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The New Jersey Devils will be without one of their main enforcers Sunday night when they host the Boston Bruins.
Right wing Cam Janssen will serve the first of a three-game suspension handed down by the league for his late hit on Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle in the second period of Friday's 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto.
Kaberle, who was skating backwards in his own zone when Janssen checked him to the head, was wheeled out on a stretcher after the hit and is out indefinitely.
However, no penalty was called on the play and Janssen insisted the hit was clean.
"I was just finishing my check," he said. "You hate to see that. It's a weird feeling. You never want to see that, but I've got to do my job. I've got to take the body and I did."
Despite appearing in only 38 games, Janssen has a team-high 93 penalty minutes and New Jersey is 24-11-3 when he has played. The 22-year-old right wing has one goal, no assists and 184 penalty minutes in 85 career games with the Devils.
He will also miss the first two games of New Jersey's upcoming road trip, Tuesday at Philadelphia and Thursday against Pittsburgh. He could return for Saturday's contest at Buffalo.
That matchup with the Sabres looms large, as the Devils (40-18-7) hold a commanding 10-point lead over the Penguins in the Atlantic Division and trail Buffalo by six points for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Friday's defeat was just the second in the last seven games for New Jersey, which is 5-1-1 in that span. It also saw Martin Brodeur, who stopped 25 of 28 shots in regulation and overtime, fall short in his first bid for his 40th win of the season.
Brodeur is seeking to win 40 games for the sixth time in his career, including a 43-23-7 mark last season. The veteran netminder is 18-13-0 with eight ties, four shutouts and a 2.50 goals-against average in 41 career games against Boston.
He also has defeated the Bruins (31-28-5) three straight times, including a 5-1 victory Dec. 6 at Boston in which he made 19 saves. Brodeur was not in net the last time these teams met, though, a 5-3 Devils loss Dec. 14 at TD Banknorth Garden. Scott Clemmensen stopped 40 of 44 shots in his place, but Patrice Bergeron scored twice as the Bruins beat New Jersey for the first time since April 4, 2004.
Boston, which is tied for 12th place in the Eastern Conference, moved within six points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot with Saturday's 3-1 win over Montreal. The victory snapped a three-game losing skid for the Bruins, who outshot the Canadiens 36-32 two days after giving up 55 shots in a 4-3 overtime defeat to last-place Philadelphia.
"They're not machines," Boston coach Dave Lewis said after Saturday's win. "As much as you'd like to stick a key in and have them run the same way every game, that's not going to happen. That's for the coaches to figure out."
Glen Murray scored his team-leading 28th goal for the Bruins, with Petr Tenkrat and Brandon Bochenski providing the other tallies. Murray has gone scoreless in two meetings with the Devils this season, but had a goal in each of his previous four games versus New Jersey.