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Devils look to regroup before stretch run

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

The Devils are headed into the All-Star break eager to recharge and reload for a playoff push.

Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to Buffalo extended the Devils' skid to three games, but the point they gained kept them eighth in the East. They now have five days off before returning to practice on Monday, then host the East-leading Rangers on Tuesday.

"You have to take advantage of these breaks because it's a long season," Martin Brodeur said. "For sure, the last few games we played, we lost two big games and lost this one in a shootout, it'll be nice to just get away a little bit.

"We've played a lot of games on the road, so it's just being with our families and just hanging for awhile. You don't have to be anywhere for three or four days, it's going to be good to reenergize ourselves for the last push, here."

The Devils will have their work cut out for them. Thirteen of their remaining 34 games are against opponents currently sitting in the top four of their conference: five against the Rangers; three against the Flyers; and one each against Boston, Detroit, St. Louis, Vancouver and Washington.

"Hopefully, we'll come back ready and fresh again for the push," said leading scorer Patrik Elias. "It's a tough schedule we have remaining, tough games right away from the get-go. We just need to be better."

Shots favored the Devils, 28-14, on Tuesday, but Ryan Miller made 27 saves, including a highlight-reel stop on Ilya Kovalchuk in overtime. New Jersey dropped just its second shootout of the year (8-2) and first since Oct. 21 (vs. S.J.)

"I thought we deserved better, but that's the way it goes," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've been on the other end of a couple of those this year. It tends to even out."

With one goal in each of their last three contests, including 4-1 defeats to Boston and Philadelphia, the Devils hope to rediscover their scoring touch.

"We did some good things this week, we didn't get rewarded for it," DeBoer said. "You've got to keep moving forward in this League. If you drag that into the next week, it's counterproductive. We have to keep moving forward.

"There's some things we have to get better at, obviously, we scored one goal three games in a row, but we did a lot more to generate offense [Tuesday]. We had a lot more bodies at the net, we created a lot more quality chances. We started to fix some of the things I think will lead to some scoring as we go forward here."

It was announced Wednesday that Adam Henrique (groin) and Adam Larsson (wrist) will miss the All-Star Weekend in Ottawa. The festivities begin with Thursday night's Fantasy Draft.

The Skills Competition is Saturday at 7 p.m., and the All-Star Game is set for Sunday at 4 p.m.

Henrique is second among rookies with 34 points (13g, 21a), while Larsson leads rookie defensemen with 15 points (2g, 13a).

"We've had a tough little stretch here, but for the most part, we've been moving in the right direction," Henrique said. "I think that's important. We're going to be busy coming up after the break. Obviously we're in the hunt for those last few playoff spots."

The Devils expect to welcome back defenseman Andy Greene (toe) and center Travis Zajac (soreness) some time after the break. Greene, sidelined for 22 games so far, has resumed skating on his own.

Zajac played in eight games after returning from offseason Achilles surgery and was shut down on Jan. 11.

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