DEVILS (9-20-2) at THRASHERS (17-11-5)
TV: MSG PLUS 2, FS-S (HD)
New Jersey 3-7-0; Atlanta 6-2-2
First of four meetings this season. Atlanta won the opening matchup on the 2009-10 schedule, but New Jersey took the next three. That included the 600th career win and 110th shutout for Martin Brodeur
in the most recent game between these clubs, a 3-0 win for the Devils on April 6. The goalie for the Thrashers on that night, Johan Hedberg
, is now Brodeur's backup.
Big story: Ilya Kovalchuk
faces his former team for the second time -- the first game was also in Atlanta, the night Brodeur continued adding to his all-time NHL records in wins and shutouts. Kovalchuk didn't factor into the scoring that night, but he heard plenty of boos from the fans at Philips Arena during his 21:07 of ice time.
"I wasn't nervous, it was just kind of a weird feeling when you've played with a team for a long time," Kovalchuk said that night. "It wasn't a long time ago. I'm glad it's all over and I can move on."
Only once this season has New Jersey won consecutive games, something the Devils had a chance to accomplish Friday night when the Predators visited the Prudential Center. But their offense once again went into hibernation in a 3-1 defeat, managing only a power-play goal in the third period by Mattias Tedenby
after Nashville had already built a commanding lead on a goal by ex-Devil Steve Sullivan and a pair of power-play strikes by Martin Erat.
"The confidence just isn't there," said Jason Arnott, a former captain of the Predators. "We played one good game and tried to build off that. We got down by a goal and it was tough to come back from."
With the opportunity to move into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division on Thursday, second-period goals by Evander Kane and Anthony Stewart staked Atlanta to a 2-0 lead. Carolina rallied to tie in the third, however, and when the game went into a shootout it was Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov tallying to answer an opening score by Nik Antropov as the Hurricanes edged the Thrashers 3-2 and left them one point behind the Capitals.
"For half of that third period we looked tentative," coach Craig Ramsay said. "And they charged. That's a pretty good team and pretty good defense. They started jumping up the ice. … But more importantly, we just lost some battles in our own zone."
Kovalchuk has 2 goals and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Devils. … Kane and Stewart also had assists in Thursday's game to finish with multi-point efforts. Dustin Byfuglien added his team-leading 22nd assist and 33rd point of the season.
New Jersey forwards Zach Parise
(knee) and Jacob Josefson
(hand) are on injured reserve along with defensemen Bryce Salvador
(concussion), Mark Fraser
(hand) and Matt Taormina
The Devils reached 20 regulation losses in just their 31st game after it took 58 games last season. … Dainius Zubrus
has 14 goals and 33 points in 41 career games against the Thrashers, while Antropov has 8 goals and 16 points in 26 career games against the Devils.
Brodeur has started the last four games since returning from an elbow injury, but on the second night of a back-to-back set it could be Hedberg in goal to face his former team Saturday.
"There's a lot of people left, and a lot of new people came in," Hedberg said of the turnover in Atlanta, both in terms of player personnel and behind the bench. "The new coaching staff seems to have everything in order, and I've only heard positive things. They're definitely a team on the rise. We'll be in for a tough game."