Can the New Jersey Devils continue to stay within striking distance of making the playoffs? We'll find out Tuesday night when they take on the Atlanta Thrashers at the Prudential Center. Goaltender Martin Brodeur will make his eighth straight start for the Devils. The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer has compiled a 6-1 record with a 1.51 goals-against average in his previous seven. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Here's what we'll be watching for:
GETTING OVER THE HUMP: On Tuesday night, the Devils will have a chance to do something they haven't done all season: move over the .500 mark. New Jersey is currently 32-32-4. As a matter of comparison, it took the Devils just five games to do the same thing last season. With a win, the Devils would tie the Thrashers (29-28-12) in the Eastern Conference standings. More importantly, they'd continue to put pressure on the Buffalo Sabres (34-27-8) and New York Rangers (36-30-4). Both of those teams are in action Tuesday night. The Sabres will face the Carolina Hurricanes at home, while the Rangers take on the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. In a perfect world, New Jersey would take regulation victories by both the Hurricanes and Islanders. And, of course, nab two points in regulation themselves. The Devils' last nine games have been decided by just one goal (7-2-0).
IRON MAN: Second-line pivot Travis Zajac will tie all-time great Ken Daneyko on Tuesday night when he skates in his 388th straight game. Should he stay injury-free -- and we don't want to jinx him -- Zajac would break the franchise's all-time record for consecutive games played on Thursday night in Ottawa. Zajac, considered one of the most underrated players in the NHL, has done a fine job centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri. And while we're talking about him, Zajac scored power play two goals the last time these teams met, including the game-winner in overtime. Perhaps he'll be able to duplicate that performance on Tuesday night.
STARTING STRONG: The Devils finally got their first first-period goal in nine games on Saturday night, when rookie center Jacob Josefson scored his first NHL goal just 1:57 in to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead over the New York Islanders. Interim coach Jacques Lemaire was glad that his team was finally able to get off to a fast start. Before that game, Lemaire went as far as to call their first periods "awful." The Devils will look to extend their modern NHL record without allowing a first-period goal to 17 games on Tuesday night.
PARISE UPDATE: Asked about injured left winger Zach Parise's status on Tuesday morning, Lemaire said "he's getting closer" to rejoining the team for practice. Parise has been skating by himself on the practice rink since Mar. 4. General manager Lou Lamoriello has said it would be at least a minimum of 2-3 weeks before Parise could rejoin the team for practice. And he made no guarantees it would happen this season. But it appears as though they seem optimistic. And why not? Considering the run the Devils have been on since the second half (22-3-2 after starting 10-29-2), there's no reason for anyone not to be optimistic.
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