Devils host Blackhawks at the Rock
BLACKHAWKS (42-26-8) at DEVILS (42-28-6)
MSG PLUS (HD) RADIO:
WFAN 660 AM
Chicago 7-2-1; New Jersey 5-4-1.
This is the only meeting of the season. When the teams last met on Nov. 3, 2010, they combined for three goals in the final minute but New Jersey prevailed, 5-3.
Two teams ranked sixth in their respective conferences will try to preserve their favorable postseason outlooks when they face off on Tuesday. If the season ended today, each would face the winner of their conference's weakest division, but the Hawks and Devils must focus on finishing the season strong before speculating on the playoffs.
After a stretch of injuries and losses dropped Chicago from the Western elite, the Hawks have rebounded and are playing some of their best hockey down the stretch. The Hawks are 9-2-1 over their last 12 games, including five straight wins heading into a divisional game at Nashville on Sunday. The streak came to a screeching halt at Bridgestone Arena, where the Preds battered the Hawks, 6-1. After conceding just five times over the five-game winning streak, Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 15 shots before being pulled in favor of Ray Emery.
"That wasn't our team. That wasn't me," Crawford said. "Just got to forget about it plain and simple."
While Chicago is out to continue its winning run, New Jersey is intent on reversing a recent trend of poor play. The Devils are 1-3-1 over their last five, a run that is threatening their position in the standings. If they remain in sixth, the Devils will face the winner of the Southeast, likely either Florida or Washington, either of which New Jersey would prefer to a fellow Atlantic power. To do that, New Jersey must raise the level of play that saw them conceded at least four goals in four of their last five games, including a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"You want to get into the playoffs as soon as possible and you want to get in feeling good about yourself and not just dogging it in," said goalie Martin Brodeur
, who has a 3.95 goals-against average over those four losses.
Viktor Stalberg got the lone goal against Nashville on Sunday, giving him three goals and four assists over his last seven games.
For Chicago, Marcus Kruger (concussion-like symptoms) is questionable for Tuesday's game. Sami Lepisto (left leg), Jonathan Toews (concussion), Steve Montador (upper body) and Daniel Carcillo (left-knee surgery) are all out indefinitely. … Anton Volchenkov
is questionable for the Devils with a lower-body injury. Henrik Tallinder
is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his left leg.
Since Jan. 21, Crawford has struggled to find a happy medium in his play. In nine victories, he has a 1.14 GAA, but is 0-7-1 with a 4.84 GAA in his other nine outings. Crawford could excel against New Jersey's sputtering offense, which has scored two goals or fewer in six of seven games.
On Sunday, Chicago was without captain Toews, who missed his 16th game with a concussion, and 2010 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, who is serving a five-game suspension for elbowing Daniel Sedin in the head.
"We've been without some key guys before, so I don't think that's an excuse," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It doesn't really matter who's playing, we've got to do a better effort out there. That's what it's all about."