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Devils look to heat up for homestretch

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

A flurry of activity in the days leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline hasn't changed Peter DeBoer's outlook for his own club.

As general managers across the League have looked to tweak their rosters in advance of the 3 p.m. cutoff, the Devils' head coach said Tuesday that he's confident in his team's potential heading into the homestretch.

"As a coach, you coach the guys that you have in the room," DeBoer said. "I like the group we have in the room, and I believe the group in the room can get the job done."

The Devils held off-ice workouts Tuesday following a team meeting. With DeBoer's group looking to snap a four-game winless skid heading into Thursday's matchup in Boston, little needed to be said.

"Not a lot [to talk about], just more about the opportunity we have in front of us here over the next 12 games," DeBoer explained. "We're in a playoff spot, we control our own destiny, and we've got to take care of business and get some wins."

Monday's 3-1 loss to the Islanders was just the Devils' (15-12-9, 39 pts) third regulation defeat in their last 11 games (4-3-4), but they now hold only a two-point cushion over the Rangers and Isles, who were deadlocked in a battle for the final playoff spot in the East.

"Obviously with the home stretch now, you've gotta stay positive," Patrik Elias said. "We know what we're supposed to fix, and that's to find a way to win. It's not easy, but there's a fine line between that. We've seen the way it happened to us this past week. We've got to move forward. We have tough games coming up, really tough games. They'll be fun to play in."

New Jersey might hope for a repeat of last year, when they overcame a sluggish March and got hot at just the right time. They went 2-4-1 from March 13-25 before ending the regular season on a six-game winning streak.

That momentum eventually carried them within two wins of the Stanley Cup.

"We have to look ahead here," Adam Henrique said. "There's only 12 games left – we know we can win. We're in a good spot here. We're playing teams that are ahead of us, and that we can catch. Twelve games is not a lot, so we're just going to leave everything out there every night."

The Devils are still seeking their first win (0-1-3) since Ilya Kovalchuk was lost to a shoulder injury on March 23. Their next opportunity comes against a Bruins squad that on Tuesday acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas.

In the meantime, No. 17 has begun to rehab.

"He's going to be back," DeBoer said. "That's on the horizon, but it's not in the near future. That's something we can't control. We've got the 20 guys that we're going to put out on the ice Thursday night and then on the weekend; [those] are the guys that have to get the job done."

Regardless of Kovalchuk's status, DeBoer's message remains the same.

"You've got to have that stick-with-it mentality and that's something we've been preaching all year," he said. "For the most part, a lot of nights we've outshot and/or outchanced the other team. If you do that enough, it's going to translate into wins. You've got to stick with it."

Follow the Devils Communications department on Twitter: @NHLDevilsPR

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