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Down 5 points in playoff chase with 10 to go, Devils need a run avoid another disappointment

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

NEWARK, N.J. - With 10 games left in the regular season, the New Jersey Devils are in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and third out of four.

The Devils are five points out of the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with four teams ahead of them—Columbus, Detroit, Washington and Toronto.

They need to get on a streak, which is asking a lot for a team that has not won more than three games in a row all season and has lost four of its last six.

"It's a situation where we need to win a lot of these," goaltender Martin Brodeur said after practice Wednesday. "If it's not all 10, it's going to be close to it. ... We just want to give ourselves a chance. I think regardless of what's going to happen, you are going to stay in as long as you can. That's the bottom line: stay alive and after that the last few games, you know, you're put in a situation that teams have to falter for us to get in."

New Jersey has a favourable remaining schedule, though. Six of the 10 games are at home, where the Devils are 18-10-7. Only three of the opponents are in the playoff picture: Boston, Phoenix and Washington.

The other seven are Florida, Buffalo, Carolina, Calgary, Ottawa and the Islanders (twice), six teams that either have been eliminated from playoff contention or are in a much bigger hole than the Devils.

Jaromir Jagr, the 42-year-old forward who leads the team in points (60) and is tied for the lead in goals (23), said the Devils "did it to ourselves."

"We lost some games and some points that we shouldn't," he said. "But on the other side, we have the opportunity to make a great story if we make it, so it's at least exciting. That's the way I look at it. Something to remember, something special."

The Devils have scored just 175 goals, the NHL's second lowest total. They have two goals or fewer in 41 of 72 games, posting a 9-31 record in those. They are horrible in shootouts, losing all eight this season and a league-record 12 straight dating to last season.

Coach Pete DeBoer has juggled his lines looking for more scoring. In the last couple of games, he has dressed seven defencemen, giving Eric Gelinas a chance to skate on the fourth line and to get some time on the power play with his big shot.

Brodeur, who played well in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night, will be in goal Thursday against Phoenix after watching Cory Schneider play in a 3-2 win over Toronto on Sunday.

DeBoer said he is doing his fair share of scoreboard watching. His only preference is that whoever wins does it in regulation so the loser does not also pick up a point in the standings.

NOTES: D Anton Volchenkov (lower body) and LW Tim Sestito (head) did not practice and will not play against the Coyotes. ... Peter Harrold, who played Sunday for the first time since the Olympic break, was among the top six defencemen at practice. Expect him to play again against Phoenix.



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