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The Boston Bruins have no need to concern themselves with playoff position yet, but they hope to make that an issue very shortly.
The Bruins, still without leading scorer Marc Savard, look to move closer to a playoff berth Wednesday night when they visit the New Jersey Devils, who have already secured a spot in the postseason.
Boston (40-28-11) is tied with Philadelphia for seventh in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind Ottawa and one ahead of red-hot Washington, which is in a virtual tie with Carolina for the Southeast Division lead.
"Goal number one is to make the playoffs," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team's official Web site. "There's no doubt (it will be good) if we can improve our standing, but we certainly want to be in there, and that's the number one priority right now."
The Bruins have two games remaining after facing the Devils (44-28-7) - at Ottawa on Friday and a home contest Saturday against Buffalo.
Boston (40-28-11) had a three-game winning streak snapped Sunday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Sabres.
Although their streak came to an end, the Bruins picked up a key point in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They have at least one point in seven of their last eight games (4-1-3).
The Bruins have succeeded lately despite the absence of Savard, who has missed the last four games with a back injury. The team leader with 63 assists and 78 points, Savard is not expected to play Wednesday, but could return against Ottawa.
As one of the top eight teams in the East, Boston has the luxury of controlling its down destiny.
"You always want to be in that position as much as you can, and if you ask teams right now that are depending on other teams to bail them out, it's not a very comfortable position to be in," Julien said.
With Alex Auld starting Sunday, Tim Thomas is expected to be back in net for this game. Thomas has been outstanding lately, going 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and one shutout in his last three starts.
David Krejci scored the lone Bruins' goal Sunday, giving him three and five assists during a four-game point streak.
New Jersey clinched a playoff berth for the 11th straight season with a 2-1 overtime victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
"It's nice not to have to think about it now," said Martin Brodeur, who made 21 saves. "Now, we're trying to climb as high as we can with the three games we have left. A few weeks ago, we were leading the conference, and now, we're scrambling to get in. At least we can go for fourth place."
Zach Parise scored his team-leading 32nd goal 29 seconds into the extra period as the Devils moved into sole possession of fourth in the East. They moved two points ahead of the New York Rangers and prevented Pittsburgh from clinching the Atlantic Division title.
It was the second consecutive win following a season-high five-game skid for New Jersey, which visits Philadelphia on Friday before closing the regular season Sunday at home against the Rangers.
Brodeur earned his 42nd victory in his 38th straight start. He is 6-1-0 with a 1.84 GAA in his last seven starts against Boston.
The Devils have won two of three meetings this season against the Bruins, including a 4-3 overtime victory at the Prudential Center on Dec. 5. New Jersey is 8-3-0 in the last 11 matchups.
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