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GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (18-44-7-4) at New Jersey Devils (37-22-11-2).

TIME: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The New Jersey Devils can't afford to take the last-place Pittsburgh Penguins lightly.

Tied for sixth-place in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils hope to post back-to-back wins for the first time in over two weeks when the suddenly surging Penguins visit Continental Airlines Arena.

New Jersey begins a critical home-and-home series with the Canadiens on Friday, and the pressure will be even greater on the Devils if they squander two points against Pittsburgh.

The Penguins are last in the NHL with 47 points, but are riding a season-high six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1).

The Devils trail both Ottawa and Toronto by three points for fifth place in the conference, and Philadelphia by seven for first in the Atlantic Division.

Coming off a 3-1 win over the hapless New York Rangers on Monday, the Devils have just four wins in their last 10 games (4-5-0-1).

In Monday's victory, Patrik Elias scored his eighth game-winning goal of the season. Elias and linemate Scott Gomez are on an offensive tear for New Jersey. Elias has 14 goals in the last 14 games. Gomez has 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in the last 15.

"He's playing superb right now," Devils coach Pat Burns said of Elias. "He looks like he's having fun out there, too. The both of them are."

A win over Pittsburgh will give the Devils consecutive victories for the first time since a three-game winning streak from Feb. 21-25.

On Tuesday, the Devils learned they'll be probably be without defenseman Brian Rafalski for the final 10 games of the regular season due to a broken right leg. Rafalski bruised a bone behind his right knee Feb. 28 against Toronto and aggravated the injury last Tuesday against Philadelphia.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello also said Tuesday that captain Scott Stevens, recovering from a concussion, could be available for the playoffs.

The Penguins are coming off a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. Landon Wilson had two power-play goals, and Matt Hussey scored in his first NHL game.

Mike Eastwood also scored for the Penguins, who are 7-2-2 since their franchise-record 18-game losing streak.

STANDINGS: Penguins - 47 points, 5th place, 47 PB, Atlantic Division. Devils - 87 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Ryan Malone, 21 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 32 assists and 45 points; Brooks Orpik, 117 PIM. Devils - Elias, 34 goals and 66 points; Gomez, 47 assists; Colin White, 83 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 15): Penguins - Power play: 16.0 percent (51 for 319), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 76.1 percent (252 for 371), 30th. Devils - Power play: 15.2 percent (41 for 269), 20th. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (203 for 239), 6th.

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Jean-Sebastien Aubin (4-8-0, 1 SO, 3.06 GAA); Sebastien Caron (7-22-4, 1, 3.74). Devils - Martin Brodeur (34-23-10, 10, 2.05); Scott Clemmensen (1-1-0, 1, 1.53).

SEASON SERIES: Devils, 4-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 20; Devils, 3-0. At Pittsburgh, rookie Scott Clemmensen made 25 saves and Turner Stevenson had two goals and an assist for the Devils.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 8-22-2-4 on the road; Devils - 19-12-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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