Thrashers-Devils Preview

A sputtering power play led to the New Jersey Devils’ third loss

in a month in their last contest, but a meeting with the struggling

Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night could be just what they need to

rebound.

The Devils (26-9-1) rank near the top of the league with a

power-play unit that converts 21.5 percent of its chances. They had

been even better during a 9-1-0 run, going 9 for 36, but failed to

score on any of four attempts in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at

Washington.

“You look at how the game went. I feel that our puck control

wasn’t as it used to be,” coach Jacques Lemaire told the team’s

official Web site. “Special teams, we had so many power plays and I

think they got more chances than we did on our power play.

“For me, it determined the whole game. We get a goal on the

power play at the start, it’s a different game, then we start to

believe we’re fine.”

That loss dropped the Devils out of the overall NHL lead, and

they’ll host Pittsburgh on Wednesday in a meeting of the top two

teams in the Atlantic Division.

First, New Jersey faces Atlanta (18-15-4), which has dropped

four in a row and has allowed opponents to go 8 for 15 on the power

play over the last five games. The Thrashers haven’t dropped five

straight since Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 2008.

They lost 4-3 at Tampa Bay on Saturday after opening this

season-high six-game road trip with a 6-4 loss at Boston on

Wednesday.

“If we’re going to play the same way like that, we’re going to

be out of that (playoff) picture,” captain Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We

need to wake up and play as a team. It can’t be one guy or two guys

or three guys.”

Kovalchuk, who had a goal and assist against the Lightning, has

continued his outstanding play despite Atlanta’s 3-7-1 stretch.

Named last week to represent Russia at the upcoming Olympics,

Kovalchuk has six goals and eight assists on a nine-game points

streak.

He ranks among the league leaders with 22 goals and has a

team-high 41 points, but has managed just a goal and two assists in

his last six meetings with New Jersey.

Kovalchuk needs two points to reach 600 for his career.

The Devils beat the Thrashers 5-4 at Atlanta on Dec. 19, but

will need a better performance from Martin Brodeur. The four-time

Vezina Trophy winner was pulled after giving up three goals on six

shots in the opening period before Yann Danis made 19 saves the

rest of the way.

Brodeur, who will likely be back in net after making 36 saves

Saturday, wasn’t much better in the previous matchup with Atlanta,

stopping 15 shots in a 4-2 loss at Prudential Center on Oct.

16.

Danis, though, has won all three games in his career against the

Thrashers while posting a 1.88 goals-against average with one

shutout. However, he hasn’t started since getting chased after

surrendering three goals on nine shots in the first period of a 5-3

win at Dallas on Nov. 21.