By John Schweibacher
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The Devils return from the All-Star break with a busy week as they face the Rangers, Canadiens, Flyers and Penguins.

Three of New Jersey’s four opponents this week are currently above them in the Eastern Conference standings and the Devils have struggled with the better teams in the East so far this season:

Devils vs. Top Seven in Eastern Conference:

1. NYR: 0-1
2. BOS: 0-3
3. WAS: 2-1
4. PHI: 1-2
5. PIT: 2-1
6. OTT: 1-0-1
7. FLA: 2-1

Total: 8-9-1 17 points

Devils vs. Bottom Seven in Eastern Conference:

9. TOR: 1-1
10. WPG: 3-1
11. MTL: 1-1
12. TB: 2-0
13. NYI: 1-1
14. BUF: 2-0-1
15. CAR: 2-1

Total: 12-5-1 25 points

New Jersey’s match-up with the New York Rangers Tuesday night is the first of five remaining meetings against their cross-river rivals. The Devils lost to the Rangers, 4-1, back on December 20th at Prudential Center in the lone meeting between the two teams so far in 2011-12.

Henrik Lundqvist got the win that night for New York, improving his career record against New Jersey to 23-9-5 with a 1.82 goals against average. The 23 victories equal Lundqvist’s most vs. any NHL opponent, tying his 23 against the Islanders and one more than his 22 vs. the Pittsburgh. Lundqvist’s 1.82 GAA is his third-best against any Eastern Conference opponent, trailing only his 1.51 mark in 24 career games vs. Boston and his 1.74 GAA in 22 outings against Florida.

The Devils conclude their six-game home stand against the Canadiens Thursday night. New Jersey and Montreal have split their first two match-ups so far this season, a 2-1 Canadiens win in Newark back on December 10th and a 5-3 Devils victory one week later in Montreal.

Martin Brodeur got the win in the game in Montreal but the loss on home ice was his third straight against the Canadiens in New Jersey, dating back to January 2010. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s as many home losses to Montreal as Brodeur suffered in his entire NHL career up to that point. Before 2010, Brodeur was 21-3-4 in 28 regular-season home games versus the Canadiens and 3-0 at home against Montreal in the playoffs.

The Devils face the Flyers Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. The Flyers have won both meetings in New Jersey between the two teams so far this season but the Devils won the only game to date in Philadelphia, a 4-3 shootout victory back on November 3rd.

Martin Brodeur is now 2-9-2 in his last 13 regular-season starts against Philadelphia and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has allowed at least three goals in 11 of those 13 games (since April 4th, 2008).

Brodeur also faced the Flyers in the 2010 playoffs, losing four of five games and allowing three or more goals in four of those five games. Prior to this stretch, Brodeur had won 16 of his previous 18 games against Philadelphia (16-1-1 from April 1st, 2006 through March 28th, 2008).

On Super Sunday afternoon, the Devils will host the Penguins. The two teams have met three times so far this season with New Jersey taking two of the three. Pittsburgh took the first meeting, 4-1, on home ice back on October 22nd but New Jersey has won each of the last two, both by scores of 3-1.

This Sunday’s contest will mark the fourth time in their history that the Devils will have played a game on the same day of a Super Bowl.

On January 28th, 1990, before the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, the Devils and Islanders played a 4-4 tie at Nassau Coliseum.

Patrik Sundstrom scored twice, including the game-tying goal, while defensemen Tommy Albelin and Alexei Kasatonov also added goals for New Jersey. Bryan Trottier scored twice, career goals number 497 and 498, Pat LaFontaine and Jari Gronstrand had the other Isles goals.

On January 25th, 1998, the Broncos beat the Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII. Earlier that day, the Devils topped the Canadiens 3-1 in Montreal. Lyle Odelein, Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston scored the New Jersey goals. Martin Brodeur made 19 saves in the win, defeating Andy Moog who was in net for the Habs.

Last year, on February 6th, the Packers defeated the Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV. That afternoon in Montreal, the Devils beat the Canadiens, 4-1. Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice and Martin Brodeur got the win on this day as well, despite leaving after the first period with a leg injury as Johan Hedberg stopped 14 of 15 shots over the final two periods.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Better at break. The Devils begin their post all-star break schedule with a 26-19-3 record and 55 points, tied for 7th in the Eastern Conference. Last year at the break, New Jersey was 16-30-3 with
35 points, last in the NHL.

Minus: Winless in three. New Jersey’s 0-2-1 mark in final three games heading into all-star break is the Devils’ longest winless streak since a four-game slide from November 26th through December 3rd.

How will the Devils fare this week? Sound off below…