While the New Jersey Devils (22-30-4) stellar second half rolls on, they still face the harsh reality of missing the playoffs.
New Jersey–12-1-2 in their past 15 games and 6-0-1 since the All-Star break–has raced back into playoff contention. But they are still 14 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8) for the eighth seed with a game in hand.
The Devils have a golden opportunity to cut into the deficit tonight as they face the Hurricanes at the Prudential Center.
Tonight’s game is the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Devils’ won the most recent meeting, 3-2, in overtime on February 8. Down 2-1 with 2:54 left in regulation, Nick Palmieri pushed a rebound past Cam Ward to tie the game at two. The game moved to overtime, where rookie Mattias Tedenby would play hero. Travis Zajac carried the puck from his own zone, skating into the Hurricanes zone. He left a drop pass for Tedenby, who collected the puck and moved into the slot. The rookie right-winger fired a wrist shot past a screened Ward for the game-winner.
That started a three-game losing streak for the Canes. They picked up a crucial 3-2 win against the Atlanta Thrashers Sunday to end their slide. Erik Cole scored the game-winner with 1:19 remaining in regulation, and Ward stopped 41 shots in the win. With the win, the Canes improved to 2-5-2 in their last nine games.
The Devils hot streak continued with a 2-1 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks. Patrick Marleau scored the game’s first goal at 6:08 of the final period. Brian Rolston tied the game, 1-1, scoring on the powerplay. Ilya Kovalchuk once again came to the rescue to guide the Devils to their fourth straight win. The left-winger netted the game-winner at 16:01 to lead the Devils to their third straight comeback victory.
Johan Hedberg will start tonight for the Devils. He’s 3-0-0 with a 1.28 goals-against average since taking over for an injured Martin Brodeur.