the way we're playing," forward David Clarkson told the team's official website. "I think you always have something that you're dreaming or that you believe you can do. I believe this team can keep rolling the way we're rolling. We'll let everything fall where it may, but we've got to continue playing this way."
With 68 points, the Devils are within two of Atlanta (29-28-12). New Jersey has won two of three meetings going into the final matchup as it looks to secure the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Former Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist and Martin Brodeur turned aside 24 shots Friday.
Brodeur has started the last seven games for the Devils, going 6-1-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average after being sidelined the previous three weeks with a sprained right elbow.
He had to make only 13 saves Saturday and stopped all three shots he faced in the first period. That extended New Jersey's modern NHL record to 16 straight games without allowing a goal in the opening 20 minutes.
The Thrashers have scored in the first period in one of their last nine games.
That wasn't a problem against Philadelphia on Saturday, as Atlanta did all of its scoring after two periods in a 5-4 overtime win.
Trailing 3-0 going into the third, the Thrashers got goals from Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Andrew Ladd, who tied it with his team-leading 26th goal with 45 seconds left in regulation. Atlanta completed the comeback on Ron Hainsey's goal 1:17 into OT.
It was the third win in four games for the Thrashers, who play eight of their final 13 on the road."We have to win,'' Hainsey said. "The position we're in, we have to win a large majority, probably .800 hockey. If we get a stretch where we don't get wins in two or three in a row, that'll probably be the end of us. As long as we keep winning, we'll be in the conversation.''