NEWARK, N.J. -- In a season when the New Jersey Devils haven't fared well after allowing the first goal of the game, their inexplicable start in a loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, with a Stanley Cup Playoff berth on the line, left coach Peter DeBoer speechless.
The Devils will look to make amends Friday at Prudential Center against the Ottawa Senators, marking the fifth straight meeting against a Northeast Division opponent. Entering the game 1-5-6 against the Northeast this season, the Devils will be looking to snap an eight-game winless streak (0-4-4) against a team that just snapped its own five-game skid with a 3-1 win at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
The Devils will have defenseman Adam Larsson back in the lineup after he sat out Wednesday with a sore right foot. However, the team will be without defensemen Bryce Salvador (wrist) and Anton Volchenkov (suspended), as well as right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (shoulder).
Kovalchuk will miss his ninth straight game Friday. He hasn't played since injuring his right shoulder in the third period of a victory against the Florida Panthers on March 23. He did not skate with the team Friday morning and reiterated to reporters Thursday that he wasn't 100 percent.
"We have eight games left and if we don't get a win pretty soon … this is a must-win for us, and while [Kovalchuk] is a big part of this team and we miss him, we've lost a lot of important guys in this room over the years and we've found a way to rise above and play, and we have to do that right now," Devils forward David Clarkson said.
The Devils' winless skid coincided with Kovalchuk's absence.
"[Kovalchuk] is not ready yet," DeBoer said. "If he was close already, he'd be playing. I never said he was going to play [Friday]. You guys [the media] did, so it's the same story … he's day-to-day and not ready to play right now."
Volchenkov, sixth on the team in hits (46) and fourth in blocked shots (42), will be serving the first of a four-game suspension for his elbow to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the third period of the loss Wednesday.
"We've got eight defensemen here so you can't worry about [Volchenkov being out]," DeBoer said. "Larsson and [Peter] Harrold will be in and you have to find a way to get the job done."
Scoring that elusive first goal will be the key, as it has been all season for the Devils. New Jersey is 12-1-4 when scoring first, but 3-14-6 when yielding the first goal.
Martin Brodeur, who made 13 saves in a 5-4 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday, is expected to make his 11th straight start in goal for the Devils. Since his return to the lineup from a pinched nerve in his neck March 21, Brodeur is 2-4-4 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
Here is how the Devils might line up, as well as the Senators lineup. The only Senators skating Friday were players scratched from the game Thursday, so it's likely coach Paul MacLean sticks with the same winning group he used in Philadelphia on Thursday:
Suspended: Anton Volchenkov
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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