GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (24-32-6-2) at New Jersey Devils (33-17-11-1).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The offensive production from a new top line has been a pleasant surprise
for the defensive-minded New Jersey Devils, especially Martin Brodeur.
After helping Brodeur become the first goaltender to record 30 victories in
nine straight seasons, the forward unit of Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias and Brian
Gionta lead the resurgent Devils into a matchup with the Atlanta Thrashers at
Continental Airlines Arena.
The line, formed eight games ago, accounted for four goals and seven assists
in Wednesday's 8-2 win over Buffalo. The lopsided victory allowed Brodeur to
break a tie with Patrick Roy for the most consecutive 30-win seasons.
Gomez, Elias and Gionta have 16 goals and 24 assists in their eight games as
a unit. New Jersey is 5-1-1 in the last seven, a stretch that followed a
three-game losing streak by Brodeur.
Last season's Vezina Trophy winner had to make only 20 saves Wednesday to
improve to 5-0-1 in his last six starts, and 30-17-10 in 2003-04.
"It's a pretty good accomplishment," Brodeur said of his newest record.
"I'm pretty excited about it."
The 31-year-old Brodeur is also the only goalie with four 40-win seasons,
and his 10 shutouts in 2003-04 are six shy of Tony Esposito's 34-year-old
single-season mark. Brodeur beat the Thrashers 3-0 at Philips Arena on Dec. 18.
"That's amazing," said Gionta, who had two goals and an assist Wednesday.
"He is the best goalie in the league, and year after year he shows it. It's
because of his work ethic. He never wants to get beat, be it practice, pregame
skate, warmups or in the game."
Elias, who has a team-record 11 points in the last three games, had two
goals and three assists against the Sabres. Gomez - who centers Elias and
Gionta - added three assists.
The Devils' eight goals Wednesday were their best total since they beat
Montreal 8-4 on Oct. 6, 2000. The Devils' previous single-game high this season
was seven goals against the New York Rangers on Saturday.
New Jersey will close out a three-game homestand Friday before beginning a
five-game road trip.
The Thrashers lost for the ninth time in 12 games Wednesday, 4-2 to the
Tampa Bay Lightning.
The game was tied 2-2 late in the third period when Tampa Bay's Vincent
Lecavalier sneaked behind the defense to score the winner on a breakaway with
1:24 remaining. Atlanta gave up the final goal into an empty net.
Ben Simon and Marc Savard scored for the Thrashers, who concluded a 3-4 road
trip Saturday but saw their home winless streak reach six (0-4-2).
"We can't lose games in the last minute," Savard said. "We work all year
on defensive zone, and that's where you've got to come up big."
STANDINGS (through Feb. 25): Thrashers - 56 points, 3rd place, 22 PB,
Southeast Division. Devils - 78 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 33 goals, 35 assists and 68
points; Francis Lessard, 127 PIM. Devils - Elias, 27 goals and 57 points;
Gomez, 37 assists; Colin White, 73 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 25): Thrashers - Power play: 14.6 percent (46
for 314), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (251 for 296), 11th.
Devils - Power play: 16.2 percent (38 for 234), 14th. Penalty killing: 85
percent (176 for 207), 9th.
GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Pasi Nurminen (20-23-5, 2 SO, 2.87 GAA); Frederic
Cassivi (no appearances). Devils - Brodeur (30-17-10, 10, 2.01); Scott
Clemmensen (1-1-0, 1, 1.53).
SEASON SERIES: Devils, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 25; Devils, 3-2. At East Rutherford, N.J., Jeff Friesen
scored the winner, his third goal in four games, after going without a goal in
10 straight contests.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 11-18-2-2 on the road; Devils - 18-10-4-1 at