By Mike Lipka
Minnesota (33-29-8) at New Jersey (46-21-3) 7:00 p.m. EST
NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) — All it took to end the New Jersey
Devils’ winning streak was a night off for Martin Brodeur.
But Brodeur will likely be back in net and looking to add to his
NHL-record win total Friday night, when the Devils host the
struggling Minnesota Wild and former coach Jacques Lemaire for
the first time in more than three years.
With their four-time Vezina Trophy winner in net for nine
straight games after his return from elbow surgery, the Devils
went 8-1-0 and won their last four – culminating in a 3-2
victory over Chicago on Tuesday night as Brodeur set the
all-time record with his 552nd win.
One night later, they rested Brodeur and suffered a
corresponding letdown, losing 4-2 at Carolina despite putting 43
shots on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.
“It’s been a week where it’s been a high emotional week and for
all the right reasons,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “We’ll
regroup and get back at it. We knew what to expect.”
The loss stalled the Devils’ pursuit of Boston for the top spot
in the Eastern Conference, but New Jersey (46-21-3) enters
Friday having not lost back-to-back games since falling to
Carolina and Atlanta on Jan. 6 and 8. It is 23-7-0 since.
The team also should have Brodeur back in the crease. He has
allowed two or fewer goals in eight of the nine games since his
return, posting a 1.95 goals-against average and a .931 save
The Devils offense also has been clicking as the team prepares
for a run at a fourth Stanley Cup. Wednesday’s game ended the
club’s nine-game streak of scoring at least three goals, and New
Jersey is averaging 39.8 shots on goal over the past month.
Such numbers weren’t common when Lemaire coached the Devils from
1993-98, although his neutral-zone trap helped lead New Jersey
to its first Cup in 1995.
Lemaire’s Wild (33-29-8) rank last in the league in shots on
goal with 27.5 per game, and the light-scoring team is again
relying on defense and goalie Niklas Backstrom as it tries to
reach the playoffs for the third straight season.
Lately, that formula hasn’t been reliable for Minnesota, which
has allowed four or more goals five times in its last 12 games,
going 3-5-4 to fall out of playoff position in a crowded West.
The Wild are 2-5-2 on the road over that span, going 0-1-2 on
their most recent trip.
They rebounded with a 3-2 shootout win at home over Colorado on
Tuesday night, with Backstrom making 24 saves and defenseman
Nick Schultz scoring the tying goal with 1:46 left in regulation
– just his second of the season.
“Those are the efforts you need this time of year,” Schultz
said. “We need everyone in this locker room. We’ve said it
before: You can’t have passengers. We’ve had that maybe of late
where we have certain guys. Everyone in this locker room needs
to step up. That’s how you get goals to win games.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Wild, who go home to
face Edmonton on Sunday before embarking on another four-game
trip. They are 14-18-2 on the road this season.
They’ve never won in New Jersey, going 0-2-1 with a tie in four
visits – most recently a 3-2 shootout loss on Dec. 3, 2005.
The Wild’s only coach, Lemaire has beaten his former team just
once in eight meetings, going 1-3-2 with a pair of ties.