Devils begin season's second half vs. Lightning
LIGHTNING (16-16-10) at DEVILS (30-10-1)
Last 10 --
Tampa Bay 5-4-1; New Jersey 8-2-0
Season series --
The Devils have won all three previous meetings this season, including a pair of shootout victories at Tampa Bay this season -- 4-3 on Oct. 8 and 2-1 on Oct. 31. Devils wing Jamie Langenbrunner
broke a 2-2 tie with 38.1 seconds left in regulation to give his team the victory at Prudential Center on Dec. 4. The Devils haven't lost a season series to the Lightning since 2006-07.
Big Story --
The Devils rolled to their 30th victory in 41 games on Tuesday when Martin Brodeur
stopped 28 shots for his fifth shutout of the season. The victory was the Devils' sixth in a row at the Prudential Center and ninth in the last 10 home games. During that six-game stretch at home, Brodeur has allowed just six goals and notched two shutouts -- overall, he has three shutouts in his last seven games. The Devils are one behind Chicago for the League-lead in victories and are tops in the Eastern Conference in points (61) and home victories (16 in 22 games).
New Jersey hit the midway point of the season with 30 wins -- besting the previous franchise record of 26 triumphs set in 1997-98. Patrik Elias
has 16 points, including seven goals, in his last 14 contests. Brodeur, who made his 20th straight start against Dallas, not only earned his League-leading 27th triumph but also extended his NHL career records for games played (1,038), wins (584), minutes played (61,322) and shutouts (106). He's hoping for much of the same in the second half of the season.
"Consistency is what people are looking for in their game, and I think that's a hard thing to do especially as you move into the second half of the season," Brodeur said. "It's going to get really hard -- points are tougher to get and teams will get more desperate. Building a cushion helps us out, but we can't let our guard down. We have to put our head down, play well and be consistent."
After winning four of its last six games, Tampa Bay yielded three goals to Buffalo on Wednesday in the opening 2:11 of game -- which happened to be the fourth-fastest three goals to start a game since the 1979-80 season. The Capitals hold the record with three goals in 1:21 in a 6-4 loss to New Jersey on Dec. 19, 1986 at the Meadowlands Arena. One major area of concern for the Lightning has been the power play in recent weeks. The club went 0-for-3 in Buffalo and has now scored just one goal with the man advantage in its last 18 opportunities spanning six games. In the last 14 games, the Lightning are 5-for-30 and, for the season, the team is connecting at a 16.9 percent clip.
Who's Hot --
Tampa goalie Mike Smith picked up his 50th career victory following a 25-save, 3-1 win against Pittsburgh on Saturday. In seven straight starts, Smith has posted a 4-2-1 record with a 2.66 goals against average and .895 save percentage. … Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis extended his scoring streak to seven games with a third-period assist in the triumph over Pittsburgh. St. Louis, who is tied for the League-lead with 20 power play points and is second with 36 assists, has 3 goals and 9 assists during the streak.
Injury Report --
For the Lightning, defenseman Matt Walker (lower body) and forwards Todd Fedoruk (lower body) and Jeff Halpern (lower body) are out. … The Devils are without forwards David Clarkson
(right leg) and Dainius Zubrus
(leg) and defenseman Paul Martin
Stat Pack --
Langenbrunner has 5 goals and 8 points during a five-game points streak for the Devils. … Lightning forwards Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos have combined for 40 goals this season and rank among the top five in the League among NHL teammates.
Puck Drop --
Fans coming to the game should keep in mind the last five of seven matchups between the Devils and the Lighting have either gone to overtime or a shootout -- so plan accordingly.