Devils-Maple Leafs Preview
GAME: New Jersey Devils (28-20-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (25-23-5).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
The New Jersey Devils got everything they wanted Friday: a sellout crowd that honored a storied player and a shutout victory.
They try to build on that momentum as they visit the Air Canada Centre to play the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
On a night when defenseman Scott Stevens was honored by having his No. 4 retired, goaltender Martin Brodeur brought back the memories of New Jersey's airtight defense in Friday's 3-0 shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Brodeur turned aside 28 shots for his fifth shutout in his last 15 starts and 80th in the regular season. The veteran netminder also became the third player in NHL history to record 100 shutouts in both the regular season and playoffs, joining Terry Sawchuk and George Hainsworth.
The shutout continued Brodeur's impressive run that coincided with the start of 2006. He is 12-2-1 in his last 15 starts with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.
"It was a big concern of ours to play well defensively tonight," said Brodeur, whose team beat the Ottawa Senators 5-3 on Wednesday. "Beating the top two teams in our conference, there are a lot of positives we can take from that."
Brodeur, though, has allowed 11 goals in losing his last three starts to the Maple Leafs. He has 10 wins, 11 losses and seven ties with three shutouts in 29 lifetime starts versus Toronto.
Offensively, Brian Gionta netted his 30th goal for the Devils, who hope he is breaking out of a recent slump. It was just the second goal and point in the last eight games for the dimunitive right wing, who also has just one point in his last five road games.
While the Devils have been winning, the Maple Leafs are in their worst slump in nearly a decade. Toronto is 1-8-2 in its last 11 games after Friday's 4-1 road loss to the Washington Capitals, its worst stretch of hockey since getting three wins in a 24-game span from Jan. 11-March 8, 1996.
Mats Sundin ended a seven-game goal-scoring drought to give Toronto an early lead, but the Maple Leafs yielded four unanswered goals and failed to extend their slim one-point lead over the Boston Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We couldn't seem to get anything going with any passion," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "I guess tonight it just seemed not to be there. We had a lot of guys who just couldn't seem to get anything going."
Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour has just one win in his last 10 starts, going 1-7-1 with a 3.93 GAA and .884 save percentage.
Belfour has 10 wins, seven losses and nine ties with a 2.09 GAA and two shutouts lifetime against the Devils.
STANDINGS: Devils - 62 points, 3rd place, 8 PB, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 55 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 30 goals and 51 points; Scott Gomez, 28 assists; Colin White, 55 PIM. Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 21 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 36 assists; Bryan McCabe, 49 points; Ken Klee, 64 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 17.1 percent (53 for 310), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (199 for 242), 14th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.4 percent (68 for 334), 4th. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (271 for 335), 22nd.
GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (26-16-4, 5 SO, 2.53 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-4-2, 0, 3.83). Maple Leafs - Belfour (19-18-3, 0, 3.38); Mikael Tellqvist (6-5-2, 1, 2.79).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 31; Maple Leafs, 6-3. At East Rutherford, N.J., Mariusz Czerkawski, Tucker, Jeff O'Neil and Kaberle scored in a 6:40 span of the second period for the Maple Leafs. Gomez had a hat trick for the Devils.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 11-13-3 on the road; Maple Leafs - 15-9-2 at home.