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Led by two of the league's top goaltenders, the Devils and Calgary Flames are near the top of their respective conferences and hoping to make a run in the playoffs.
While Martin Brodeur and Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff have combined to win the last five Vezina Trophies, both are coming off very uncharacteristic performances.
Brodeur and Kiprusoff are expected to be in net tonight as they try to bounce back from one of their worst starts of the season when the Devils host the Flames (7 p.m., MSG Plus 2, WFAN 660 AM).
Brodeur missed nearly four months with a left elbow injury, yet didn't miss a beat when he returned for the Devils (42-20-3) two weeks ago.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner posted a 0.98 goals-against average with two shutouts in winning his first four starts since returning but struggled mightily his last time out.
Brodeur was pulled after stopping 20 of 26 shots over the first two periods of Saturday's 7-3 loss to the league-worst New York Islanders. It was the first time he had allowed six goals since Oct. 21, 2006 - a span of 162 games.
"I would like to have played better," said Brodeur, who remains three wins behind Patrick Roy's record of 551. "I felt good, but it just wasn't going my way."
Despite Saturday's loss, the Devils are second in the Eastern Conference and have a seven-point lead atop the Atlantic Division. Thanks in large part to the play of goalie Scott Clemmensen, who was sent to the minors upon Brodeur's return, New Jersey is 18-5-0 since Jan. 13 and has not dropped back-to-back games since Jan. 6 and 8.
Kiprusoff is also coming off a poor performance as his personal six-game win streak was snapped in Calgary's 5-2 loss to lowly Atlanta on Sunday.
The Thrashers scored on two of their four first-period shots and Kiprusoff finished with only 15 saves. The 2005-06 Vezina Trophy winner took full responsibility for the loss.
"You have to give your team a chance to win," said Kiprusoff, who was 6-0-0 with a 2.21 GAA in his previous seven games. "I didn't do that."
Calgary, which is 2-2-0 on a seven-game road trip, is third in the West and owns an eight-point lead over second-place Vancouver atop the Northwest.
Kiprusoff still leads the league with 39 victories and is nine wins shy of tying Brodeur's single-season record of 48 victories set in 2006-07 with 16 regular-season games remaining.
Kiprusoff is 0-2-1 with a 2.77 GAA lifetime versus New Jersey.
In Calgary's last game against the Devils on Dec. 23, 2007, New Jersey won 1-0 on Patrik Elias' goal in overtime. Brodeur made 30 saves for the win and is 3-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA and one shutout versus the Flames since the 2000-01 season.
Elias, who scored his 26th goal Saturday, has four goals in his last three games versus Calgary. With 697 career points, Elias is four away from tying John MacLean for the franchise lead.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla scored his 30th goal Saturday, giving him nine goals and eight assists during a season-high eight-game point streak. He had two goals and an assist in the Flames' last game in New Jersey, a 4-1 victory on Dec. 7, 2005.
|Mar 10 '09||CGY 2 at NJD 3||Z. Parise|
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