Still do-or-die time for the Devils

For all of their troubles, the Devils are still only eight points out of the playoff hunt, and one hot streak could push them out of the basement and back into the thick of things. Now, they just have to, you know, have a hot streak.

After picking up six of a possible eight points last week, the Devils seem to be warming up, but it also seems quite likely that the next three weeks will provide the stretch that will make or break the team’s postseason dreams.

New Jersey next skates Thursday at home against Montreal before hitting the road for a three-game trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Ottawa. That’s followed by a three-game homestand against Detroit, Phoenix and Nashville. The Devils have shown that they can win against the NHL elite, with recent victories against Washington and Philly, and they will need to do so again. If they emerge with just six of a possible 14 points, they would need to claim an average of 1.29 standings points per game over the remaining 51 contests just to hit the 90-point threshold and scrape into the bottom of the playoff picture.

To put that in perspective, the Devils would have to play like a 105-point team for the remainder of the schedule, 2 points better than they played all of last season.

One other point of reference: A lot of folks have mentioned the unlikely turnaround of the Washington Capitals in 2007-08 as a comparison point for the Devils. That season, the Caps snagged 17 points through their first 24 games, one fewer than the Devs have at that point. But, keep in mind that the Caps were coming out of a Southeast Division that produced just one playoff team that season, while the 2010-11 Devils are battling in what might be the East’s best division, with 10 more games against the Flyers and Penguins. So while the comparison between the Caps and Devils fits on one level, it’s apples and oranges in terms of strength of schedule.

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