Desperately trying to play their way into playoff position, the last thing the New Jersey Devils need is to be without a couple of key contributors.
It’s uncertain if forwards Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique will be available when the Devils look to extend their point streak to seven games while trying to avoid a fifth straight road defeat Saturday night against a Carolina Hurricanes team that’s also playing well.
Ryan Carter scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:54 left in the third period and New Jersey (33-28-16) held on for a 2-1 victory over Washington on Friday. In the midst of a 3-0-3 stretch, the Devils are 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points behind ninth-place Toronto and three back of Columbus, which holds the second wild-card spot.
"We gave ourselves a chance to stay relevant," coach Peter DeBoer said.
Though the Devils won’t play a team currently in playoff position until they conclude the regular season versus Boston on April 13, they likely can’t afford to be without two of their top four scorers.
Elias, second on the team with 51 points, left Friday after he was hit hard in the first period. Henrique, who is fourth with 43 points, left late in the second for unspecified reasons.
"You’re short guys and everyone is going and everyone is contributing and it’s a good way to win and hopefully we can build off of that," said forward Travis Zajac, who has five points in three games.
The Devils could be in that same undermanned position Saturday while trying to end an 0-2-2 road slide.
Though New Jersey has won two in a row at Carolina (34-32-11) and two of three overall in the season series, the Hurricanes are 3-0-2 in their last five games and trying for a third straight win after consecutive 4-1 victories over Pittsburgh and Dallas.
Carolina is 12th in the East and three points back of New Jersey.
"It’s just a matter of knowing what’s successful for us, and when you have success, you can point your finger at, hey, this is why we won that game," said Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles, who had a goal with two assists against the Stars on Thursday.
"Try and repeat it for the following game, and try and get on a roll. For us, it’s a matter of believing in that system and that reason why we’ve been winning games, and we’ve been coming out on the right end of it."
Carolina ranks near the bottom of the league converting 14.4 percent of its power-play chances, but scored twice against the Stars and is 9 for 31 (29.0 percent) with the man advantage during its current 5-2-2 stretch.
"We always say, `shoot the puck,”’ coach Kirk Muller said. "This time of year, it doesn’t have to be highlight goals. Just get it there and you never know what’s going to happen."
The Hurricanes are 1 for 6 on the power play versus New Jersey this season.
Eric Staal, who leads Carolina with 39 assists and 58 points, has seven assists in his last six games against New Jersey.
Devils leading scorer Jaromir Jagr has been held without a point in six of seven contests, but has two goals and six assists in his last five against the Hurricanes.