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Devils, Hurricanes need win to keep playoff hopes alive

by Mike G. Morreale

DEVILS (33-28-16) at HURRICANES (34-32-11)


Last 10: New Jersey 4-3-3; Carolina 5-3-2

Season series: It's the fourth of four games between the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. They split two games in a three-day span in late November, and former Hurricane Tuomo Ruutu scored with 6:30 left in the third period to give the Devils a 5-4 victory on March 8 at Prudential Center.

Big story: The Devils and Hurricanes are still mathematically in the hunt to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Devils, 3-0-3 in their past six games, trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by three points for the second of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference race with five regular-season games remaining. The Hurricanes, 3-0-2 in their past five, are six points behind the Blue Jackets and have five games left.

Team Scope:

Devils: Despite the loss of Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson to injury, the Devils found a way to beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Friday at Prudential Center. Ryan Carter snapped a 1-1 tie with 4:54 remaining in the third period, when the Devils had the services of just eight forwards after opening the game with 11.

"You don't have time to think about [fatigue] or feel sorry for yourself; someone else had to jump in and get the job done," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Now we have to go out and win [Saturday]. We gave ourselves a chance to stay relevant and that's the goal again [Saturday] night."

The victory was No. 100 for DeBoer as Devils coach, tying him with Doug Carpenter for second place in team history. Jacques Lemaire is first with 276.

Hurricanes: It didn't take long for Andrei Loktionov to fit right in to the Hurricanes following his trade from the Devils in exchange for Ruutu at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5. Loktionov has gone from a fourth-line role in New Jersey to a top-six spot with Carolina; he now centers Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. In 15 games with the Hurricanes, Loktionov has three goals, eight points and a minus-2 rating. Ruutu has three goals, seven points and a minus-1 rating in 14 games with the Devils.

"Overall he's done a great job," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said of Loktionov. "Five-on-five, his play defensively, all-around, what he brings to the special teams. He's been a great addition, and he's earning it. He's come in here and played well right from the start."

Who's hot: New Jersey's Eric Gelinas is tied for second among rookie defensemen with 29 points (seven goals). … Carolina left wing Jeff Skinner has four goals and seven points in the past seven games.

Injury report: Devils defensemen Jon Merrill (face) is day-to-day; defenseman Bryce Salvador (undisclosed), and forwards Ryane Clowe (upper body), Stephen Gionta (lower body), Elias (undisclosed), Henrique (undisclosed) and Josefson (undisclosed) are questionable. … For Carolina, Tlusty (upper body) and defensemen Andrej Sekera (lower body) are questionable and forwards Alexander Semin and Drayson Bowman are day-to-day with illnesses.

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