Playoff push continues against visiting Thrashers
Tuesday, 03.15.2011 / 9:30 AM
New Jersey DevilsTHRASHERS (29-28-12) at DEVILS (32-32-4)
MSG PLUS 2 RADIO --
WFAN 660 AM
Last 10 --
Atlanta 4-4-2; New Jersey 8-2-0
Season series --
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the teams and the second match in five days. The first two came in December and were won by the home team -- Atlanta scored a 7-1 triumph behind Eric Boulton's first career hat trick on Dec. 18, and ex-Thrashers Ilya Kovalchuk
(goal) and Johan Hedberg
(28 saves) played a part in a 3-1 New Jersey victory on Dec. 31. Last Friday, Travis Zajac
notched his first two-goal game of the season, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Devils earned a 3-2 win in Atlanta.
Big story --
Both teams are very much in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Devils, winners of two straight, are .500 for the first time this season and stand eight points behind the eighth-seeded New York Rangers with 14 games remaining. The Thrashers, who have won three of their last four contests, are two points ahead of New Jersey and six points from No. 8 New York with 13 games left.
While it might not have been what was drawn up by head coach Craig Ramsay, Atlanta was able to celebrate its fifth win over the last 20 meetings against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday by rallying from a 3-0 deficit. Defenseman Ron Hainsey deflected a pass from Evander Kane 1:17 into overtime to snap a 4-4 tie. Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Kane also scored for the Thrashers, while Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason combined for 21 saves. Atlanta held a shot advantage for the 14th time in the past 15 games in the victory. During that stretch, however, Atlanta has won just four times.
New Jersey has played nine one-goal games in a row and has come out victorious seven times. Following their back-to-back overtime decisions over the Thrashers and Islanders, the Devils are still within reach of NHL history -- the NHL record for points in the second half of an 82-game season. The Detroit Red Wings hold that mark with 70 points in 1995-96. With 14 games left, the Devils have accrued 46 points in the second half and could conceivably get to 74 -- with continued solid play and a little luck. With a 22-3-2 record in their last 27 games, the Devils are still in the running for a playoff spot.
Who's hot --
Even though New Jersey left wing Ilya Kovalchuk
was held without a point in the victory over the Islanders on Saturday, he still has 12 goals and 12 assists in the last 25 games. … Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
is 14-1-1 with a 1.81 GAA over his last 16 starts.
Injury report --
The Devils are without forward Zach Parise
(knee) and defensemen Matt Corrente (shoulder) and Matt Taormina
(ankle). … Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who limped off the ice midway through the third period of Saturday's win against the Flyers, is questionable. Forward Patrice Cormier (upper-body) is out.
Stat pack --
Enstrom has scored two goals in as many games to reach the 10-goal mark this season. His 51 points in 2010-11 represent a new team record for defensemen -- he has surpassed his own mark set last season with 50 points.
Puck drop --
The Devils hold a modern-day NHL record of not allowing a first-period goal to 16 straight opponents.