By Santosh Venkataraman
Toronto (32-34-13) at New Jersey (49-26-4), 7 p.m. EDT
NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) — The New Jersey Devils don’t exactly
feel like they have righted their ship, but they are playing
better than they were not too long ago.
The Devils look to clinch the Atlantic Division title as they go
for their third straight win Tuesday night when they host the
Toronto Maple Leafs.
New Jersey (49-26-4) seemed poised to make a run at the top
record in the East, but lost six straight from March 22-April 1,
with only one coming in overtime. The Devils have bounced back a
bit with two one-goal wins, 5-4 over Tampa Bay on Friday and 3-2
at Buffalo on Saturday.
“It hasn’t been easy,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “We
haven’t played a full 60 minutes. But we’ve played well enough
to win hockey games and that’s the bottom line.”
The Devils are seven points ahead of Philadelphia in the
Atlantic race, and only need one more point to clinch.
They also sit two points behind Southeast Division champion
Washington in the race for the No. 2 seed. New Jersey plays two
of its final three games at home while the Capitals play their
last three on the road.
The improved play of captain Jamie Langenbrunner was a big
reason why New Jersey ended its losing streak with the
back-to-back wins. He had three goals and one assist in the two
games after managing only one goal and two assists during the
“The last few weeks have been tough for us,” Langenbrunner said
after Saturday’s win. “But last night, we were able to scratch
out a win. And tonight, the first two periods were the best
we’ve played in a while.”
Langenbrunner and his teammates haven’t fared too well against
Toronto (32-34-13) this year. The Maple Leafs used shootouts to
win the first two meetings before New Jersey won 3-2 in overtime
on March 3.
Brodeur improved to 4-0 since returning from elbow surgery in
that victory. He lost his next start, then won five in a row
before starting every game of the Devils’ six-game slide.
Brodeur has a 3.51 goals-against average in his last eight
games, including Friday’s win over Tampa Bay when he entered in
relief of an injured Kevin Weekes.
The Maple Leafs haven’t been much of a threat recently with four
losses in five games. They have conceded 28 goals in that span,
including dismal defensive efforts in back-to-back losses.
Toronto fell 8-5 at Philadelphia on Friday, and returned home to
lose 6-2 to Montreal the next night.
Coach Ron Wilson called out his players after the last two
“We’ve had a couple of guys come back off of injuries that have
wanted to play, but haven’t played very hard,” Wilson said. “You
send some guys down who worked really hard here, some of the
younger people who give you effort. That’s the difference, it’s
just that simple.”
Wilson did not specify which players he was referring to.
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle returned for Toronto on Wednesday after
missing nearly a month with a broken hand while left wing Niklas
Hagman came back March 28 after being out over a month with a