The New Jersey Devils (33-32-4) know they’ve mounted an improbable push to the playoffs. But it’s all for nothing if they can’t overcome their current six-point deficit and reach the postseason.
“I don’t think that we look at ourselves as coming back from this,” Martin Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “We feel that we’re close and that’s what we look at. We look at other teams that are close to us and are in the same situation. Atlanta needs to win and then you go to Toronto and Carolina. We feel that we’re one of those teams.”
New Jersey will look to continue its improbable push to the playoffs tonight against the Ottawa Senators (25-36-9) tonight at Scotiabank Center.
The Devils enter tonight’s game in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Their 23-3-2 record since January 8 is the best run of any team this season. Each victory has made their dream more reality, but also pushes the team closer to a devastating loss.
Brodeur understood the amount of disappointment each player would face if they fall short of the playoffs.
“You have to be disappointed if you don’t make the playoffs,” Brodeur told Gulitti. “The first goal of the regular season is to get into the playoffs. I know that we came from a long ways to be in that position and definitely now we’re getting closer and closer. Hopefully the next two weeks will give us a good idea of where we’re going to stand in the last weeks to come. Definitely a lot closer we get, the disappointment level will kick in.”
Despite the perceived mismatch, the Senators have given the Devils trouble all season long. They’ve already won two of the three meetings this season, including a 2-1 win at the Prudential Center March 8. Eric Condra broke a 1-1 tie with 2:13 remaining, sending New Jersey to a rare regulation loss.
The Devils haven’t lost a season series to the Senators since 2002-03.
Brodeur will start his ninth straight game tonight. The Devils’ goalie is 15-2-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average in his last 18 starts. Ottawa will counter with Craig Anderson, who is 4-1-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average against his former team.
Tonight’s game begins a stretch of six games that may ultimately decide New Jersey’s playoff fate. In the next nine days, the Devils will play five road games, four of which are against the top eight teams in the conference.
Jacques Lemaire didn’t want his players overlooking tonight’s matchup, but won’t remind them of the difficulty of each game.
“It will, but I don’t think it needs to be because we knew when we played them that they were playing a lot better,” he told Gulitti. “They’ll be home with the fans and all of that and more excited. We’ve go some games coming up.”