THRASHERS (2-1-0) at DEVILS (3-2-0)
Season series -- The Devils, who took three of four games in 2008-09, will meet Atlanta for the first time this season. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur notched a shutout against the Thrashers last season in his first start and was blanking them again in his second before suffering the torn biceps tendon that would keep him out much of the season. For his career, Brodeur is 18-6-8 with a 2.03 GAA and 6 shutouts against the Southeast Division foe.
Big Story -- With back-to-back home games looming against the Thrashers tonight and Carolina on Saturday, there's a good chance backup goalie Yann Danis might receive his first start of the season for New Jersey. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire did confirm Thursday, however, that Brodeur would start against the Thrashers. He's started all five games for New Jersey this season, going 3-2-0 with a 2.93 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. Similarly, with consecutive road games in New Jersey and Buffalo, Atlanta coach John Anderson said backup Johan Hedberg would make his first start of the season at some point this weekend. Current starter Ondrej Pavelec is 2-1-0 with a 3.02 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Thrashers -- Following two solid victories to start the season, the Thrashers had a bit of a letdown in a 4-2 loss in Ottawa last Saturday -- and head coach John Anderson wasn't happy about it. The club allowed two goals in the opening three minutes of the game before tying the score by the end of the first. The Senators, however, pulled away with goals in the second and third periods.
"I don't think we competed as well as we should have," Anderson said. "We did not compete in the corners. We weren't as good as we were in St. Louis (a 2-1 win). I hope it doesn't bite us in the rear end 50 games down the road. We cannot play that way and expect to make the playoffs."
Devils -- Following two straight home losses to open the season, the Devils went 3-0 on their first road trip with victories over the Lightning, Panthers and Capitals. Coach Jacques Lemaire adjusted his lineup prior to his game against Washington on Monday and continued the line shuffling during the week at practice. Lemaire also reiterated to the local media during the week that he'll try and use Patrik Elias at center when he's ready to return from arthroscopic groin surgery.
Who's Hot -- Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk has five goals through three games. Last season, it took Atlanta's captain 12 games to reach five goals. Devils wing David Clarkson stretched his points streak to four games (2 goals, 5 points) following his goal against Washington on Monday. He notched just one assist in his first five games last season. Additionally, Travis Zajac, the fourth-year centerman for the Devils, has 3 goals and 5 points in five games.
Injury Report -- Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen, who is recovering from off-season back surgery, is still listed as day-to-day. Elias, who began skating Oct. 29 following groin surgery in September, remains sidelined but is close to making a return. Devils defenseman Mark Fraser, out with a head injury suffered in a Sept. 24 fight with Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo, is on short-term injured reserve but is back practicing.
Stat Pack -- Kovalchuk has posted 14 goals and 22 points in 25 career games against New Jersey. Kovalchuk, who has scored more goals and more power-play goals (105) than any other player since he joined the NHL in 2001-02, registered the 300th and 301st goals of his career in a 4-2 victory over St. Louis on Oct. 8. The Devils' top line of Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner has averaged a ton of ice time in the early going of 2009-10 -- something coach Jacques Lemaire will certainly keep an eye on. Langenbrunner has averaged 22:20 per game, Zajac 22:01 and Parise 19:59.
Puck Drop -- The Thrashers possess two of the most promising young players in the League in rookie forward Evander Kane and sophomore defenseman Zach Bogosian. Both players will be making their debut at Prudential Center against the Devils. Bogosian missed 28 games with a broken leg last season.
--Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com