Before this season, Scott Clemmensen's most decorated days as a goaltender came when he led Boston College to a national championship.
Now that he's finally established himself in the NHL, Clemmensen will bring a five-start winning streak to Boston on Thursday night as the red-hot New Jersey Devils look to slow down the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.
A starter for four seasons in Chestnut Hill, Clemmensen went 30-7-2 with a 2.12 goals-against average for BC in 2000-01, and made 34 saves in the Eagles' 3-2 overtime win over North Dakota in the NCAA title game.
But that success didn't immediately translate in the NHL, where he had won a total of eight games in five seasons with a 2.95 GAA through last spring.
When four-time Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur underwent arm surgery earlier this season, Clemmensen seized the opportunity. His 2.25 GAA ranks sixth in the league, and he earned his 20th win of the season with 21 saves in a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Tuesday.
"Why stop at 20? There's more to go and you take it one game at a time and hopefully 20 can become 21, and then 22, 23, and so on, so forth," Clemmensen said.
Clemmensen's play has helped vault New Jersey (30-15-3) back among the East's top teams. The Devils have won their last six games overall, with five of those coming on the road, and they've allowed nine total goals during the streak.
Jamie Langenbrunner scored twice in the win over the Senators, while Brian Gionta - a teammate of Clemmensen and Bruins forward Chuck Kobasew during BC's championship season - assisted on Patrik Elias' first-period goal.
New Jersey is averaging more than three goals per game, the first time the club has scored at such a clip since 2000-01.
As impressive as the Devils have been this season, they're still 12 points behind Boston (35-8-5). The Bruins returned from the break with a 3-2 overtime win over Washington on Tuesday, moving to 18-3-2 at home this season.
David Krejci scored the game-winner for Boston, which extended its edge over its closest competition in the East to 11 points. The Bruins also are getting healthier, with forwards Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic and defenseman Andrew Ference all returning from injuries against the Capitals.
Bergeron, out 15 games after his second concussion in his many seasons, assisted on Marc Savard's second-period goal.
"It was nice to see him back," Bruins coach Claude Julien said, "not only for us, but for his teammates."
They will get another boost on Thursday, with Phil Kessel cleared to return from mononucleosis. Kessel, who had an 18-game points streak earlier this season, leads the team with 24 goals.
But the top star for Boston against the Capitals was Tim Thomas, who made 34 saves. Like Clemmensen, Thomas was a college standout who took a few years to catch on in the NHL, but the former Vermont goaltender was the winner in the All-Star game and is now third in the league with a 2.08 GAA.
Thomas beat New Jersey with 25 saves in the Bruins' 2-0 win in Newark on Dec. 23, while Clemmensen allowed just one goal on 23 shots.
Clemmensen hasn't played in Boston since stopping 40 of 44 shots in a 5-3 loss on Dec. 14, 2006. He's 1-1-0 with a 3.86 GAA in two career starts at the TD Banknorth Garden.
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