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Lightning conclude long homestand against Devils

by Brian Hunter /
DEVILS (26-30-4) at LIGHTNING (35-18-7)


Last 10 --
New Jersey 9-0-1; Tampa Bay 5-3-2

Season series -- Third of four meetings this season. The Devils beat the Lightning twice in the span of six days back in January with Patrik Elias (2-2-4), Ilya Kovalchuk (2-2-4) and Brian Rolston (1-3-4) leading an offensive surge that saw New Jersey score 11 goals in the two games.

Big story: The 16-1-2 run the Devils are on entering Friday's game began back on Jan. 9 when they faced the Lightning at the Prudential Center. Tampa Bay led 2-1 going into the third period before New Jersey erupted for five goals and earned a come-from-behind win. Five nights later, the Devils chased Dwayne Roloson with a four-goal first period and cruised to another two points. The surge has yet to stop, leaving them nine points behind the eighth-place Hurricanes.

Team Scope:

Devils --
It's hard to believe that at some point Martin Brodeur won't regain his status as the No. 1 goalie in New Jersey -- after all, he does remain the NHL's all-time leader in wins and shutouts -- but right now veteran backup Johan Hedberg is playing like an elite netminder, with seven straight wins and two shutouts in his last three starts. Both were 1-0 finals, including Tuesday's victory in Dallas, which was decided when Kovalchuk broke his stick on a shot from the point but Nick Palmieri was able to tip the puck in for a power-play goal with 5:37 remaining.

"There's a strong belief in this locker room we can compete with any team in the League and we've been doing that in the last little while," Palmieri said.

Lightning -- This is the finale of Tampa Bay's record-tying 12-game homestand which has produced a 6-3-2 record to this point. While that's not bad, the Lightning haven't really padded their lead in the Southeast Division the way they might have hoped, and the Capitals still lurk just three points back. The offense definitely got in a groove Wednesday against Phoenix, though, as Teddy Purcell recorded a hat trick, Martin St. Louis scored twice and Vincent Lecavalier finished with 4 assists and 5 points. The Bolts scored five in the first period en route to an 8-3 thrashing of the Coyotes.

"That was pretty cool," Purcell said after fans showered him with hats from the stands. "That was my first hat trick since street hockey when I was 10 or 12 years old probably. To get a hat trick and then two points, that's a pretty special night."

Who's hot --
Kovalchuk has 7 goals and 6 assists during a career-high 11-game points streak for the Devils. Hedberg has a .957 save percentage since taking over for an injured Brodeur against the Canadiens on Feb. 6, the game before his winning streak started. … St. Louis has 2 goals and 8 assists during a seven-game points streak. Purcell's 39 points rank him third on the team behind St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

Injury report --
New Jersey forward Zach Parise (knee) and defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion), Matt Taormina (ankle) and Matthew Corrente (shoulder) are on injured reserve. … Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin and forward Ryan Malone are out with abdominal injuries while defenseman Matt Smaby is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms.

Stat pack --
Hedberg has carried a shutout into the third period of five consecutive games for the Devils. … St. Louis earned his 750th career point with a power-play goal for the Lightning in the first period Wednesday.

Puck drop -- Tampa Bay made its second trade this season for a goaltender when it shipped Dan Ellis to Anaheim on Thursday in exchange for Curtis McElhinney. The 27-year-old McElhinney has a 15-22-4 record with a 3.21 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in 60 career games with the Ducks and Flames.

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