DEVILS (15-15-7) at BLACKHAWKS (25-7-6)
TV: MSG PLUS 2, CSN-CH
Last 10: New Jersey 4-4-2; Chicago 5-3-2
Season series: This is the first of two games this season between the New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks. It has been 21 months since these teams last faced off, a 2-1 shootout win for the Devils on March 27, 2012 at Prudential Center.
Big story: Being among the NHL's best teams can only get you so far when you play in the tight Central Division. Chicago, which has the second-most points in the League (56), has a four-point edge in the Central Division on the second-place St. Louis Blues, who have three games in hand.
The Blackhawks will look to keep their advantage in the standings when they get a rare visit from the Devils, who have pulled themselves into playoff position in the Eastern Conference amidst a surprising offensive burst.
Devils: New Jersey is not considered an offensive juggernaut, and seeing 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr leading the team in scoring might, at first glance, give credence to that assumption. But Jagr, who tied Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time list with his 694th NHL goal on Saturday, is scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace, while the rest of the recently has performed in lockstep with the future Hall of Famer.
In going 3-0-1 in their past four games, the Devils have scored 15 goals and twice scored five times in a single outing, matching the number of times New Jersey had accomplished the feat in its previous 34. In the Devils' most recent game, a 5-4 overtime win against the Washington Capitals, New Jersey rallied to victory when its offense broke out with three goals in the third period.
"I felt like we were playing very good hockey the first two periods, and I look at the scoreboard and we were down 3-1," Jagr said afterward. "That was kind of tough to swallow, but we got some lucky bounces in the third period and tied the game and went to overtime again. I thought we responded very well when we were down two goals."
As a result of their recent offensive outburst, the Devils have climbed into third place in the Metropolitan Division, narrowly holding a one-point edge on the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes.
Blackhawks: Chicago still holds first place in the highly-competitive Central Division, but there is little room for error with the Blues right on the Blackhawks' heels. Despite the Blackhawks going 5-1-1 in their past seven games the race remains tight, and Chicago may look back on its shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night as a game in which the team left a valuable point on the table.
The Blackhawks had a two-goal lead in the second period against Canucks backup Eddie Lack, but Vancouver rallied to force overtime before the extra point was decided in a lengthy eight-round shootout. Chicago went 0-for-4 on the power play in the game, producing nothing from ample opportunities to take control of the game.
"I thought our power play might've let us down a little bit tonight," Patrick Kane said. "We didn't really create any momentum off it and they probably got momentum off killing them off. It's something we'll try to improve on, but definitely disappointing when you're up 2-0 to give up a lead and then lose the game."
Who's hot: Devils defenseman Andy Greene, who scored the overtime-winner against Washington on Saturday, has two goals and three assists in his past three games. ... With a goal and an assist on Friday, Kane extended his current point streak to 11 games.
Injury report: Forwards Andrei Loktionov (illness), Damien Brunner (knee injury) and Ryane Clowe (concussion) are all questionable for the Devils, while forward Ryan Carter (lower-body injury) and defensemen Peter Harrold (non-displaced foot fracture), Adam Larsson (lower-body injury) and Bryce Salvador (non-displaced foot fracture) are all out. … The Blackhawks are without goalies Corey Crawford (lower-body injury) and Nikolai Khabibulin (lower-body injury).