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Hurricanes finish trip at red-hot Devils

by Mike G. Morreale /
HURRICANES (27-22-8) at DEVILS (22-30-4)

TV -- FS-Carolina (HD), MSG PLUS (HD)

Last 10 -- Carolina 4-4-2; New Jersey 8-1-1

Season series -- This will be the third meeting of the season between the clubs and the second of three this month. New Jersey rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory against the Hurricanes on Feb. 8 at Prudential Center on Mattias Tedenby's second goal of the game 2:42 into the extra session. Carolina beat the Devils 6-3 on Jan. 1. They'll meet again Feb. 19 in Raleigh.

Big story -- Carolina enters the final game of a five-game road swing eighth in the Eastern Conference, 14 points ahead of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, however, have made up 15 points in 34 days, going 12-1-2 in their last 15 games. Despite the fact goalie Martin Brodeur (knee) has missed the last three games, the team has won four straight. In Brodeur's absence, Johan Hedberg has won three straight, stopping a total of 82 of 86 shots. Five of New Jersey's last six victories have been one-goal games.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes --
Carolina earned its first win on its five-game road trip Sunday with a critical 3-2 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers. Erik Cole scored with 1:19 remaining to snap a 2-2 tie. Cam Ward made 41 saves as Carolina won its fifth straight over its Southeast Division foe, including four in a row this season, despite being outshot by Atlanta 43-17, including 14-4 in the final period.

"We feel we've been playing a good brand of hockey on the defensive side," Cole said. "We're just not doing enough to create offense."

Devils -- After sitting for four days, the Devils begin the first of three games in a span of four days -- including a pair with Carolina to close their season series. The Devils have allowed 28 goals (1.87 per game) during their 15-game run and have scored 48 goals (3.2 per game). Ilya Kovalchuk, who leads the team with 19 goals, has notched two of his team-high 6 game-winning goals during New Jersey's last two games -- victories against Toronto and San Jose. It remains to be seen if the Devils actually can come all the way back from the bottom of the standings to earn a playoff berth, as it took 88 points to make it in the East last season. New Jersey would have to win 20 of its final 26 to hit that mark.

"I do look at (the standings). We don't move," said coach Jacques Lemaire. "We're still a long way. It looks like we don't move. We're still at the bottom."

Who's hot -- Kovalchuk has scored 9 goals during the Devils' recent 12-1-2 mark. He's also in the midst of a seven-game point-scoring streak (5 goals, 4 assists), and he has 6 goals and 6 assists in his last nine games.

Injury report -- Brodeur (non-operable knee sprain) is day-to-day for the Devils. … Jussi Jokinen (leg) is out and Ryan Carter (back) is day-to-day for the Hurricanes.

Stat pack -- Cam Ward has started 16 straight for the Hurricanes, compiling a 7-7-2 mark and 2.93 goals-against average in that span.

Puck drop -- "I've seen it before," Hedberg said of Kovalchuk. "This is the fifth year I've been with him. He's an elite player in the world. Like everybody else, he had a slower start than he wanted. You can tell he's stepped it up a couple of notches. He's playing a complete hockey game all over the ice and he's scoring the big goals."
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