By John Schweibacher
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After missing the postseason last year for the first time since 1996, the Devils clinched a playoff spot with their 5-0 win in Carolina this past Saturday.

With just three games left on their schedule, it was one of the latest “clinchers” in club history. Here are the latest points of the seasons in which New Jersey wrapped-up a playoff berth:

Season, Clinching Game*/Length of season

· 1987-88, 80/80, 4-3 OT win at Chi
· 1990-91, 78/80, 4-3 OT win at Har
· 1994-95, 46/48, 3-1 win vs. Fla
· 1992-93, 81/84, 5-3 win at Was
· 2005-06, 79/82, 4-3 OT win at Car
· 2007-08, 79/82, 2-1 OT win at NYI
· 2011-12, 79/82, 5-0 win at Car
· 1989-90, 76/80, 4-3 win at Buf
· 2001-02, 78/82, 3-2 win at Atl

(*clinching win or last win prior to clinching.)

David Clarkson reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career in the win over the Hurricanes. Clarkson joins teammates Ilya Kovalchuk (34) and Zach Parise (31) with 30-or-more goals.

For the first time since 2000-01 New Jersey has three players with 30 goals in a season. Alexander Mogilny (43), Patrik Elias (40) and Petr Sykora (35) reached that plateau together that season.

Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists in the Devils’ 5-0 win over the Hurricanes. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was Kovalchuk’s ninth game with three-or-more points this season, tying Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal and John Tavares for the most such games in the NHL this season.

Kovalchuk’s total of nine games of three-or-more points is also the highest in one season by a New Jersey player since Scott Gomez had nine in 2005-06. Kovalchuk had only one such game in the 81 games that he played for the Devils last season.

Here are the most three-or-more point games for New Jersey in a single season since 1987-88:

· Kirk Muller 1987-88 11
· Aaron Broten 1987-88 10
· John MacLean 1988-89 10
· Patrik Elias 2000-01 9
· Scott Gomez 2005-06 9
· Ilya Kovalchuk 2011-12 9
· Claude Lemieux 1992-93 9

For the second straight season, Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg have both won at least 15 games. It’s only the 6th time in club history that New Jersey has had a pair of goaltenders win at least 15 games apiece:

· 2011-12: Brodeur 29, Hedberg 16
· 2010-11: Brodeur 23, Hedberg 15
· 2008-09: Clemmensen 25, Brodeur 19
· 1993-94: Brodeur 27, Terreri 20
· 1992-93: Billington 21, Terreri 19
· 1989-90: Burke 22, Terreri 15

Last Thursday night, Martin Brodeur allowed four goals while facing only 20 shots, including three goals by Ryan Malone, but he still posted a 6-4 win against the Lightning.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was Brodeur’s 115th win over the last four seasons but only the second in which he gave up more than three goals. The other one was a 5-4 overtime victory against the Maple Leafs on January 29th, 2010.

By using the play-index, it was Brodeur’s 30th career win in which he allowed four or more goals. Here are the games Brodeur won despite allowing more than three goals against:

· 10/12/06 7-6 vs. Toronto (shootout)
· 2/23/96 6-5 vs. Montreal
· 1/11/00 6-5 at Tampa Bay
· 10/30/00 6-5 vs. Florida (overtime)
· 3/17/01 6-5 at Edmonton (overtime)
· 2/1/07 6-5 at Philadelphia (overtime)
· 10/13/07 6-5 at Atlanta
· (four goals allowed in wins 23 times)

The Devils close out the regular season schedule with a home-ice match-up against the Islanders, a road contest with the Red Wings in Detroit and wrap things up with Ottawa Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center.

New Jersey has won three of five against the Islanders this season. Over the past three seasons, the Devils have faced seven different Islander goalies over the 17 games played:

NYI Goalie, NJD record

· Rick DiPietro 2-2
· Al Montoya 3-1
· Martin Biron 3-0
· Dwayne Roloson 0-2
· Anders Nilsson 1-1
· Kevin Poulin 1-0
· Evgeni Nabokov 1-0

The Devils face the Red Wings for the first and only time this season Thursday night in Detroit. New Jersey has lost its last nine games at Joe Louis Arena, dating back to a 2-0 win back on November 6th, 1996.

Martin Brodeur stooped all 36 shots that night to register his 13th career shutout.

New Jersey ends the regular season Saturday afternoon against Ottawa at The Rock. The Devils are 14-11-3 all-time in season closing games, 5-0-1 since the lockout.

The Senators have been the Devils’ final opponent of a season twice before; a 4-1 New Jersey win at the Meadowlands on April 14th, 1994 and a 5-2 Ottawa victory in New Jersey on April 13th, 1996 which eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Devils from the post-season.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Peter DeBoer. After missing post-season in three seasons with Florida, reaches playoffs for 1st time as NHL head coach in 1st season with Devils.

Minus: Burned in 3rd. Devils have allowed 88 3rd period goals, only Columbus with 91 has given up more.

How far do you think the Devils will go in the playoffs? Sound off below…

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