After snapping one of the worst losing streaks in franchise history, the New Jersey Devils hope to recover in time to make one last run at the playoffs.
Following a 10-game skid, the Devils look to match their longest win streak of the past two months - at two games - as they host the league-worst Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Martin Brodeur stepped up with 23 saves on the way to his 121st career shutout to help New Jersey end its team record-tying losing streak with a 3-0 win at Philadelphia on Thursday.
Ryan Carter, Matt D'Agostini and Adam Henrique each had goals as the Devils (16-17-10) scored for the first time in three games. They have not posted back-to-back victories since March 21-23 and have not had a longer win streak since a five-game run Feb. 3-10.
With just five games remaining, the defending Eastern Conference champions likely can't afford any more setbacks and get help to make the postseason. It would be only the second time in 13 years that they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The Devils are 11th in the East and trail the New York Rangers by six points for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Rangers are scheduled to visit Buffalo on Friday night before hosting New Jersey on Sunday.
"I believe in numbers," Carter said. "They say there's still a chance. So as long as there's still a chance, I still believe."
First, the Devils will have to take care of business against the lowly Panthers, who handed New Jersey a 3-2 loss March 30 on Dmitry Kulikov's overtime goal.
Florida (13-24-6), which has an NHL-low 32 points, dropped its fourth straight with a 6-1 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.
"You lose by five goals, it's pretty hard to put anything (positive) to it," coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's a results business. (This) is another example that we have to be a lot better."
Shawn Matthias had two goals in the last meeting after scoring just twice in his first 19 games against the Devils. Matthias is second on the Panthers with 14 goals but has none over the past seven games.
Jacob Markstrom finished with 24 saves to best Brodeur last month, but he's lost four straight starts while posting a 5.87 goals-against average. He was given the night off Thursday, but backup Scott Clemmensen allowed six goals on 30 shots. Clemmensen is 4-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA against his former team, though the one loss came the last he faced the Devils as Brodeur led them to a 2-1 home win March 23.
New Jersey will try to give Brodeur more support after scoring just 13 times over the last nine games, and the possible return of Ilya Kovalchuk could provide a boost.
Kovalchuk is day-to-day with a shoulder injury that has caused him to miss the past 11 games. The star winger is second on the team with 27 points and has 68 in 58 regular-season games against the Panthers.
He's usually a key figure on the Devils' power play, which has converted 1 of 30 chances over the past eight games. Florida ranks last in the league in penalty killing at 72.9 percent and has given up nine power-play goals over its last six.
The Panthers have allowed the most goals in the NHL at 152, including 21 during the current four-game skid.
The Associated Press News Service
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