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Devils wary of Bruins' formidable top line

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils begin a critical five-game homestand at Prudential Center on Tuesday against the best team in the Eastern Conference.

The Boston Bruins not only enter the game having won nine straight, but have limited the opposition to two or fewer goals in eight of those games. They sport an impressive plus-72 goal differential and rank third in the NHL with a 3.19 goals-per-game average and second with a 2.12 goals-against average.

"We know they are good; I don't need to look at the goal differential to know they are a good hockey team," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We see where they are in the standings. We look at the success they've had and see their roster. They are a good team and it'll be a good test."

Martin Brodeur, who likely will start in goal for the Devils, is 25-22-10 with a 2.58 GAA, four shutouts and .908 save percentage in 59 career games against the Bruins.

The Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at TD Garden in Boston on Monday and did not practice at Prudential Center on Tuesday. The game against the Devils is the 13th of 17 back-to-back sets this season for Boston and the first of a three-game road trip. The Bruins, five points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, are 10-2-0 in the second game of back-to-backs. Following the Devils, Boston plays at the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and at the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday.

Devils defenseman Andy Greene was asked if catching the Bruins in the second game of a back-to-back is to their advantage.

"You would hope so," he said. "We've been on the other end of those a few times this year. We just can't give them second chances or give them life. We need to come out early with a big push."

The Devils, who come off consecutive road losses against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, are 5-4-0 since the Olympic break and trail the New York Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by five points with one game in hand.

If the Devils are to make a move in the standings and qualify for the postseason, now would be the time as they play 10 of the final 14 games at home. The Devils are 16-8-7 at Prudential Center, 8-1-2 in the past 11 home games.

"We've been a good home team this year; we've been more confident at home than on the road," DeBoer said. "That doesn't necessarily mean we will win these games because you still have to put the work in, but I think we feel good about getting the matchups we want and about playing in our building."

One of the best lines in hockey right now is Boston's top trio of Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Over the past 15 games that line has produced 49 points. Iginla, who played in his 1,300th NHL game Monday, has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in that span; Krejci has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) and Lucic has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists).

For the season, Krejci leads the Bruins with 59 points (16 goals, 43 assists), followed by Iginla's 55 (25 goals, 30 assists) and Lucic's 52 (21 goals, 31 assists).

"They can roll four lines and can score goals," Devils forward Jaromir Jagr said. "That was the case when I was there too. The goalies are very good and the defense can stop opponents and make plays offensively. There aren't many teams in the League capable of getting that kind of production every night."

Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn't available in the morning since his team didn't skate, so any lineup changes won't be made public until prior to puck drop.

Goalie Tuukka Rask earned his sixth straight win Monday. He is 3-2-2 with a 1.44 GAA, two shutouts and .952 save percentage in eight career games against the Devils.

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk sat out the Bruins' win Monday with a lower-body injury and remains day-to-day.

The Devils recalled forward Tim Sestito from the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils, and he arrived late Monday night. Sestito likely will be in the lineup Tuesday on a line with Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Ryan Carter remains out with an upper-body injury.

"These are the most fun games to play in," Sestito said. "It's an important game for the team and it starts off the home stretch. I'll play physical and defensively at first, and if I can put something in the net that would be a lift for everyone."

The only other lineup change for the Devils comes on defense where DeBoer will replace Anton Volchenkov with rookie Eric Gelinas.

Here are the projected lineups:


Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Dougie Hamilton - Zdeno Chara

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller

Matt Bartkowski - Andrej Meszaros

Tuukka Rask

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Jordan Caron, Corey Potter

Injured: Johnny Boychuk (lower body), Adam McQuaid (quad), Dennis Seidenberg (knee)


Tuomo Ruutu - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner

Tim Sestito - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Mark Fayne - Andy Greene

Jon Merrill - Eric Gelinas

Marek Zidlicky - Bryce Salvador

Martin Brodeur

Cory Schneider

Scratched: Peter Harrold, Jacob Josefson, Anton Volchenkov

Injured: Ryan Carter (upper body)

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