The next 12 days could determine the outcome of the New Jersey Devils (19-30-4) season.
The Devils, 16 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes (26-21-6) for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, will face the ‘Canes three times in that 12 day span. It’s an opportunity for New Jersey to gain significant ground and make a realistic push to the playoffs.
New Jersey will look to cut into their point deficit tonight when the face those Hurricanes at the Prudential Center.
The Devils’ recent 9-1-2 surge restored hope for a playoff push. Even with the team mired in 13th place, two or three wins against the Hurricanes would put the Devils squarely in the playoff hunt.
Martin Brodeur will miss tonight’s game with a knee injury. The Devils’ goalie tweaked his knee during the first period of the Devils’ 4-1 win over the Canadiens Sunday.
Even without Brodeur, the Devils understand the importance of these games.
“We still have a lot of work cut out for us, and I don’t think anyone’s looking too far ahead, but that said, (Carolina’s) a team that’s got the eighth spot right now. We’re playing them a bunch of times,” center Tim Sestito said to the Associated Press. “We just have to make sure we’re getting two points, not just one.”
“They’re all big games,” Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “We play these guys three times in a week and a half. Last year, we played Toronto three times in a week and a half. So we’ve got a lot of work, a lot work.”
Carolina enters tonight’s game struggling on the road. The ‘Canes have dropped three of their last five games, being outscored 12-10 during the streak. Carolina defeated the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-3, in a shootout Saturday to take control of the eighth seed. Erik Cole continued his stellar season, netting the game-winning goal.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. in Newark.