NJD Preview: Devils at Lightning
Sunday, 11.23.2008 / 5:00 PM
New Jersey Devils
newjerseydevils.com – The Devils try to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games this afternoon when they face the Lightning in Tampa Bay (5 p.m., MSG Plus, Bloomberg 1130 AM).
For the Devils, the contest opens a five-game road trip that continues Wednesday at Florida and Saturday at Pittsburgh. The team then visits Philadelphia (Dec. 4) and Montreal (Dec. 6).
The Devils (10-7-2) are riding high following Friday's 5-2 win over the New York Islanders. Brian Gionta had a goal and an assist, while Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner each matched a career high with three assists.
Kevin Weekes stopped 27 New York shots to record his 100th career victory, and the Devils won their third in a row to match their longest streak of the campaign.
New Jersey has won four straight and seven of eight versus the Lightning, including a 4-3 decision in the shootout on Nov. 5. Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias scored in that shootout and Weekes stopped Jussi Jokinen and Vaclav Prospal to clinch it.
Weekes had been benched in favor of Scott Clemmensen the previous three games after posting a 3.25 goals-against average in his first four starts replacing the injured Martin Brodeur.
"It's always fun when you get a chance to play," said Weekes, who spent a season and a half with Tampa earlier this decade. "It's a privilege to play in the NHL and I've always had that attitude my entire career. This one was pretty special."
Elias has helped to fuel New Jersey's winning ways. He has recorded three straight multi-point games, including two assists Friday, and now has eight points (4g-4a) in his last four contests.
Elias, second on the Devils with 17 points (8g-9a), has a goal and an assist in each of his last two games versus the Lightning. Gionta has scored in three straight games - he also has two assists in that span - and has four goals in his last three games at Tampa.
The Devils will be missing defenseman Mike Mottau, who was suspended for two games by the NHL for elbowing Islanders forward Frans Nielsen on Friday.
Tampa Bay (6-7-6) has gotten points in all three games since Rick Tocchet took over behind the bench for Barry Melrose, who was fired Nov. 14 after the team's third straight defeat and fifth in six games - the first of which was a 4-3 shootout loss at New Jersey on Nov. 5.
The Lightning followed Melrose's abrupt departure with two shootout losses before getting Tocchet his first coaching victory on Friday, 4-1 over Nashville.