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Devils look to tame the Northwest

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Captain Jamie Langenbrunner is the Devils' leading scorer against the Canucks and Flames.

email – Divisional opponents in the NHL face each other eight times over the course of the regular season, leaving little time for interconference showdowns.

The Devils, who open a three-game road swing Tuesday night in Vancouver, have embarked on a rare trip through Canada's western provinces that puts them in Edmonton on Friday and Calgary on Sunday.

New Jersey last met the Northwest Division in 2005-06, going 3-1-1 over five home contests, including an overtime loss to Colorado. The club will be making its first appearances in Vancouver and Edmonton since 2001.

Riding an 11-2-1 stretch, the Devils left home on a high note following Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.

John Madden scored twice and Martin Brodeur stopped a Daniel Briere penalty shot as the Devils beat the Flyers for a 10th consecutive time in the Garden State.

A Rangers' 5-1 loss to Phoenix on Sunday meant that head coach Brent Sutter's group had extended its lead in the Atlantic Division to four points over the Rangers and Flyers.

Now New Jersey puts its 5-2-1 December mark to the test against a couple of teams that have historically been tough hosts when the Devils roll into town.

Slumping with one win in its last five, Vancouver remains tied with Minnesota for first place in the Northwest. Calgary, meanwhile, has won six of seven including five straight on the road to pull even with Colorado for second place, one point behind the Canucks and Wild.

The Devils have an all-time road mark of 5-16-2 against the Canucks, and their last stop at GM Place on Dec. 29, 2001 ended in a 4-2 loss. Their most recent encounter on Jan. 13, 2006 resulted in a 3-0 Devils win at New Jersey, as Martin Brodeur made 26 saves for his 78th career shutout.

When it comes to welcoming the Devils, Calgary has been similarly inhospitable. New Jersey's visits to the Pengrowth Saddledome have yielded a record of 5-11-6 against the Flames, including a 5-4 OT defeat on March 5, 2003.

Jamie Langenbrunner potted a goal in the loss, and will be one of the Devils to keep an eye on this week. The Devils' captain leads the team with 14 points (4g-10a) in 23 games versus Calgary, and 17 points (9g-8a) in 21 meetings with Edmonton.

The last win in Alberta for the Devils came with a 2-1 topping of the Oilers on Dec. 30, 2001. Since then New Jersey has made short work of Edmonton, going 2-1-0 in their last three meetings, all on home ice.

The Oilers, a surprise Stanley Cup finalist in 2006, currently sit a point behind Anaheim for the final playoff spot in the West.

The Devils will enter Friday's match-up at Rexall Place in Edmonton with a 9-9-5 road record against the Oilers. New Jersey has won the last two meetings over head coach Craig MacTavish's squad, both on home ice.

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