NEWARK (AP) – The Devils have inched within eight points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A matchup with the league-worst Ottawa Senators could help them continue their incredible run.
New Jersey goes for its fifth straight victory overall and seventh in a row at home against the Senators on Tuesday night.
Since being 27 points out of the final playoff spot Jan. 8, New Jersey has gone 20-2-2 to climb out of the NHL basement and put itself within reach of a 14th consecutive playoff berth.
The Devils, though, know they can’t be satisfied with their play over the last two months as they’re still in 12 place with 17 games remaining.
“It’s all about getting points at this stage for us,” Martin Brodeur told the Devils’ official website after making 20 saves in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout road win over the New York Islanders.
While Brodeur has gone 12-1-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average in 14 starts since Jan. 8, Ilya Kovalchuk has a team-best 14 goals and 27 points during that stretch.
Kovalchuk had a goal, an assist and a shootout goal Sunday, while Brian Rolston also scored in regulation and the tiebreaker.
“It’s not an individual sport,” Kovalchuk said. “When I scored that goal (in the third period), Jacob (Josefson) made a great pass and (Mattias) Tedenby drove to the net to bring their D with him. On the power play, Trav (Zajac) won the face-off and gave it to Rollie. Totally a team effort.”
The Devils (30-31-4) will try to use that balanced attack to extend their season-best winning streak at the Prudential Center to seven. If New Jersey can push its home point streak to 12, it would be its longest since a 13-0-1 run Dec. 14, 1999-Feb. 15, 2000.
While New Jersey has made the leap from last place to playoff hopeful, the Senators (22-34-9) have stumbled following a promising 8-6-1 start. Ottawa lost 4-1 to the New York Rangers on Friday and fell one point behind Edmonton for the league’s fewest when the Oilers defeated Colorado 5-1 on Saturday.
Still, coach Cory Clouston is looking forward to evaluating personnel and watching how the Senators respond during their four-game trip.
“It’s a good time to kind of regroup and refocus, and get back to work in practice and get ready for a real tough opponent,” said Clouston, whose team has won three of four on the road.
The Senators have dropped six straight in New Jersey following a 2-1 loss Feb. 1.
Brodeur faced just 16 shots in that matchup and is 8-2-0 with a 1.98 GAA in his last 10 home starts versus Ottawa.
If Craig Anderson makes his eighth consecutive start, it will be his first in New Jersey as a Senator. He is 4-3-0 with a 1.56 GAA since being acquired from Colorado on Feb. 18.
Anderson made 41 saves in a 3-2 Avalanche victory in New Jersey on Oct. 15.
Ottawa has killed all 24 penalties since Anderson arrived and 37 of 38 in its last 10 games. The Devils are 2 for 13 on the power play in their last eight at home.
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