Devils return home to take on Thrashers
Monday, 12.28.2009 / 7:00 PM
THRASHERS (18-15-4) at DEVILS (26-9-1)
Last 10 -- Atlanta 3-6-1; New Jersey 8-2-0
Season series -- Third of four meetings this season. Atlanta won 4-2 in New Jersey on Oct. 16 and the Devils rebounded with a 5-4 victory in Atlanta on Dec. 19. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was relieved by backup Yann Danis in the last meeting after allowing three goals on six shots, marking the first time the future Hall of Fame goalie was removed from a game since March 7 at Long Island. Dean McAmmond scored a pair of goals for the Devils.
Big Story -- There's a good chance the Devils might have feisty right wing David Clarkson (7 goals, 15 points) back in their lineup against Atlanta. Clarkson, who has been sidelined the past 13 games with a broken bone above his ankle, returned to practice last week. A decision on whether or not he'll suite up against the Thrashers won't be determined until after practice on Monday. Additionally, center Dainius Zubrus, who's been out the last 15 games with a broken kneecap, is also close to returning.
"I feel good," Clarkson said following practice on Sunday. "I feel like I'm ready. I think I'll be in (Monday), I don't know. That will be for you guys (the media) to ask, but I'd like to be playing."
Thrashers -- The Thrashers are averaging a respectable 3.71 goals per game over their last seven matches (2-4-1) but aren't helping matters defensively by allowing 4.28 over that stretch. The club has been struggling on specialty teams, allowing two or more power-play goals in four of its last six games. That's a far cry from the team's first 30 games of the season when it yielded two-or-more just once. Second-year defenseman Zach Bogosian has been held without a goal in his past 20 games -- after registering 8 over Atlanta's first 17 contests of the season. He has dished three assists over the last two games and has 8 for the season.
Devils -- The Devils are returning home following a three-game road trip -- they've won 12 of their last 15 games. Goalie Martin Brodeur is now the all-time leader in games played, wins, shutouts and minutes played by an NHL goalie. His 35-save, 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday moved him one shutout ahead of Terry Sawchuk as the all-time leader with 104. If Brodeur does get the start against Atlanta, it would mark his first contest at Prudential Center since setting the new shutout record, so expect a rousing ovation.
Who's Hot -- Atlanta captain Ilya Kovalchuk scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and has points in nine straight games, collecting 6 goals and 8 assists over that stretch.
Injury Report -- Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen (back surgery) has finally resumed skating with the team but remains out. … For the Devils, Clarkson and Zubrus are on the mend while defenseman Paul Martin (broken arm) will miss another four weeks.
Stat Pack -- The two big off-season acquisitions by Atlanta general manager Don Waddell -- forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Pavel Kubina -- are paying dividends. Antropov has points in six straight games (6 goals) and eight of his last nine overall (8 goals). Meanwhile, Kubina is fourth among NHL defensemen and ninth overall with a plus-14 rating this season.
Puck Drop -- The Thrashers have scored seven goals in four periods against Brodeur this season. Rich Peverley scored a pair of power-play goals and Chris Thorburn connected shorthanded when Atlanta last visited Newark in October. The Thrashers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak that began following a 5-4 loss to the Devils on Dec. 19. Will Devils coach Jacques Lemaire give Brodeur a rest and insert Danis into the lineup? Brodeur has started 15 consecutive games and has appeared in 22 straight.