Devils-Hurricanes Preview

While the New Jersey Devils entered the Christmas break in the

midst of one of their best stretches of the season, they know

there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Their recent efforts against the Carolina Hurricanes, in

contrast, haven’t left much to be desired.

Seeking a sixth win in seven games overall, the visiting Devils

look for a sixth consecutive victory over the Hurricanes on Monday

night.

New Jersey (19-14-1) has climbed its way into a seventh-place

tie in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 5-1-0 record over its

last six games. The Devils have tallied 3.6 goals per game during

that run, more than a goal higher than their season average.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for coach Peter DeBoer’s team,

though. After scoring three second-period goals Friday, New Jersey

surrendered three in the third before ultimately defeating

Washington 4-3 in a shootout.

“We make it interesting on ourselves,” DeBoer said. “Obviously

not the way we wanted to play the third period. We did a lot of

good things and got the win. Thankfully, we’ve got 40-plus games to

clean up some little things.”

The Devils have to like their chances of doing just that with a

matchup against the Hurricanes (11-19-6). New Jersey has taken nine

of 11 in this series, including five in a row while holding

Carolina to nine goals.

The Hurricanes, tied for the fewest points in the East, are

hoping Friday’s 2-1 overtime victory over Ottawa will help spark a

surge. Tuomo Ruutu scored the game-winner – his fifth goal in eight

games – and Cam Ward made 22 saves.

“(Friday) is the most complete game we’ve played, and I think it

can be a model for us going forward,” defenseman Jay Harrison

said.

It was just the Hurricanes’ second win in eight home games, and

their first in seven games overall this season that went past

regulation.

“We haven’t been too successful in overtimes,” Ruutu said.

“Sometimes you gotta go 65 minutes, and that’s what we did

(Friday). We have to keep going and remember how hard we

worked.”

Carolina, though, is likely to be without reigning Calder Trophy

winner Jeff Skinner for a seventh consecutive contest due to a

concussion. Skinner leads the team with 24 points.

Defenseman Joni Pitkanen has been held out the last seven games

with the same injury and is also uncertain to play.

The absences of Skinner and Pitkanen could make things easier on

Martin Brodeur if he gets the start. The all-time leader in wins

and shutouts made 22 saves Friday, not allowing more than three

goals for an eighth straight start.

He’s 13-3-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average and four shutouts

over his last 18 starts in this series. Brodeur turned away 25

shots in a 3-2 win over Carolina on Nov. 8.

Red-hot Ilya Kovalchuk also may be looking forward to visiting

the RBC Center, where he has 19 goals and 22 assists in his last 26

games. He posted his fourth multipoint effort in five games Friday,

and the winger has seven goals and nine assists in his last 13

games.

Ward has been in net for both meetings this season – losses in

New Jersey – and is 1-7-1 in his last nine matchups with the

Devils.