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Surging Sharks visit red-hot Devils

by Mike G. Morreale
SHARKS (29-19-6) at DEVILS (21-30-4)


Last 10 -- San Jose (8-1-1), New Jersey (8-1-1)

Season series -- It's the second of two meetings this season; San Jose earned a 5-2 victory at the Shark Tank on Oct. 27. In that earlier meeting, Sharks captain Joe Thornton scored a hat trick and added two assists while David Clarkson and Andy Greene connected for the Devils.

Big story -- A couple of hot teams are set to collide at Prudential Center. The Sharks improved to 4-0-0 on their current road trip with a 3-2 win at Columbus on Wednesday and are 9-0-1 overall since a season-high six-game losing streak. The Devils, meanwhile, beat Toronto 2-1 in OT on Thursday and are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games as they continue to defy the odds in pursuit of their 14th straight postseason appearance.

Team Scope:

Sharks -- San Jose spotted the Blue Jackets an early 2-0 lead but rallied to overtake the Jackets for their fifth win in a row since the All-Star break. They've allowed just 18 goals in their past 10 games and begin the night even with Dallas atop the Pacific Division standings, though the Stars have a game in hand.

"The first period we weren't alert, we didn't have our legs underneath us and we weren't very competitive," coach Todd McLellan said of the win at Columbus. "To come back was a nice thing."

Devils -- Devils coach Jacques Lemaire may be reluctant to talk about playoffs, but the topic has been too much fun to ignore. Especially when you consider the Devils have outscored their opponents 46-27 over the last 14 games. They've allowed four goals in just one of those games, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Panthers back on Feb. 4.

"I still don't think about the playoffs," said Lemaire, who became the eighth coach in NHL history to reach the 600-win mark when Ilya Kovalchuk scored in overtime. "Wait until it gets to two points. Then I'll talk to you about it, if we get there."

Who's hot -- Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi has allowed just two goals in the Sharks' last three games. … Kovalchuk is riding a six-game points streak, with 4 goals and 7 points over that stretch. He has 5 goals and 5 assists in the Devils' last eight games.

Injury report -- Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur (knee) is out. … San Jose forward Torrey Mitchell is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

Stat pack -- San Jose rookie Logan Couture, a certain Calder Trophy candidate, scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season, including his 18th on the road, in a 2-0 victory over Washington on Tuesday. He leads all NHL rookies in goals. ... The Sharks have lost their last four trips to New Jersey since a 3-2 win on Nov. 14, 2000.

Puck drop -- In 1,235 career regular-season games over 17 seasons, Lemaire has posted a 600-449-186 mark and won one Stanley Cup (1994-95 with Devils). He joined Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, Jr., Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan, Bryan Murray and Ron Wilson in the 600-victory club.

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