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Bruins, Devils enter rivalry matchup in need of win

by John Kreiser

Both the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils head into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN/TSN2) desperate for points, though for different reasons.

The Bruins are all but assured of a playoff berth, but they are trying to catch the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Northeast Division, which would assure them of no worse than the second seed in the Eastern Conference when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin at the end of this month.

In contrast, the Devils are scrambling just to make the playoffs -- they begin the night on the outside looking in at the top eight in the East and need a win if they hope to avoid missing out for the second time in three years.

Here's a statistical look at two teams that could see each other in the opening round:

Recent domination: The all-time regular-season series between the teams since the Devils arrived in New Jersey in 1982 shows the Bruins with 53 wins, the Devils with 41 and 14 ties. But much of that margin has come in the last three years. Boston has won 10 of the past 11 games between the teams, including a 2-1 shootout victory and 1-0 win this season that extended their winning streak against New Jersey to six games. The Devils haven't beaten Boston since a 3-2 victory on April 10, 2011.

Stifled: Why have the Bruins had the Devils' number during the past few years? One word: defense. Boston has surrendered just 14 goals while going 10-1-0 in the past 11 games between the teams; three of the wins were shutouts -- two of them by 1-0 scores. New Jersey hasn't scored more than three times against Boston since a 4-3 overtime victory on Jan. 29, 2009; the Devils haven't exceeded three goals in regulation since a 5-3 victory on Dec. 9, 2006.

Shootout turnabout: New Jersey entered the season as the most successful team in the shootout since the tiebreaker was introduced in 2005. The Devils' 54 victories and .650 winning percentage were tops among all 30 teams. But after going 12-4 in the tiebreaker in 2011-12, the Devils have hit the skids this season, losing seven of their nine shootouts. Martin Brodeur, whose 42 shootout wins were the most of any goaltender entering the season, is 0-4 and has allowed six goals on 11 attempts, a .455 save percentage that's a far cry from the .719 mark he had after 2011-12.

Long time between shutouts: Brodeur is the NHL's all-time leader in regular-season shutouts with 120, including four against the Bruins. But the 40-year-old is one of the few players on either team who was around for any of them. The last one was a 2-0 victory at Boston on Dec. 30, 2002; of all the skaters on both sides that night, only New Jersey's Patrik Elias is still playing with the same team.

Playoff fever: It's not impossible that the teams could meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something that has happened four times before. Boston won the first meeting by outlasting the Devils in seven games in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals. The Devils have won the last three, beating the Bruins in six games in 1994 and in five games in both 1995 and 2003 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. New Jersey has won 12 of the past 14 postseason games between the teams after Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals.

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