Last 10: New Jersey 8-1-1; Toronto 5-5-0
Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Jonas Gustavsson, who is currently serving a two-week conditioning stint in the AHL, led Toronto to a pair of victories over New Jersey with 29-save efforts in a 3-1 win on Nov. 18 at the Air Canada Centre and a 4-1 victory on Dec. 26 at the Prudential Center.
Big story: While the debate rages on as to whether it's too late for the Devils to make a run at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the fact remains there are still five teams they would have to climb over to get there, and the Maple Leafs are currently the closest in the standings. Toronto is seven points ahead of New Jersey and has won four of its last five, with rookie goalie James Reimer leading the way.
Devils: Part of what makes New Jersey's task so difficult was illustrated Tuesday night, when the Devils rallied for what, by all accounts, was a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Hurricanes. Nick Palmieri converted an Ilya Kovalchuk rebound with 2:54 left in the third period and Mattias Tedenby won it 2:42 into the extra period with his second goal of the game. But by not picking up the victory in regulation, New Jersey only made up one point on eighth-place Carolina instead of two.
"The confidence is definitely higher than the first couple of months," said Johan Hedberg, who made 20 saves and picked up the secondary assist on the winning goal. "This is probably a game we would have lost earlier in the year. It was great to come back and get this one with the young guys getting the goals."
Maple Leafs: Sensing blood in the water, Toronto struck early and set the tone for Tuesday's game against the Islanders. New York was forced to start backup Mikko Koskinen in his NHL debut after fellow rookie Kevin Poulin injured himself in warm-ups, and the Maple Leafs scored on their first two shots of the game. The Islanders eventually tied the score, but Tomas Kaberle's goal 2:34 into the third led the Leafs to a 5-3 win.
"This time of the year, with where we are in the standings, we have to put games together," said Colby Armstrong, who opened the scoring and added a pair of assists. "If you look at the standings, you see we're sniffing closer and closer. It seems that teams get points every night, going to OT or shootouts. We have to worry about ourselves and get our points and our wins where we can."
Who's hot: Kovalchuk has 3 goals and 3 assists during a five-game points streak for the Devils. Travis Zajac has 2 goals and 4 assists during a three-game points streak. … Nikolai Kulemin (4-3-7) and Armstrong (1-6-7) have five-game points streaks going for the Maple Leafs. Kaberle, a big name often mentioned around the trade deadline, has 1 goal and 5 assists over his last five games.
Injury report: New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov received a three-game suspension due to an elbowing incident against Carolina on Tuesday. Goalie Martin Brodeur is day-to-day after spraining his knee against Montreal on Sunday. … Toronto forwards Colton Orr (concussion) and Mike Brown (upper body) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Devils veteran defenseman Colin White had a pair of assists and was plus-3 against the Hurricanes. He is plus-12 over his last 11 games, while fellow blueliner Henrik Tallinder is plus-12 over his last 13 games. … Jay Rosehill scored his first goal of the season and his second in 26 career games in the Maple Leafs' win over the Islanders.
Puck drop: Reimer, who has posted a 6-4-0 record with a 2.44 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in his first 11 appearances, was sympathetic to the plight Koskinen faced Tuesday night.
"I felt bad for him -- not expecting to play and then getting thrown in there, and then the first two shots go in," Reimer said. "Those weren't bad goals by any means -- they were a good shot and a good tip. I felt bad for him, but he battled hard."