Devils-Blue Jackets Preview
A stunning offensive outburst has the New Jersey Devils feeling better about their unlikely postseason chances, but getting there probably means solving an unexpected nemesis.
The last-place Columbus Blue Jackets go for their sixth straight win over the Devils when they open a weekend home-and-home set in Columbus on Saturday night.
New Jersey (34-30-7) followed Monday's 7-1 loss at Anaheim with a season-high goal total in Thursday's 7-4 win over Minnesota.
Devante Smith-Pelly scored his fifth and sixth goals since New Jersey acquired him from Montreal at the trade deadline, and Mike Sislo and Adam Henrique each added two.
Smith-Pelly has provided punch to the league's lowest-scoring team with six goals and three assists in seven games with the Devils. He had six each in 46 with the Canadiens.
He's helped New Jersey to three wins in four games, keeping it within six points of Detroit for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot. The Devils had scored nine goals in five games before Thursday.
''There is no quit in this team,'' Henrique said. ''Obviously there is still a shot. We'll just keep finding ways to keep putting points up.''
The Devils' final nine games aren't easy, and that includes the two matchups with Columbus (28-34-8). The Blue Jackets extended their series win streak to five with three regulation victories this season, the latest a 6-1 home rout Feb. 25.
Sergei Bobrovsky has won four straight over New Jersey after making 50 saves and allowing two goals in the first two wins. He's posted a 1.50 goals-against average in those four contests.
However, Bobrovsky has struggled this month since returning from a groin injury, losing all three of his starts with a 3.38 GAA. He hasn't won since Dec. 5 and has posted a 3.82 mark in his last five starts, allowing three goals on 22 shots in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Red Wings.
While the Devils are hitting their stride, the Blue Jackets are skidding with three straight defeats to fall to 1-3-0 on their five-game homestand. They averaged 3.5 goals during a 5-2-1 stretch but have followed with three total during their losing streak.
Coach John Tortorella mixed up his lines against Detroit, moving Boone Jenner to center on the top line between Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson. Brandon Dubinsky rotated from center to wing on the second line with Alexander Wennberg and rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Wennberg scored with one minute left Thursday as the Blue Jackets narrowly averted being shut out for the second straight time. They lost 4-0 to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
''I didn't think we played poorly, and I don't think we were lazy,'' Tortorella said. ''On the other hand, I don't think we played that well. And I don't think we played that hard. We were kind of caught in between.''
Columbus will look for an offensive jolt against a struggling goaltender. New Jersey's Keith Kinkaid has allowed 10 goals in the last two games, getting pulled against the Ducks before benefiting from the Devils' offensive outburst against the Wild.
The Blue Jackets beat Kinkaid three times on 13 shots in February after he replaced No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider, who is sidelined with a sprained right knee.