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Wild look to creep closer in West against Devils

by Brian Hunter /

WILD (18-15-5) at DEVILS (10-26-2)


Last 10:
Minnesota 5-4-1; New Jersey 2-8-0

Season series: This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these clubs. They last met in Minnesota just over a year ago, on Jan. 2, 2010, and a hat trick by Cloquet, Minn., native Jamie Langenbrunner led New Jersey to a 5-3 victory.

Big story: While much about this season has been puzzling for the Devils, perhaps the most shocking part of their overall downfall has been the deterioration of goalie Martin Brodeur's play. The NHL's all-time leader in wins and shutouts and a Vezina Trophy finalist as recently as last season, he has a 5-18-1 record with a 3.15 goals-against average and .882 save percentage. Veteran backup Johan Hedberg has as many wins as Brodeur in 15 fewer starts.

Team Scope:

Wild: With the exception of Edmonton, which sits 14 points out of eighth, even the Western Conference teams not currently in the upper half of the standings are only a mini-winning streak away from getting there. So although Minnesota currently sits in 13th, their predicament is hardly a dire one. The Wild come off a thrilling, 6-5 overtime win over the Coyotes on Sunday, a game Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied in the last minute of regulation and Cam Barker won 46 seconds into the extra period.

"The game was like a movie," coach Todd Richards said. "It had drama, at times it was a comedy, at times it was a horror, but it had a great ending."

The phrase "winning streak" still doesn't seem to be in New Jersey's vocabulary -- the Devils have accomplished consecutive victories just once this season, in the days prior to Thanksgiving in the U.S. After they played a solid game in defeating the visiting Thrashers on New Year's Eve, they got blitzed in the first period at Carolina on New Year's Day. Brodeur was chased after giving up three quick goals and the Hurricanes handed the Devils a 6-3 defeat.

"It's hard to be happy when you spend (eight) minutes in net and they score three goals on seven shots. You shouldn't be happy about it," Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger about the shortest start of his career -- he lasted just eight minutes.

Who's hot: Andrew Brunette scored twice and added an assist for the Wild on Sunday, while Brent Burns had a goal and a pair of assists, giving him 3 goals and 3 assists over his past five games. ... Travis Zajac has 3 goals in his last five games for the Devils.

Injury report: Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom is day-to-day with a knee injury -- Jose Theodore would be the likely starter Tuesday if Backstrom can't go. Forward Guillaume Latendresse (sports hernia/hip) and defenseman Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are on injured reserve.

New Jersey expects to get defenseman Mark Fraser back after he broke his hand in a fight early in the season. Fellow blueliner Colin White (illness) is day-to-day. Still on injured reserve are forwards Zach Parise (knee) and Jacob Josefson (hand), as well as defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Matt Taormina (ankle).

Stat pack: The Wild are 14-2-2 when scoring three or more goals in a game. ... The fastest hook for Brodeur prior to Saturday was on May 3, 1995, when he was pulled 13:11 into a game against the Sabres.

Puck drop: Minnesota seemed to be in control heading into the third period against Phoenix with a 3-1 lead, but had to survive a back-and-forth 20 minutes in which it gave up four goals and scored two of its own before prevailing in overtime.

"It was a crazy night," Bouchard said. "That's a big win, but it was a weird one. Get the lead, lose the lead, but we'll take those two points. It's a great comeback. We have to learn about certain things we did tonight and be a little bit better when we have the lead, but we'll look at the positives too."

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