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Flyers, Devils fight for fifth as home-and-home ends

by Adam Kimelman
DEVILS (40-24-5) at FLYERS (39-22-7)


Last 10:
New Jersey 5-4-1; Philadelphia 7-3-0

Season series:
This is the sixth and final regular-season meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Devils have won three of the first five games between the teams, including a 4-1 win Sunday in Newark.

Big Story:
Fifth place in the Eastern Conference is on the line, with the winner being able to pull within two points of fourth-place Pittsburgh.

Team Scope:

Martin Brodeur has put up some enormous numbers during his NHL career, and he hit another impressive milestone Sunday -- it was the 650th win of his NHL career. One more win and he'll have 100 more than Patrick Roy's previous record of 551.

"It means a lot," Brodeur told The (Bergen) Record of his latest milestone. "It means we've been winning a lot of games. But, for me, this is my 25th win of the season and that's usually my first goal I put for myself when I start the season is to try to achieve that 25th win as quick as possible and try to move on from there. So, it's done now, so now I'm looking to get to 30 as quick as possible. If you do it fast, it's going to be good."

While Brodeur might be focused on smaller numbers, the big one certainly impressed others in the organization.

"It's an amazing number," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You don't have the words, I think, to do that justice, that type of body of work."

"That's unreal and just looking at the way he's played over the last little while, he hasn't and we haven't given up more than one goal in the last six games," added captain Zach Parise. "So our goaltending has been great. Marty's playing really well. It does feel like yesterday that he just got 552 or 553 and it's gone by fast."

Flyers: One thing the Flyers haven't had to worry about too much this season is scoring goals. They're averaging a League-best 3.19 goals per game, and have been at or near the top of that category all season.

However, their offense has gone missing a bit the last few games. They've scored just 20 goals in their last nine games, but 11 of them came in two games. They've been held to one goal or fewer five times in their last nine, including a 4-1 loss to New Jersey on Sunday.

Part of the problem is a failure to generate shots on net. They had just 19 Sunday, and have had fewer than 30 five times in their last seven games.

"We've got to find a way to get more shots on net," Claude Giroux, who scored the Flyers' lone goal Sunday, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Who's Hot:
Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and 2 assists Sunday, giving him 5 goals and 4 assists in his last four games. … Flyers center Claude Giroux has 5 points in his last four games and began the week third in the League in scoring, four points behind League-leader Evgeni Malkin.

Injury Report:
The Flyers likely will be without forward Jakub Voracek (head) and defensemen Kimmo Timonen (lower body) and Andrej Meszaros (lower body). Defenseman Pavel Kubina is day-to-day (upper body). … The Devils continue to be without defenseman Henrik Tallinder (blood clots in leg) and center Travis Zajac (Achilles).

Stat Pack:
With a goal and an assist Sunday, Devils forward Patrik Elias has 75 points in 75 career games against the Flyers.

Puck Drop:
It's not that Kovalchuk can't pass the puck, but closing in on 400 goals for his career and skating in on a 2-on-1 with a player who goes about 400 games between goals (slight exaggeration), everyone in the Prudential Center, from coaches and teammates to the popcorn vendors expected Kovalchuk to take the shot.

Instead, Kovalchuk stunned everyone when he passed to Anton Volchenkov for what became the game-winning goal in the Devils' 4-1 victory.

"I think probably they were thinking that I was going to shoot, but Volchie (Volchenkov), he never gave up," Kovalchuk told The Record after the game. "He was ready for that, too, so it's nice he scored a big goal for us."

Brodeur said he had to do a double-take when he saw who scored the goal. Even DeBoer was stunned.

"Volchie saw a spot there and I was yelling from the bench for Kovy to shoot it," the coach told The Record. "I saw who was with him. It goes to show you Kovy's smarter than I am."

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