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Two teams heading in opposite directions meet on Thursday when the New Jersey Devils host the slumping Chicago Blackhawks in their only meeting of the season.
While Chicago hopes to avoid an eighth straight loss, New Jersey has won four of five.
The Devils (8-5-1) got a goal from Jim Dowd with a minute left in regulation and John Madden scored in the sixth round of a shootout for a 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
"Anytime you can beat a great hockey club like the Carolina Hurricanes, it's a great feeling," Madden said. "We had to battle back late in the third, but we played a pretty solid game against a team that has a lot of weapons."
It was the Devils' second win over the club that eliminated them from the playoffs last season.
Dowd notched his first goal since rejoining the Devils as a free agent on Nov. 2. The New Jersey native spent parts of four seasons (1991-96) with the club to start his career before landing on eight other teams, including Chicago, over 10 seasons.
The win also put the Devils in position for their first three-game winning streak of the season. They failed to convert on two other attempts, losing to the New York Rangers on Oct. 16 and the New York Islanders last Thursday.
The 5-2 loss to the Islanders is New Jersey's only defeat in its last five outings.
In the four wins during that span, Martin Brodeur has allowed a total of three goals and posted two shutouts.
Brodeur is 6-0 with one tie and a 1.54 goals-against average in his last seven games against the Blackhawks. He hasn't lost to them since Oct. 10, 1998, and since that game, New Jersey is unbeaten in 10 meetings overall with Chicago.
Devils second-year center Zach Parise is hoping to extend his career-best point streak to six games. He has three goals and three assists over the last five games, matching his point total from the first nine games of the season.
Few players have done any scoring lately for the Blackhawks (4-9-0), who have been held to three goals over their last five games. That stretch includes three consecutive shutouts from Oct. 25-30.
"We need to get some offense," Blackhawks defenseman Adrian Aucoin said after Thursday's 2-1 loss to Detroit. "We really didn't put the puck in the back of the net, but we had good chances."
This seven-game slide is Chicago's longest since a season-high 10-game losing streak from Dec. 18, 2005-Jan. 8, 2006. Chicago went on to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons.
The Blackhawks are missing several top players, including goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and forwards Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus.
Khabibulin, who has been nursing a broken finger, was hoping to return against the Devils, but Brian Boucher is expected to get his sixth consecutive start.
Boucher has lost all seven of his starts this season while posting a 3.75 GAA. His last win came as a member of the Calgary Flames on Feb. 10 against St. Louis.
|Nov 09 '06||CHI 1 at NJD 2 - SO||Z. Parise|
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