By John Schweibacher
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The Devils are enjoying their best stretch of hockey this season, going 3-0-1 with points in four straight games. New Jersey has not had such a stretch since late last season when they went 2-0-2 from March 30th through April 6th.

The three wins in their last four games also equals the total number of victories the Devils had over their previous 19 games (3-16-0) dating all the way back to Thanksgiving.

New Jersey’s four-goal 1st period against Tampa Bay this past Friday, was the Devils’ first four-goal opening period in nearly three years. New Jersey scored four times in the 1st period in a 6-1 win over Carolina back on February 9th, 2008.

The Devils have scored 18 goals over the four-game span after scoring just 19 during the previous 12. That total is bolstered by a pair of empty-netters in the home-ice win over Tampa Bay but the 18 goals are still the most New Jersey has scored over a four-game span since netting 20 (not counting one shootout goal) during a four-game stretch from November 15th through 23rd, 2008.

New Jersey plays host to the Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center and heads to Philadelphia for another Saturday afternoon matinee against the Flyers before returning home Sunday to take on the Florida Panthers.

The Devils have struggled against Atlantic Division opponents this season, going just 2-10-0 so far in 2010-11. New Jersey has fared better against the Southeast, posting a 4-4-1 record. The Devils are just 2-7-1 vs. the Northeast and 5-8-1 against the Western Conference.

Pittsburgh will be without both Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (leg injury) on Thursday night. The last time the Devils faced the Penguins without either player in the lineup was back before the NHL lockout during the 2003-04 season.

The Penguins currently have four one-time New Jersey Devils players or draft picks, tied with the Atlanta Thrashers for the most in the NHL. Only three other clubs currently have more than one former Devils player on their active rosters:

Team Ex-Devils

· Pittsburgh (4) Paul Martin, Mike Rupp, Arron Asham, Deryk Engelland

· Atlanta (4) Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, Chris Mason

· Anaheim (2) Sheldon Brookbank, Aaron Voros

· Montreal (2) Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez

· Nashville (2) Steve Sullivan, Matt Halischuk

Saturday afternoon’s match-up with the Flyers will be the 5th between New Jersey and Philadelphia this season. The Devils have just one win so far in the four meetings, a 2-1 shootout victory back on November 27th. The two clubs will meet just one more time; April 1st in New Jersey.

The Devils host the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Florida won the first meeting of the season between the two teams last Saturday, a 3-2 overtime victory. New Jersey had not played an overtime game since November 27th, so the OT loss to the Panthers ended a stretch of 19 straight contests for the Devils which concluded in regulation. It was the longest such streak for New Jersey since a 21-game span from December 5th, 1993through January 24th, 1994. The longest stretch the Devils have played during one season where no game went beyond 60 minutes was a 30-game streak from November 6th, 1985 through January 14th, 1986.

Scott Clemmensen got the win for Florida in that overtime victory over New Jersey, improving his record against the Devils to 3-0-0 since signing with the Panthers following the 2008-09 season. Clemmensen now trails only Kirk McLean and Sean Burke for the most wins by a former Devils’ goalie against New Jersey after leaving the club:

· Kirk McLean 9-7-3

· Sean Burke 4-9-4

· Scott Clemmensen 3-0-0

· Sam St. Laurent 2-0-0

· Mike Dunham 2-11-3

· Craig Billington 1-9-1

· Chris Terreri 1-1-1

· Alain Chevrier 1-1-0

· Chico Resch 1-1-0

· Lindsay Middlebrook 1-0-0

· Corey Schwab 0-7-0

After the recent trade which sent Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas much has been written about the possibility of potential deals by New Jersey which could involve unrestricted free agents to be such as Jason Arnott and Andy Greene. As for the Devils who are not going anywhere, Ilya Kovalchuk is in the first year of his much ballyhooed 15-year deal, which would keep him in a Devils’ jersey until the 2024-25 season. Here are the New Jersey Devils besides Kovalchuk who are currently under contract the longest:

Devils Player signed thru

· Ilya Kovalchuk 2024-25

· Anton Volchenkov 2015-16

· Henrik Tallinder 2013-14

· Patrik Elias 2012-13

· Travis Zajac 2012-13

· Dainius Zubrus 2012-13

· David Clarkson 2012-13

· Jacob Josefson 2012-13

· Mattias Tedenby 2012-13

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Vladimir Zharkov. It took 49 career games but rookie finally scores first career NHL goal in 5-2 win over Islanders.

Plus: Mattias Tedenby. Rookie has a goal and an assist vs. the Islanders in his return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for six consecutive games.

Plus: Jason Arnott. Centers line with the two rookies and records 500th NHL assist in 5-2 Devils win.

pixy Schwei by the Numbers: Shoveling Out Of The Hole

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