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.