By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils have reached the .500 mark for the first time since their opening night overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. The Devils have posted a .500 or better record in each of the last 18 seasons, the longest current streak in the NHL and the 3rd best in league history. Here are the longest current and all-time streaks of winning seasons in the four major sports:

Most All-Time Consecutive .500-Plus seasons

· MLB New York Yankees (39) 1926 through 1964
· NHL Montreal Canadiens (32) 1951-52 through 1982-83
· NFL Dallas Cowboys (20) 1966 through 1985
· NBA Utah Jazz (19) 1985-86 through 2003-04

Current Consecutive .500-Plus season

· NHL New Jersey Devils (18) 1991-92 through 2009-10
· MLB New York Yankees (18) 1993 through 2010
· NBA San Antonio Spurs (14) 1997-98 through 2010-11
· NFL New England Patriots (10) 2001 through 2010

From the Elias Sports Bureau: With their overtime win against the Islanders on Saturday, the Devils, who were 19 games under “NHL .500” following their loss at Philadelphia on January 8 (10-29-2), regained break-even status for the first time since they were 0-0-1 after an overtime loss to Dallas in their season opener. In doing so they set a record for the most games under .500 by an NHL team that then regained par (even if that team finished below .500).

The record they broke was held by the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques, who got back to .500 at 30-30-17 on March 31 after being 15 games under .500 just over two months earlier (11-26-13 through Jan. 28). The Nordiques’ comeback began when they acquired goaltender Dan Bouchard from Calgary in a trade on January 30. Bouchard posted a 19-5-5 record for Quebec while starting all but one of the Nordiques’ games over the remainder of the season. The Nordiques finished the season two games under .500 (30-32-18). Quebec did make the NHL playoffs that season, losing three games to two to Philadelphia in the first round of the post-season.

Anssi Salmela scored an overtime goal to give the Devils a 3-2 victory over the Islanders Saturday night. It was also the defenseman’s first goal of the season, making him just the 7th player in club history whose first goal of a season was also a sudden-death winner for New Jersey:

NJD 1st Goal Season/OT Opponent Players Game/NJD Game

· Rich Preston 10/13/85 3-2 @ NYR 3 3
· Stephane Richer 10/22/82 6-5 @ Chi 7 8
· Scott Niedermayer 11/19/02 4-3 vs Buf 16 16
· Scott Stevens 3/1/03 2-1 vs Was 64 64
· Brian Rafalski 10/8/05 3-2 vs NYR 3 3
· Johnny Oduya 11/26/08 3-2 @ FLA 21 21
· Anssi Salmela 3/12/11 3-2 vs NYI 34 68

Salmela is also the 9th defenseman in Devils history to score a regular-season overtime goal. Here are is the list of New Jersey defensemen who have scored a regular-season sudden-death game-winner:

· Scott Niedermayer 8
· Scott Stevens 2
· Brian Rafalski 2
· Johnny Oduya 2
· Craig Wolanin 1
· Viacheslav Fetisov 1
· Paul Martin 1
· Brad Lukowich 1
· Anssi Salmela 1

Travis Zajac can set the New Jersey Devils record for consecutive games played Tuesday night against Ottawa. Zajac begins the week just one game shy of matching Ken Daneyko’s mark of 388 straight games. Here is the Devils all-time consecutive games played list as well as the top five current NHL ironman streaks:

NJ Devils most consecutive games played:

· Ken Daneyko 388 November 4th, 1989-March 29, 1994
· Travis Zajac 387 October 26th, 2006-present
· Sergei Brylin 328 October 8th, 2003-April 6th, 2008
· Kirk Muller 321 April 4th, 1987-March 31st, 1991
· Jay Pandofo 307 January 22nd, 2003-November 28th, 2007
· Aaron Broten 288 March 27th, 1986-January 4th, 1990

Current NHL consecutive games played streaks (through 3/12/11):

· Jay Bouwmeester CGY 495
· Henrik Sedin VAN 487
· Brad Boyes BUF 477
· Martin St. Louis TB 459
· Travis Zajac NJD 387

The Devils host the Thrashers Tuesday night at Prudential Center. It will be the final meeting of the season between the two teams. Atlanta won the first time the two teams faced one another, a 7-1 drubbing at Philips Arena back on December 18th. New Jersey has won each of the last two, a 3-1 win back at home on December 31st and last week’s 3-2 overtime victory in Atlanta.

New Jersey and Ottawa also close out their season series Thursday night in the Canadian capital. The Senators have taken the last two meetings between the two clubs in Ottawa after dropping four straight home-ice contests to the Devils. The Sens ended their six-game Newark losing streak last week with a 2-1 win at The Rock.

The Devils will face former teammate Jason Arnott when they host the Capitals Friday night. Since this is the last regular season meeting between New Jersey and Washington, it will be Arnott’s only chance to join this list; players who have scored goals both for and against the Devils in the same season:

· Merlin Malinowski NJD/Hartford 1982-83
· Kevin Todd NJD/Edmonton 1992-93
· Alexander Semak NJD/Tampa Bay 1994-95
· Dave Andreychuk Toronto/NJD 1995-96
· Doug Gilmour Toronto/NJD 1996-97
· Sergei Nemchinov NYI/NJD 1998-99
· Brian Rolston NJD/Colorado 1999-00
· Alexander Mogilny Vancouver/NJD 1999-2000
· Ilya Kovalchuk Atlanta/NJD 2009-10

For the second straight season, the Devils will wear their red and green jerseys for one night as they host Washington Friday at Prudential Center. Last year, New Jersey defeated the Penguins, 5-2, on St. Patrick’s Day evening while wearing their throwback uniforms. The Devils did not fare well against the Capitals in their original colors. From 1982 through 1992, New Jersey went a combined 18-48-4 in regular season games against Washington. The Devils split its two playoff match-ups vs. the Caps in the red and green uniforms; winning in seven games in 1988 and losing in six in 1990. The last time New Jersey faced Washington in the old uniforms was back on April 12th, 1992 in a 4-3 overtime loss on Peter Bondra’s goal at the Meadowlands.

The Devils visit Columbus on Sunday night. The game will be the Devils final on against a western conference opponent in 2010-11. New Jersey comes into the game with a 7-9-1 mark vs. the west this season after posting a 7-9-2 record against the other conference in 2009-10.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: 2 or less. Devils have not allowed more than two goals in a game in any of their last 16 games.

Minus: 2 or less. Devils have failed to score more than two goals in regulation in any of their last nine games and 13 of their last 15.

pixy Schwei On Ice: Devils Focusing On .500

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