Behind the goaltending of Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils are surging toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Brodeur looks to build off his league-best 11th shutout of the season Tuesday when the Devils (36-17-6) host the New York Rangers in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Brodeur stopped 26 shots in New Jersey's 2-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. With his latest shutout, Brodeur tied his single-season career-high set in 2003-04, and with one more would be the first goalie to record a dozen shutouts in one season since Bernie Parent helped backstop the Flyers to the Stanley Cup in 1974-75.
"Even the shots that they were getting, I think our guys were doing a pretty good job and letting Marty see most of them," New Jersey coach Claude Julien said.
Brodeur, a nine-time All-Star, bounced back after a disappointing 5-4 home loss against Pittsburgh on Friday.
"We have to keep plugging along. We're in a great position in the standings," said Brodeur, whose team has 78 points and trails injury-riddled Buffalo by only five points for the top spot in the East.
Brodeur, who's started all but two games this season, is 3-2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average against the Rangers this season including a 26-save shutout in a 1-0 home win on Jan. 16. Since then, New Jersey has gone 8-3-2 and leads Pittsburgh by five points in the Atlantic despite the Penguins' recent 16-game point streak that ended with a regulation loss Monday.
New York (29-25-5), looking to make the postseason for the second straight year, has won four of its last five including Sunday's 2-1 victory over Chicago. Marcel Hossa and Martin Straka scored first-period goals for the Rangers, who are in 11th place in the East, but just three points in back of Toronto, the New York Islanders and Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"We went out there to win the hockey game, from the first shift," coach Tom Renney said on the Rangers' official Web site. "I think they're looking forward to playing New Jersey, as always, but I think they're a little spent.
"We'll regroup tomorrow and take a deep breath and prepare ourselves psychologically, emotionally and physically for New Jersey."
The Rangers were without leading goal-scorer Brendan Shanahan, who collided violently with Philadelphia's Mike Knuble a day earlier in a 5-3 loss to the Flyers. Shanahan, who has 28 goals, will be out at least a week.
Marek Malik, who was also injured Saturday, did not play and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. However, Henrik Lundqvist finished with 21 saves one day after taking a painful hit on his left shoulder that sidelined him for the third period in the loss to Philadelphia.
"I wanted to get in right away and get a win. I know it's no problem, it's just pain," said Lundqvist, who has dropped his last two starts against the Devils despite allowing a total of just three goals. He's 1-1-2 with a 1.90 GAA in four career starts at New Jersey.
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr picked up an assist in the win over the Blackhawks, giving him two goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak.
The teams will play again Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
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