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At halfway mark, Devils seek second wind

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

With their losing streak behind them, the Devils are looking to get a little momentum going.

Head coach Peter DeBoer is preparing his club for a backstretch that begins with this weekend's back-to-back at Carolina on Saturday and at home versus Winnipeg on Sunday.

"I think [the pressure's] going to be on for the next 24 games here," DeBoer said Friday. "Obviously, we cannot afford to go through anything like [the losing streak] again. This is going to be a full sprint the last 24 games to the finish line."

Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo ended an 0-5-1 slide and secured an 11-8-5 record at the halfway mark. The Devils erased a 2-0 deficit on third-period goals by Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias before capturing their first shootout victory of the season.

"We needed that win, mentally," DeBoer said. "Obviously, you hope that translates into a winning streak, but at the end of the day, the bottom line is you're going to have to win two out of every three games down the stretch in order to make sure you get a playoff spot. That's what we're looking for."

Johan Hedberg made 23 saves, then stopped shootout attempts by Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville to pick up his first win in his last seven starts.

"Personally, I think it was very important," Hedberg said. "It was good to see some smiling faces again and to go home and not have to think about it too much in negative terms. I'm sure that we're going to try to build off that win. Confidence is a funny thing in sports: one day you have it, then a couple of days later, it's gone. I'm sure that we all feel better about ourselves now. We feel that we can win."

The Devils disrupted two other negative trends: they won for just the third time this season when allowing the first goal (3-7-3) and for only the second time when trailing after two periods (2-5-1).

But for a squad looking to solidify its positioning within the top eight in the conference, there's still work to be done. 

"We want to win two out of three – we want to win three out of three," Hedberg said. "But I always take it one game at a time anyway. Every time you step on the ice, it's a game to be won. Whenever that game's over with, you move on to the next."

Saturday brings a meeting with the Hurricanes, the team that snapped the Devils' season-high five-game winning streak back on Feb. 12.

Hedberg's recipe for success calls for more of the same.

"We keep doing what we've been doing – hopefully spice that up with the confidence from winning a game and knowing that we can put the puck in the net – and come away with a couple of points," he said. "I think we've been doing a lot of good things over this losing stretch, too, it's just that pucks haven't been going our way. Consistency is the biggest thing you can have as a team."

• Henrik Tallinder (lower body) will not travel with the team to Carolina. He was a late scratch Thursday after getting hurt in warm-ups. 

• Friday's practice was limited to Krys Barch and Adam Larsson, who were healthy scratches on Thursday, backup Jeff Frazee and Stefan Matteau.

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