When the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils square off Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center in the back end of their home-and-home series, two of the hottest players in the NHL also figure to go head to head.
Bryzgalov, who started 11 consecutive games for the Flyers before getting sitting out Sunday, recorded three shutouts in four starts from March 4-10, including a pair of 1-0 victories. The first was a 34-save performance against the Capitals to start the week, which Bryzgalov capped by stopping all 29 shots he faced through regulation and overtime, and then remaining perfect through the shootout, as the Flyers took a road game from the desperate Maple Leafs.
In between, Bryzgalov turned aside 37 of 39 shots in a 3-2 win against the Red Wings and blanked the Panthers 5-0 with a 28-save effort. After posting two shutouts in his first 45 games, Bryzgalov more than doubled that total while helping the Flyers maintain the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
"For Bryz to have our back like that, he is playing his best hockey this year and we are trying to help him. He is making all the big saves for us and he has got his confidence back," said Claude Giroux, who provided the shootout winner against Toronto. "It's a lot of fun to see him dominate games like that."
While Bryzgalov dominated games between the pipes, Kovalchuk broke out of a goal-scoring slump to lead the Devils on the offensive side, posting 5 goals and 4 assists during New Jersey's current four-game winning streak.
Kovalchuk scored in the opening minute of a 4-1 win against the Rangers on Tuesday to snap a nine-game goal drought, assisted on a third-period goal and finished with eight shots. Two nights later against the Islanders, he recorded his second hat trick in the past month to key a 5-1 victory. Kovalchuk had seven shots and assisted on Marek Zidlicky's game-winning goal Saturday in a rematch with the Isles, and struck for his 30th goal of the season as well as a pair of assists in a 4-1 win Sunday against the Flyers and backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
"We all want him to have that scoring confidence and we know how dangerous he is when he gets hot," linemate Zach Parise said of Kovalchuk. "He has such a good shot that he should be shooting all the time, but he's an underrated passer, too."
Halak, meanwhile, extended his personal winning streak to eight consecutive starts -- a span in which he has yet to allow more than two goals in a game. He yielded just one goal in each of his three starts last week, victories against the Blackhawks (19 saves), Ducks (24 saves) and Blue Jackets (33 saves). Halak improved his goals-against average to 1.82, second-best in the League, while his .928 save percentage ranks sixth.
"The way Jaro's playing games right now, he's capable of stealing games like that," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after Sunday's 2-1 win against Columbus. "There's no doubt about it that we did not play our best. He rose to the occasion and helped us out."