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Devils understand importance of creating separation

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils heard all the talk earlier in the week about how the Philadelphia Flyers were approaching the teams' home-and-home set as if they were the Flyers' biggest games of the season.

After a 5-2 win Wednesday at Prudential Center, the Devils go into the rematch Friday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) with a chance to give themselves an eight-point lead on the Flyers, as well as continue to lock in their spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"We want to try to bury the teams below us as quickly as possible," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Doesn't matter whether it's Philadelphia or Florida or anybody else -- you get an opportunity to separate yourself from the teams below you, you want to take full advantage of that. It's all about getting points right now. It's not necessarily about the opponent; it's about putting points on the board and trying to solidify a spot in the top eight."

After a stretch that saw them win twice in an 11-game span (2-7-2), the Devils look to have righted themselves with back-to-back wins and see their game trending upward.

"Even the last two or three games that we lost before, we were doing a lot of things right, we just couldn't find the back of the net," forward Patrik Elias told "You're not going to win to many hockey games scoring just one goal. We've been doing a lot of positive things lately the last five, six games. We just have to keep it going."

That includes playing similar to how they did in their win Wednesday against the Flyers, which led Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell to remark how frustrating it was playing against the Devils' fast, physical forechecking forwards.

"We're better than we were a couple weeks ago," center Travis Zajac told "We're starting to win more battles, starting to make more plays. We're back to frustrating teams and being aggressive and in teams' faces. When we're assertive and making it tough for teams, it's better for us."

Zajac said it was imperative to continue that way against a Flyers team that has a wealth of offensive talent.

"Especially against a team like this that has a lot of skill up front, guys that can make plays and are great when there's open ice," he said. "For us, we have to take their time and space away. We talked about that. We did a pretty good job last game, but we can still be better in some areas and we will be [Friday]."

Here is the lineup the Devils likely will ice Friday:

Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Andrei Loktionov - Ilya Kovalchuk

Ryan Carter - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson

Krystofer Barch - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Johan Hedberg

Jeff Frazee

Scratched: Stefan Matteau, Harri Pesonen, Mark Fayne

Injured: Martin Brodeur (back), Dainius Zubrus (wrist), Henrik Tallinder (lower body)


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