Key points on line for both Devils, Bruins
Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 7:00 PM
DEVILS (34-34-4) at BRUINS (39-22-10)
TV: MSG PLUS (HD), NESN (HD)
Last 10: New Jersey 7-3-0; Boston 4-3-3
Season series: Third of four meetings this season -- these teams conclude the regular season against each other in Newark on April 10. The Bruins had their way with the Devils twice early on, getting Jordan Caron's first NHL goal as part of a 4-1 win on Oct. 16 in New Jersey, and a 28-save effort from Tim Thomas for a 3-0 victory on Nov. 15 in Boston.
Big story: Although the Bruins have two games in hand on the Canadiens, who host the Sabres on Tuesday, their lead in the Northeast Division is down to a single point over the Habs. The Devils, meanwhile, must look at every remaining game as a virtual must-win as their playoff hopes, while flickering, nevertheless remain alive.
Devils: Dropping consecutive games at the end of last week for the first time since early January moved New Jersey's margin for error from slim to basically none. The Devils avoided what would have been a disastrous third straight loss and started out a four-game road trip in solid fashion with a 3-0 win over the Blue Jackets on Sunday. David Clarkson scored twice and Martin Brodeur had one of the quieter shutouts of his career, needing to stop just 13 shots in his 115th all-time whitewashing.
"We didn't really get too comfortable after we got up 3-0 … we stuck to the way that made us successful early in the game," said Nick Palmieri, who also scored. "It was a complete game for us tonight."
Bruins: The return of Tomas Kaberle to Toronto was a rollicking good time for the fans at the Air Canada Centre. They cheered the veteran defenseman who was traded to Boston last month during an early video tribute, then continued to cheer as the Maple Leafs dealt the Bruins a 5-2 setback, scoring four consecutive goals after Adam McQuaid briefly knotted the score at 1-1 in the opening period. It was their sixth loss in seven games, but veteran Mark Recchi wasn't acting concerned.
"I think this last 11 games will be very good for our hockey club, and I think we'll be fine," he said. "I'm looking at the big picture and I know that the guys care in here and the guys want to win. We'll get our focus and regain it."
Who's hot: In five games since being put together on a line, Clarkson and rookies Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby have combined for 5 goals and 9 assists for the Devils. ... David Krejci was held scoreless for the Bruins on Saturday, but has 5 goals and 16 assists over his last 18 games.
Injury report: New Jersey could activate forward Zach Parise (knee) and defenseman Matthew Corrente (shoulder) off injured reserve before the end of the season, though at the moment nothing is imminent. ... Bruins defenseman Shane Hnidy (shoulder) remains on injured reserve. Forward Brad Marchand is eligible to return to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension.
Stat pack: Brodeur has faced only 25 shots in his last two starts, as the Capitals tested him with 12 in their win over the Devils on Friday. ... Thomas still leads the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage, but his leads have shrunk to Pekka Rinne of the Predators -- 2.08 to 2.09 in GAA and .937 to .930 in save percentage.
Puck drop: With a record of 21-22-2 this season, Brodeur is attempting to avoid finishing with fewer wins than regulation losses for the first time in his career. He spoke about the run New Jersey has been on (now 24-5-2 since Jan. 9) after the Columbus game.
"I think the turnaround is pretty exceptional, there's no doubt about that," Brodeur said. "Especially in the situation we were in. We've gotten on some pretty good rolls throughout my career. I think this situation, to be able to turn it around and do what we did, has been a lot more fun."