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Devils-Lightning Preview @NHLdotcom
Devils-Lightning Preview

GAME: New Jersey Devils (26-19-5) at Tampa Bay Lightning (25-20-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning look to avenge their worst loss of the season when they host a New Jersey Devils team that has won 10 of its last 11 contests.

Tampa Bay beat New Jersey 6-3 in the first meeting between the teams this season, but the Devils returned the favor by routing the Lightning 8-2 in the second matchup. The win was only the second for New Jersey in the past 14 games in this series.

The Devils come into this contest on a roll after improving to 10-1 in January with a 4-0 road victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Martin Brodeur twisted his left knee in the first period, but made 24 saves in recording his fourth shutout of the season. Brodeur, who sat out six games earlier this season with a sprained right knee, isn't expected to miss time.

"It's not bad," he said. "I'm not worried about it. It's a big win. We needed to get back on track ... We're paying attention defensively."

Brodeur is seventh on the NHL's career shutout list with 79, and all four this season have come in the last 11 contests. He's averaging 25.5 saves per game over that span, and hasn't given up more than two goals in seven of those contests.

"He's the backbone of this team, no question," Devils defenseman Colin White said. "Our whole team has been playing well and he's back there to make the big saves. I think he's the best goalie in the league by far."

Tampa Bay had a three-game winning streak stopped with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Ryan Craig scored for the Lightning with just under a minute to play in regulation to force overtime, but Sean Burke allowed Olli Jokinen's goal 3:15 into the extra period.

"You never want to settle and be happy with losing," Burke said. "But there are times when you come out of a game and consider yourself a little bit lucky you got anything. Being down 2-1 and with as little time as we had, that is a huge point for us."

STANDINGS: Devils - 57 points, 3rd place, 11 PB, Atlantic Division. Lightning - 54 points, 2nd place, 18 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Brian Gionta, 29 goals and 50 points; Scott Gomez, 28 assists; White, 51 PIM. Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier, 20 goals; Vaclav Prospal, 36 assists and 53 points; Pavel Kubina, 72 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 17.6 percent (51 for 290), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (185 for 226), 17th. Lightning - Power play: 13.8 percent (40 for 290), 28th. Penalty killing: 82.9 percent (199 for 240), 13th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (24-15-3, 4 SO, 2.59 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-4-2, 3.83). Lightning - John Grahame (18-14-1, 3, 2.78); Burke (7-5-3, 2.70).


LAST MEETING: Nov. 25; Devils, 8-2. At Tampa, Fla., the Devils scored on four of their first seven shots against Burke in taking a 4-0 lead 13 minutes in.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 11-12-2 on the road; Lightning - 12-9-2 at home.

Associated Press

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