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Bruins, Devils try to bounce back from shutout losses

by Brian Hunter
DEVILS (35-23-4) at BRUINS (37-21-3)


Last 10:
New Jersey 5-4-1; Boston 4-5-1

Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. The Bruins have outscored the Devils by a combined 14-5 score in winning the first three. Gregory Campbell leads all scorers with 2 goals and 5 points, while Tim Thomas has posted a 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

Big Story: Neither team has been at the top of its game of late, and there have been ramifications in the standings. The Bruins have fallen nine points behind the Rangers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Senators have pulled to within a point of the Northeast Division lead -- though in that race, Boston holds four games in hand. The Devils, meanwhile, have fallen from the fourth seed -- which would mean home ice in the first round of the playoffs -- into seventh, as they come in on a three-game losing streak.

Team Scope:

Devils: This is the continuation of a four-game road trip that takes New Jersey to Washington on Friday and Long Island on Sunday. It started Monday night at Madison Square Garden against those East-leading Rangers, and the end result was a 2-0 loss. Martin Brodeur faced only 14 shots, stopping 13 of them (New York's second goal was into an empty net), but the Devils could only muster 13 on Henrik Lundqvist, and the leading Vezina Trophy candidate denied them all. His glove stop on Ilya Kovalchuk with 2:26 left snuffed out one of New Jersey's rare chances to tie the score.

"There's not much room for mistakes out there," Brodeur said in the Newark Star-Ledger. "I think the way both teams played it was kind of a chess match a little bit. Probably a little boring for people to watch, but for us it was really interesting to go out and play a game like that. I thought we played pretty hard and pretty well, but we just couldn't get through a line of three goalies in front of Lundqvist.

"You have to be almost perfect to play these kind of games. This is what the playoffs are going to be all about."

The month of February was an unremarkable one for the defending Stanley Cup champs -- not as bad as their "hangover" month of October that sent the city of Boston into a temporary panic, but the end result a 5-7-1 record that could cost the Bruins home ice in the later rounds of the playoffs. Right now, though, the team's concern is simply bouncing back from Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Senators, a game in which the Bruins played well but couldn't get a puck past Robin Lehner. A brilliant effort by Thomas, who turned aside 37 of 38 shots, was wasted in defeat.

"That's a hard two points to let slip away after we beat them last game," defenseman Joe Corvo said in the Boston Herald. "I just feel like you need to get something out of this game, a point at least, and it's very disappointing."

Who's Hot:
Petr Sykora has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last five games for the Devils. … Brad Marchand has 3 goals in his last four games for the Bruins, giving him 22 to surpass the total of his rookie season.

Injury Report: New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) and forward Travis Zajac (Achilles) are on injured reserve. … Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk is out with concussion-like symptoms. Forward Rich Peverley (sprained MCL) will miss about a month. Forward Nathan Horton (concussion) is on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
The Devils have allowed only 47 shots during their last three losses. … Thomas has won his last six starts against New Jersey.

Puck Drop:
New faces in this game include New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who will play in his third game since being acquired from Minnesota, as well as forward Brian Rolston and defensemen Mike Mottau and Greg Zanon for Boston. Rolston and Mottau debuted Tuesday after coming over from the Islanders, while Zanon, who was dealt from Minnesota, is expected to make his debut with the team.
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