Slumping Devils Host Coyotes
(AP) — The Phoenix Coyotes are a last-place team and the New Jersey Devils are not. That’s about the only thing the Devils have over the Coyotes.
Phoenix opens its longest road trip in three years at New Jersey on Wednesday night, looking to follow a big win by continuing its impressive road play and extending the Devils’ worst slump in a decade.
A season after the Coyotes (14-8-6) ended a six-year playoff drought, New Jersey (8-19-2) is at risk of missing the postseason for the first time in 15 years. The only team with fewer points is the Atlantic Division rival New York Islanders.
The Devils have lost all five games this month, their longest losing streak since an 0-5-1 skid late in 2008-09. However, this is the first time they’ve dropped that many in a row in regulation since a six-game slide Nov. 2-14, 2000.
“We’re playing hard to change things but it seems not to be working,” Martin Brodeur said. “Hopefully, we’ll get through this. I know it is hard.
“Right now, we can’t even look at the playoffs. I think this is something, hopefully it (the playoffs) will be there later on, but right now we have to concentrate on the next game and play day by day, That’s it.”
The next one is against a Phoenix club which has won six of seven away from home, yielding 12 goals.
Though the Coyotes are at the bottom of a tightly bunched Pacific Division, no Western Conference team has more road wins. They’re 8-4-2 outside Arizona.
“I think we’ve done a good job on the road so far this season,” winger Radim Vrbata told the Coyotes’ official website. “So we just need to keep playing our game, our road game.”
Phoenix is embarking on a six-game trek, its longest since a 5-1-0 swing Dec. 8-20, 2007. It begins with four matchups versus Atlantic foes and ends with visits to Pacific rivals San Jose and Dallas.
The Coyotes are coming off a 5-2 win over the division-leading Stars on Saturday night.
“What lies ahead is a great challenge,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s an extended road trip, (and) we feel good about coming off that game Saturday night and the work we put in.”
The Devils have a lot of work to do on offense. They have a league-low 53 goals, and that includes a pair in shootout wins – two of their only three victories in 12 games over the past month.
Ilya Kovalchuk has one goal during that span and five this season, on pace for about half his previous career low. He’s scored at least 40 in each of the past six seasons.
“We have so many chances, crossbars, posts, miss the net, broken sticks,” said Kovalchuk, regularly getting booed on home ice. “It’s just one of those starts where nothing goes our way. We have to stick with it.”
The Devils have no even-strength goals in three straight games and just three in the past seven.
It may be hard to get many against Ilya Bryzgalov, 2-1-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average this month. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals in 10 road starts, going 6-1-2.
The only time he’s faced the Devils was a 4-3 victory Jan. 14 in Phoenix.
That was New Jersey’s fourth loss in the last five meetings. Brodeur was in net for all of them and posted a dismal .881 save percentage.
Updated December 14, 2010
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