GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (18-35-9-6) at New Jersey Devils (35-21-11-2).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The New Jersey Devils need healthy defensemen heading into the playoffs.
The struggling Devils will try to solidify their spot in the Eastern
Conference standings when they host the hapless Chicago Blackhawks.
New Jersey traded for forwards Victor Kozlov and Jan Hrdina before Tuesday's
trade deadline, but the defending Stanley Cup Champions were unable to nab a
stay-at-home defenseman, something they desperately need because of the
questionable status of captain Scott Stevens.
Stevens, out since Jan. 7, has missed 30 games with post-concussion syndrome
and may not return this season.
New Jersey was dealt another blow to its defense on Tuesday. Brian Rafalski
did not play in the final two periods after aggravating a bruise behind the
back of his right knee.
The Devils have won just two of their last seven (2-4-0-1) and trail
Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia by seven points with 13 games remaining.
Even more alarming, the Devils are just one point ahead of the hard-charging
Montreal Canadiens in the race for sixth place in the conference.
John LeClair had a goal and two assists as the Flyers beat the Devils 3-1 on
Tuesday. Turner Stevenson scored for New Jersey, which was limited to 10 shots
in the first two periods.
New Jersey coach Pat Burns said the loss put a serious dent in the Devils'
chances to win the division.
"We're not throwing in the towel, but if you win tonight's it's a different
situation," Burns said.
The good news for the Devils is they have a favorable schedule over their
next four games. After playing the Blackhawks, they have a rematch with the
Flyers on Saturday before games against the lowly New York Rangers and
The Blackhawks are winless in their last six (0-3-2-1) and have only two
wins over their last 11.
Chicago, which has long been out of the Western playoff race, traded away
forwards Steve Sullivan and Alexei Zhamnov long before the deadline and sent
defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Goaltender Matt Underhill stopped 29 shots in his NHL debut on Sunday, but
the Blackhawks suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Chicago winger Eric Daze scored with 8:36 left in the third period to send
the game to overtime. Daze has two goals in two games after missing nearly the
entire season while recovering from back surgery in October.
STANDINGS (through March 9): Blackhawks - 51 points, 5th place, 39 PB,
Central Division. Devils - 83 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Kyle Calder, 21 goals; Bryan Berard, 26 assists;
Mark Bell and Tyler Arnason, 41 points; Scott Nichol, 114 PIM. Devils - Patrik
Elias, 31 goals and 63 points; Scott Gomez, 45 assists; Colin White, 81 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 9): Blackhawks - Power play: 14.1 percent (43
for 305), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (269 for 317), 8th. Devils
- Power play: 15.6 percent (217 for 257), 19th (tied). Penalty killing: 85.0
percent (198 for 233), 7th.
GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Michael Leighton (5-16-6, 2 SO, 3.00 GAA); Adam
Munro (0-1-1, 0, 2.88). Devils - Martin Brodeur (32-22-10, 10, 2.04); Scott
Clemmensen (1-1-0, 1, 1.53).
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 0-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 21; Tie, 2-2, OT. At Chicago, Ville Nieminen and Burke
Henry scored third-period goals to earn the Blackhawks a point. Gomez and
Stevens scored for New Jersey.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 6-23-4-1 on the road; Devils - 18-12-4-1 at