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Devils can clinch playoff berth with a point vs. 'Canes

by Dan Rosen

DEVILS (44-28-6) at HURRICANES (31-31-16)

TV: MSG-PLUS (HD), FS-Carolinas (HD)

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

Season Series: The Devils have won two of three against the Hurricanes this season. The teams haven't played since Dec. 26, when Carolina beat New Jersey 4-2 in Raleigh -- a game in which Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward was credited with a goal.

Big Story: The Devils need one point either gained by them or lost by Washington to clinch a playoff berth. The Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Team Scope:

Devils: David Clarkson scored his first goal in 10 games while both Dainius Zubrus and Alexei Ponikarovsky broke 13-game goal droughts as the Devils finally broke out offensively Thursday in a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay. The Devils had scored only 11 goals in their previous eight games, but beat the Lightning despite Martin Brodeur allowing four goals on just 20 shots.

Brodeur is expected to start in Carolina. It will be his fifth start in a row. He needs two more wins to reach 30 for the 14th time in his career. If he gets there, he'll own the NHL's all-time record for most 30-win seasons. Brodeur is tied with Patrick Roy at the top of the list.

The Devils did not qualify for the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996.

"I'm looking forward to getting back in the playoffs, no doubt about that," Brodeur said after Thursday's game. "It was tough to go through what we went through last year. But we learned. We're not there yet, but looking forward to getting in there soon and then playing well when called upon."

Hurricanes: They're doing their best not to go quietly into the offseason. The Hurricanes snapped a two-game losing streak by winning 3-0 Tuesday against Toronto, but are coming into the game after blowing a 3-1 lead and losing 4-3 to Winnipeg in overtime.

After a dismal start, Eric Staal has got his game back and he's on pace to finish with at least 70 points for the seventh straight season. He scored a shorthanded goal in the loss to the Jets, has 44 points since Jan. 1 and 10 points in his last nine games.

"From Christmas on, he's been one of the top three forwards in the NHL," 'Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

Ward, who has started six straight games, is closing in on 30 wins for the fifth time in his career.

Who's Hot: Devils rookie center Adam Henrique has a goal and three assists over the last four games. Henrique had only three points in his previous 10 games.

Injury Report: The Devils are still without defenseman Henrik Tallinder (blood clot). The Hurricanes won't have Jaroslav Spacek (lower-body) or Andreas Nodl (concussion-like symptoms).

Stat Pack: The Devils have been excellent in the faceoff circle this week. They won 39 of 57 faceoffs (68 percent) in their win over Tampa Bay on Thursday and 31 of 57 for 54 percent in their 2-1 shootout win over Chicago on Tuesday.

Puck Drop: With a playoff position all but locked up, Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Friday he's approaching the final four games of the regular season with the same urgency and intensity that he had for the first 78.

"We still have positions we're trying to lock up -- one, a playoff position and, two, seeding," DeBoer said, according to The Record. "You're always trying to catch the teams in front of you right until they tell you you can't anymore. The last thing is the most important and that's just playing well and playing the right way heading into playoffs and having a good level of confidence going in."

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