Devils head to Atlanta to battle Thrashers
Saturday, 12.19.2009 / 7:00 PM
NHL.comDEVILS (24-8-1) at THRASHERS (18-12-3)
New Jersey 8-2-0; Atlanta 5-5-0
Second of four meetings this season. Atlanta won 4-2 in New Jersey on Oct. 16, part of a stretch where the Devils lost their first three and four of their first five games at the Prudential Center. Rich Peverley scored a pair of power-play goals, the second of which held up as the game-winner, Chris Thorburn added a shorthanded goal and rookie Evander Kane also tallied for the Thrashers. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves.
Despite changing coaches during the offseason, despite their early struggles to win on home ice and despite a slew of injuries over the first few months, the Devils start play Saturday with the best record in the League. New Jersey is tied with Pittsburgh atop the standings with 49 points, but the Devils have played two fewer games and have two fewer losses than the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The beat rolls on in New Jersey, as the Devils won four of five on a homestand that just concluded. Jay Pandolfo
scored late in the second period and Bryce Salvador
came up with a fluke goal in the third for insurance in a 4-2 victory over Ottawa on Saturday. Salvador's goal told the story of how things have gone for the Devils of late, as he sent the puck on net from outside the Senators' blue line. Brian Elliott deflected it up into the air but lost track of the puck, and when it came down it went off his back and into the net.
"It's a goal-scorer's goal," Salvador joked about his first of the season. "Top corner, that's what I'll tell my kids."
If an opposing team wants to engage Atlanta in a battle of offenses, they are probably asking for trouble. The Thrashers are much more than Ilya Kovalchuk these days, as Peverley, Maxim Afinogenov and Nik Antropov have only added to their potency. Dallas found that out on Thursday when Peverley's second of the game 1:16 into overtime helped Atlanta pull off a 6-5 win. Kovalchuk, Afinogenov and Antropov all had power-play goals in the game.
"It's very good. When everybody is scoring that's fun," Kovalchuk said. "Pevs, he gave us some big goals with the shorthanded goal, and then in OT when Maxy gave him a great pass and he scored the goal. It's nice to see those guys scoring."
Who's hot: Patrik Elias
has four goals and three assists during a six-game points streak for the Devils. Linemate Brian Rolston
has two goals and three assists during a four-game points streak.
Kovalchuk has regained the Thrashers' scoring lead from Peverley during a five-game points streak that has seen him record three goals and five assists. Peverley and Afinogenov both registered three-point nights against the Stars.
New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin
and forwards Dainius Zubrus
and David Clarkson
remain on injured reserve. … Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen and defenseman Mark Popovic are sidelined.
After playing in his 1,030th NHL game Friday and breaking Patrick Roy's old mark, the goaltending record that still remains for Martin Brodeur
to break this season is shutouts. He has 103 and remains tied with Terry Sawchuk. If Brodeur starts Saturday, he will be facing a Thrashers team he has blanked six times in his career, with four coming in Atlanta.
The Devils own a League-best 11-2-1 road record, while the Thrashers have been better of late at Philips Arena, winning four of their last five after a 4-5-2 start.