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With Martin Brodeur out, the New Jersey Devils have mostly struggled. However, two encouraging performances by his backup have them hoping they're on the verge of turning things around.

The inconsistent Philadelphia Flyers are hoping the same thing after breaking a three-game losing streak their last time out.

New Jersey hosts Philadelphia on Wednesday night in the opener of a home-and-home series, with the Devils looking to extend their recent domination of the series.

New Jersey (12-9-5) has lost seven of nine since Brodeur began to suffer from back soreness during warmups Feb. 24. They've yielded 3.8 goals per game in that stretch compared to 2.2 in the first 17 - 13 of which were played in by Brodeur.

Johan Hedberg has gotten the majority of work in Brodeur's absence and has had his issues, posting an .855 save percentage in eight starts since the injury and getting pulled twice in that span.

He's been better of late, however, helping his team to 3-2 shootout victories in two of the last three games. He's stopped 46 of 50 shots in those contests and denied all three shootout attempts in a win over Winnipeg on Sunday.

"I had to bounce back," said Hedberg, who was pulled from a 6-3 loss to Carolina on Saturday after giving up five goals on 18 shots. "There's no time for getting down and feeling sorry for yourself. I had to get back out there. I really needed this, and maybe now I can put a few games together."

The Devils badly need that with Brodeur apparently nowhere near being ready to play. He skated Tuesday for the first time since getting hurt, but there's no timetable for his return.

"It's part of his rehab to get strength," team president Lou Lamoriello told the team's official website. "He's been off the ice quite awhile now. It's still going to be a little bit. As to (when), I couldn't even tell you, or how long."

The Flyers (12-14-1) will be glad not to see Brodeur, who beat them 3-0 Jan. 22. They snapped their third three-game skid of the season Sunday with a 3-2 home win over Buffalo, but the club still has major issues.

Philadelphia is among the most penalized teams in the NHL, having been short-handed 108 times, and like New Jersey has had problems with its goaltending as Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled.

The Flyers, whose 82 goals allowed are among the most in the league, are tied with the Islanders for last place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

"It doesn't take much to understand what's going on," forward Simon Gagne said. "You look at the standings, and I think everyone came to the locker room today and looked at where we were at and how many games we have left. I'm not good at math but if you look at it we have to win games right now."

They haven't done much of that against the Devils recently, dropping four of five and seven of the last 10 meetings, including two in New Jersey this season.

Philadelphia will need to slow down Ilya Kovalchuk, who has four points in the season series and 13 in his last seven matchups with the Flyers. Kovalchuk has two goals and three assists during an overall four-game point streak.

Tagged: Devils, Flyers, Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk

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