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Jackets chase third straight as they pay Devils a visit

by Mike G. Morreale
BLUE JACKETS (5-13-2) at DEVILS (10-8-1)
Last 10:
Columbus 4-5-1; New Jersey 6-4-0
Season series: This is the first and only meeting this season between these teams, who last played March 20 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus -- a 3-0 Devils victory. Martin Brodeur needed just 13 saves to record his 115th career shutout. David Clarkson scored a pair of goals and Nick Palmieri also tallied for the Devils.
Big story: Incredibly, Monday's 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames gave the Blue Jackets back-to-back wins for the first time in 42 games. The last time Columbus won consecutive contests was last February. The NHL record for games played without back-to-back triumphs is 173 -- set by the Washington Capitals from the start of the 1974-75 campaign until the early 1976-77 season.
Team Scope:
Blue Jackets:
Jeff Carter scored a pair of goals and Curtis Sanford, who is 2-0-1 since returning from a groin strain on Nov. 17, turned aside 27 shots as the Blue Jackets toppled the Flames. Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash added a goal each, and Vinny Prospal notched three assists.
The Devils blew a three-goal lead against the Florida Panthers on Monday, dropping a 4-3 decision in Sunrise. Ilya Kovalchuk, Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus scored first-period goals but the Panthers came roaring back with two goals apiece in the second and third periods. Tomas Fleischman's goal at 17:57 proved to be the difference. The Devils wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 3-2 record.
"I think we stopped playing after the 3-0 lead," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It was a good lesson learned and a credit to them. They didn't stop, and we probably got what we deserved at the end."
Who's hot:
Don't tell Sanford that his team sits in last place in the Western Conference. In four appearances this season, Sanford sports a 1.46 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. He's stopped 80 of 85 shots since stepping in for Steve Mason (head injury) three games ago. He'll get the nod against the Devils on Wednesday.
Injury report:
The Devils lost defenseman Anton Volchenkov (facial laceration) in the first period on Monday against Florida when he was hit in the face by Shawn Matthias. Volchenkov is questionable. Additionally, forwards Jacob Josefson (broken right clavicle), Eric Boulton (non-displaced fracture in right hand) and Travis Zajac (torn Achilles tendon) are out. … Columbus is without forward Kristian Huselius (torn pectoral muscle) and Mason (head), who was hurt during a morning skate on Nov. 21.
Stat pack:
Devils center Patrik Elias has points in 16 of the last 18 games, including 2 goals and 4 points in the last three contests. Elias has 8 goals this season and 343 for his career -- moving him within four of John MacLean's franchise record.
Puck drop: While the Devils might be off to a better start this season than last after 19 games, the team has struggled to hold leads at various points throughout the season. Interestingly, New Jersey is just 2-2-1 when gaining a lead after the first period. Monday's loss in Florida marked only the second time in Panthers history that they were able to rally from three goals down to win, and the first in regulation.
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