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Chi-town win a hard-fought effort

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Brad Mills celebrates his first NHL goal.
Wednesday's win in Chicago was more than just a strong showing against the defending Stanley Cup champions. It was confirmation that when they're firing on all cylinders, the banged-up Devils can still hang with the League's elite.

New Jersey was without Zach Parise, who will be sidelined for three months following knee surgery. The Devils also played the final 34 minutes of the game without Martin Brodeur, who left in the second period with a bruised right elbow.

Brodeur was hurt by a Patrick Kane shot and, after a visit from the Devils' trainer, headed off at 5:48. Johan Hedberg entered and answered the bell with a 21-save relief effort. X-rays were negative for Brodeur, who stopped all eight shots he faced.

The 5-3 decision was New Jersey's first regulation win in Chicago since March 20, 2002, and capped a 2-4-0 record on the six-game trip. New Jersey improved to 4-9-1 on the season and moved ahead of Buffalo and Florida, who sit tied in the Eastern Conference cellar.

The travel plans get much easier from here on out. With 68 games remaining, the Devils will leave the Eastern time zone only twice the rest of the way.

Player moves
On Thursday, the Devils recalled forwards Stephen Gionta and Patrick Davis, and assigned forward Tim Sestito and defenseman Tyler Eckford to Albany (AHL).

Gionta, 27, is the younger brother of ex-Devil Brian and will be looking to make his NHL debut. The Albany captain has two goals, three assists in eight games with New Jersey's top AHL affiliate.

Davis, 23, debuted with New Jersey 2008-09 and scored a goal in eight appearances with the big club last season. He has a goal and two assists in seven games with Albany.

By the numbers
In Parise's absence, head coach John MacLean has used a top line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. The trio was effective Wednesday, clicking for two goals and five assists against the Blackhawks. Zajac's first-period tally was his second of the season and gave New Jersey its first two-goal lead in seven games. It also snapped a frustrating 12-game drought for the centerman, who had gone without a goal since Opening Night.

Langenbrunner, meanwhile, has started to heat things up since going the first 10 games without a goal. The captain now has two goals, two assists for four points in his last four games. His first of the year was the tying goal in the Devils' 2-1 win at Anaheim last Friday.

In Chicago, Langenbrunner scored into an empty net to give the Devils a 4-2 advantage with 50 seconds left in regulation. That cushion came in handy after Chicago's Viktor Stalberg trimmed the lead to 4-3 with 34 seconds remaining. Andy Greene finally sealed the game on an empty-netter with eight seconds to go, marking the first time the Devils scored two empty-net goals in one game.

Brodeur left Wednesday's game in the second period.
Hed of the class
After a tough start to his season, Hedberg fully earned his first win as a Devil. He was outstanding Wednesday in relief of Brodeur.

Hedberg's first two appearances of 2010-11 had been less than memorable. When he relieved Brodeur at Washington back on Oct. 9, he misplayed a puck that led to a Brooks Laich shorthanded goal, one of two tallies he allowed in the 7-2 rout. He didn't fare much better in his first start, giving up four goals on 15 shots before he waspulled in a 6-1 defeat by the Sabres on Oct. 23.

But the man they call "Moose" was superb in Chicago. If the Blackhawks smelled blood with Brodeur out of the game, Hedberg proved he was up for the challenge. He was tested almost immediately and produced two big saves on Jack Skille, including a gem on his breakaway at 7:24.

Location, location, location
The Devils generated their offense in high-traffic areas, demonstrating a willingness to get down and dirty for scoring chances. Jason Arnott drove to the front of the net and converted on an Elias pass to make it 1-0, and Zajac scored off of a loose puck from below the hash marks to double the Devils' lead. Brad Mills, who notched his first career goal in only his third NHL game, skated to the side of the net to bank the tiebreaker off of Marty Turco and into the net.

Home sweet home?
Winless in five tries on home ice (0-4-1), the Devils will have a chance to end that skid against the rival Rangers on Friday. That opens a three-game homestand that will see the Devils host Buffalo on Wednesday, and Edmonton on Friday. New Jersey lost a 3-1 decision to the Rangers at MSG on Oct. 24, and have split two meetings with the Sabres.

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