Johan Hedberg’s recent performance in goal, along with Ilya
Kovalchuk’s sudden offensive surge, has allowed the New Jersey
Devils to take their time with an injured Martin Brodeur.
With Brodeur serving as backup, Hedberg and the Devils look for
a season-best sixth consecutive win Friday night against the
visiting New York Rangers.
Kovalchuk extended his point streak to a season-high eight games
with his team-leading 20th goal Wednesday night, helping New Jersey
(23-30-4) record a fifth consecutive victory, 3-2 over
Kovalchuk had just 10 goals through the first three months of
the season, and the Devils sat at the bottom of the Eastern
Conference with 10 wins in their first 41 games.
Both the two-time 50-goal scorer and his team have thrived
recently. Kovalchuk’s last 10 goals have coincided with New
Jersey’s 13-1-2 stretch – including one in each of the last three
“That’s what happens when the team struggles,” Kovalchuk said of
his earlier poor play. “This game is not an individual sport. It’s
all about team effort. When everybody is struggling, it’s tough to
find your best effort. But now we’re winning and we’re feeling good
Hedberg should also be feeling good about himself. The veteran
backup made 25 saves Wednesday and is undefeated with a 1.46
goals-against average in four starts since Brodeur injured his knee
in a 4-1 win Feb. 6 at Montreal.
While Hedberg is excited about his team’s success, he knows
plenty of work remains if New Jersey hopes to make a 14th
consecutive postseason appearance. The Devils remain 12 points out
of the final playoff spot, and 16 behind the seventh-place
“This is the way we’re going to have to do it,” Hedberg said.
“It’s a lot more fun to win than losing. We just have to keep
working as hard as we are now and win the next one.”
Hedberg is 11-5-2 with a 2.17 lifetime GAA versus the Rangers.
He stopped 17 of 20 shots in a 3-0 home loss Nov. 5. The Devils
activated Brodeur on Friday afternoon and said he will be Hedberg’s
backup for this game.
New York (31-24-4) had won four straight in this series before
falling 3-2 at home Feb. 3.
After snapping their season-worst six-game winless drought with
a 5-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Rangers defeated Los
Angeles 4-3 in a shootout Thursday night as Henrik Lundqvist
recorded the 200th win of his career.
Lundqvist, who made 25 saves through overtime, also recorded
back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 5 and 7.
“It was a really important game for us to get two in a row and
try to start a good streak,” he said. “Teams are catching up.”
Ryan Callahan, who had two goals and an assist versus the
Penguins, recorded one of each Thursday. Callahan has scored in his
last two meetings with the Devils and has five points over his last
five games in the series.
Lundqvist had gone 3-0-0 with a 0.67 GAA versus the Devils this
season before allowing three goals in the Feb. 3 loss. He’s won
four of five at the Prudential Center.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov is eligible to return for New Jersey
after serving a three-game suspension for elbowing Carolina’s Zach
Boychuk on Feb. 8.