The Devils hope to avoid their longest slide in more than 23 years when they meet the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at Prudential Center (7 p.m., MSG Plus, Bloomberg 1130 AM).
Before the game, the Devils will hold a ceremony to honor Martin Brodeur for achieving the all-time wins record. Backup Kevin Weekes will get the start, however, allowing Brodeur to play Saturday night in Buffalo.
"In respect to Marty, it's a night for him (tonight)," Devils head coach Brent Sutter said. "It's probably just the right thing to do, and it's good for Weeksie too. It's one of those times when you have to be sensitive to certain things."
The Devils (47-26-4) will celebrate Brodeur's NHL-record 552nd win, which came in a 3-2 victory over Chicago on March 17. Brodeur, who passed boyhood idol Patrick Roy for the mark, followed up that performance three nights later with win No. 553 in a 4-0 victory over Minnesota. That pulled him to within two shutouts shy of Terry Sawchuk's league record.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner has started all but one of the Devils' 17 games since his return from injury on Feb. 26. New Jersey took eight of its first nine with Brodeur back, but have since fallen into a six-game winless streak.
"We're going through something that's not an easy thing to go through," Sutter said. "We're dealing with it, we're going through it. That's the best way to put it. We'll deal with it. It's the hand we've dealt ourselves."
The Devils' suffered their latest setback in Wednesday's 6-1 loss at Pittsburgh. New Jersey has been outscored 22-7 during their slide, which is the team's longest since an eight-game skid from Dec. 19, 1985-Jan.6, 1986.
Having secured a playoff berth, the Devils will try to hang on to their lead in the Atlantic Division. They're six points up on Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with five games remaining.
Sutter's squad is three points behind Washington for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils hope a return to the Prudential Center, where they're 26-11-1, can help them halt the slide. Brodeur made 46 saves in the last game there Saturday but New Jersey fell 2-1 to Carolina, snapping a season-high 11-game home winning streak.
If recent history is any indication, a matchup with the Lightning (24-36-17) may also work in the Devils' favor as they try to stop the slide. New Jersey won all three meetings this season – each without Brodeur – to give them six consecutive victories in the series.
The Devils took the last matchup 3-2 in a shootout at Tampa on Feb. 19 and are 4-0 all-time versus the Lightning in Newark.
Brodeur has won his last three games against the Lightning, posting a 1.30 GAA.
Tampa Bay, last in the Southeast Division, dropped its fourth in a row Tuesday night, 3-1 defeat at Boston.
Rookie Steve Stamkos has been one of the few bright spots for Tampa Bay of late, scoring six goals in his last eight games. The center has 14 goals in his last 23 contests after recording six his first 51 games.
Stamkos has no points in three games against New Jersey.
The Lightning will be without captain Vincent Lecavalier for the last five games of the season as he'll undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist. He leads the team with 29 goals and is second with 67 points, and played in all 77 games this season.
with AP wire services
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