The New Jersey Devils have had their best few weeks of the
season after dropping a home-and-home set with the Philadelphia
Flyers earlier this month.
The Flyers, however, have kept right on rolling.
New Jersey has a tall task if it hopes to extend its unbeaten
streak to six straight Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center,
where Philadelphia looks to extend its lead atop the Eastern
Conference with a fifth consecutive win – and seventh in a row at
home against the Devils.
Three goals from Danny Briere helped the Flyers (31-11-5) sweep
two games from the Devils (14-29-3) on Jan. 6-8, but New Jersey has
responded with its best hockey of the season.
After a stretch of four wins in 20 games, the Devils have won
four of five – with only an overtime loss to Florida last Saturday
ruining a perfect stretch. Martin Brodeur made 23 saves Thursday
night for his fourth shutout in a 2-0 win over Pittsburgh.
New Jersey still has the NHL’s lowest point total at 31 – 35
fewer than it had at this point last season – but Brodeur thinks
his team is finally on the upswing.
“It has been a hard season,” said Brodeur, who has an
NHL-record 114 regular-season shutouts. “Hopefully, we’ve turned
the page and we’re moving on. I know I need to continue to work on
the right things in my game to be able to play like that every
Philadelphia is five points ahead of the Penguins in the
Atlantic Division and has the most in the NHL. It’s a far cry from
where the Flyers were through 47 games last season – their 49
points had them tied for 10th in the East.
They’ve won eight of nine this month, and got a big boost
Thursday night against Ottawa. Chris Pronger played for the first
time since breaking his right foot Dec. 15 against Montreal,
chipping in two assists as Philadelphia extended its latest streak
to four with a 6-2 victory.
“We’re playing with confidence right now, and confidence is a
scary thing in the NHL when you have it,” said captain Mike
Richards, who had two assists and two goals – including one on the
power play set up by Pronger.
The last thing an opponent wants to see is Richards finding the
back of the net. The Flyers are 13-0 when he scores and 25-2-1 when
he records a point.
The Devils haven’t seen Richards do much damage recently, as his
goal and assist in a 5-3 home win Dec. 4 are his only points in the
teams’ last six meetings.
Philadelphia has found plenty of other sources of offense in
those wins, however. Briere and Jeff Carter have three goals and
three assists, while James van Riemsdyk has a goal apiece in the
last four home contests in the series.
Briere has five goals as the Flyers have gone 3-0-1 overall
against the Devils this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky has started Philadelphia’s last two games, but
it might make sense to give Brian Boucher the call Saturday –
especially with a Stanley Cup finals rematch looming Sunday in
Chicago. Boucher – who started both games against the Devils
earlier this month – is 3-0-1 with a 1.23 goals-against average in
his last four games versus New Jersey.
A win Saturday would make the Flyers the first expansion-era
team to hit 1,000 at home.