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Devils and Flyers begin critical home-and-home series

by Dan Rosen

FLYERS (12-14-1) at DEVILS (12-9-5)


Last 10: Philadelphia 5-5-0; New Jersey 3-6-1

Season series: This is the third of five meetings between the clubs and the first in a home-and-home broken up by a day off Thursday. The Devils are 2-0 against the Flyers this season with a 3-0 win on Jan. 22 and a 5-3 win on Feb. 15.

Big story: Both teams desperately need to pick up some points; the Devils to stay in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and the Flyers to inch closer to getting back into the top eight. The Devils have owned the Flyers of late, winning eight of the past 10 meetings, including four out of five in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season.

Team Scope:

Devils: Johan Hedberg is expected to be back in net against the Flyers because Martin Brodeur remains on injured reserve with a back injury. Brodeur skated on his own Tuesday morning, but general manager Lou Lamoriello said there is still no timetable for his return.

The Devils are 2-5-1 since Brodeur pulled himself out of the lineup prior to the game Feb. 24 against the Winnipeg Jets.

Hedberg has struggled in Brodeur's absence, but he is coming off a 23-save effort in a 3-2 shootout win over the Jets this past Sunday. He has won two of his past three starts, but in the lone loss at Carolina he was pulled after giving up five goals on 21 shots through two periods.

It was the second time that Hedberg was pulled early from a game since Brodeur has been out of the lineup.

"These two games, you don't want to say they make or break a season for either team, but they put you in a great place if you can find a way to rap off two wins here," forward David Clarkson told

Flyers: Philadelphia will try to build off its 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres this past Sunday. The win snapped the Flyers' three-game losing streak. Claude Giroux scored the winner for his first goal in five games.

The Flyers have not won more than two games in a row at any point this season, but with back-to-back games against the Devils this week they will have a chance to not only put together a winning streak but also start their climb up the standings with 21 games to go.

The Devils have four more points than the Flyers plus a game in hand.

"You win both games, and you tied with them and you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs," goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said Tuesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You lose both games, you done. You done. That's it. This is it. This is probably reality. You'd be eight points behind."

Who's hot: Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen has six points in the past four games, including two assists in the win over Buffalo on Sunday and his first three-point game since Dec. 2, 2011 in Philadelphia's 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last Thursday. … For the Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk has points in four straight games (2-3-5) after picking up just one assist over the previous four games.

Injury report: Brodeur (back), Dainius Zubrus (left wrist) and Henrik Tallinder (lower body) are all on the Devils' injured reserve list. … The Flyers are without Tye McGinn (orbital) and Jody Shelley (hip).

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